Our monthly portfolio positioning commentary.
Equity and bond markets ended 2023 strongly, with both rising during the month. This rally was fuelled predominantly by the US Federal Reserve’s pivot to contemplating interest rate cuts in 2024. Furthermore, the US economy looks robust as inflation is falling and the labour market is weakening. This led to market commentators expecting the worlds’ largest economy to avoid recession and achieve an economic soft-landing.
Some markets did not participate in the rally, with Chinese equities negative over the period and commodity prices impacted by falling energy costs.
Chinese equities notably underperformed their regional peers and other established markets, as disappointing growth, concerns about the ailing property sector and limited central Government intervention worried investors. However, elsewhere it was a positive month for global equities, with inflation slowing and hope building that interest rates may have reached their peak. This also enable global bond markets to rally, as yields fell and prices subsequently rose.
Inflation remains resilient in most global economies along with the increase in geopolitical uncertainties. With the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, and the ongoing tensions between the US & China, both equities and bonds fell during October. Investors are also concerned about the potential for US interest rates remaining higher for longer. The price of gold rose as investors sought safe haven assets.
It was a mixed month for equities, with UK, Japanese, Chinese and Emerging Markets posting positive returns during September. However, US equities declined especially as the prices of the “Magnificent Seven”, consisting of Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Tesla, Nvidia and Meta, fell, which weighed on the overall US market. Nearly 97% of the total US stock market return during 2023 can be attributed to these seven stocks.
In August, market volatility increased, reflecting renewed stress in the Chinese property market, weak macroeconomic data out of China and an increase in government bond yields. Chinese authorities have acted by reducing interest rates twice in August as well as undertaking initiatives to support markets, but investors remain cautious, given the difficulties facing the largest Chinese property companies, Country Garden & Evengrande.
For the first time in 2023, emerging market equities outperformed developed markets. Predominantly this was due to the Chinese authorities pledging to boost and support the areas of the economy that most need it, which includes the ailing property sector. Overall, global equities made positive returns, receiving a boost from lower than expected inflation figures in the US and UK in particular.
Most equity markets made positive returns in June. The best performing equity market was the US, where technology stocks have continued to benefit from the investor enthusiasm for Artificial Intelligence. However, China and Asia Pacific ex Japan fell. Chinese equities fell as investors have been disappointed with the growth achieved after the country removed the last of its Covid restrictions and concerns remain about the ailing property sector. This had a knock on effect in the Asian markets.