During May, many asset sectors that comprise the components of the diversified funds performed well – both at the market level and in terms of excess returns provided by our active management. However, in aggregate it was only the Conservative fund which produced a positive return (0.44%) whilst both the Balanced and Growth funds fell slightly in value (-0.25% and -0.74% respectively). This is partly explained by the losses from our ‘alternative’ exposures to the Option Fund and the multi-strategy hedge fund, but mostly as a result of the losses suffered in the global equity markets. In fact, by the end of May 2019, global equity markets in aggregate posted a negative return for the 12 month period with only NZ dollar weakness enabling unhedged investors to generate a positive return from global equities, i.e. despite the underlying equities losing value, the value of the unhedged foreign currency increased against the NZ dollar enabling an overall positive return).
There were many reasons for the weakness in equity markets, and some of the key items are well covered – the ongoing uncertainties created by the US/China stand-off on trade, political tensions in the middle east, and uncertain growth in the Eurozone. As noted in last month’s commentary the local equity market remains remarkably strong rising another 1% in May and taking the 12 month return to 18%. This has certainly led to a number of companies here being bid up in price, but at the same time the behaviour observed is also quite rational with foreign capital searching for quality businesses that will generate strong cashflows and profit well above the yields offered by many other countries and sectors. It’s worth being mindful though of the time when some of that capital will be repatriated and the NZ market may lose some of the demand which has been creating these tailwinds for performance.
As is often the case, when equity markets suffer a loss of confidence from investors, the ‘safe-haven’ assets see a surge in demand and therefore increased prices. It was certainly true that sovereign bonds saw a strong price increase during the month as investors bid down yields, and so we observed bond markets providing returns to investors of well in excess of 1% for the month. It is this combination of the much higher than expected return from bond markets and the fall in global equities which led to the result of the more defensively positioned portfolios outperforming the more risk seeking portfolios for the month and indeed over the past 12 month period. This dynamic is to be expected from time-to-time, and those investors who have a longer term timeframe should still expect the more equity biased portfolios to outperform in the longer term, but in the meantime it’s been a period of strength for the more defensively positioned investors.
In the year to date, the NZ equity market has returned a quite remarkable 14% which is well ahead of any rational expectation. Having said that, we also shouldn’t be surprised that in a world hungry for yield, then good quality companies which can offer earnings growth above 5% p.a. and sustainable dividends at similar levels are going to be sought after. In particular, the so-called ‘bond proxy’ companies (e.g utilities) are attractive holdings for those who are prepared to accept additional capital risk for the desire/expectation of cash yields which are well ahead of traditional bank deposits and bonds. Last month we observed that there was talk of the global economy has passed the peak of this rates cycle, and this perspective may have gained weight with the New Zealand central bank having just cut interest rates.
But with economic data still reasonably robust it’s a slightly surprising approach, and our Governor was left explaining the move in terms of ‘getting ahead of the curve’, which seems to be a mild acknowledgement that current data maybe didn’t demand such a cut. Global equities performed particularly strongly during April, and with the weakening NZ dollar, those investors who were unhedged saw the value of their overseas equities increase by well over 5% during the month (hedged investors still enjoyed a 3% return). All the major markets contributed to these strong returns, but Germany led the charge (7%) whilst at the other end the UK was more modest, but still very strong, at 2% (noting that on average we’d expect around 0.5-0.75% over a month from our equity holdings). The developed markets continued to outperform their emerging market counterparts for the month, quarter and year.
April provided another strong set of returns for investors in the Nikko AM diversified funds. As has been the case since the start of the year, it has been equity markets that have driven these outcomes, but a slight change in April is that the bond markets were much weaker than they had been earlier in the year. Our exposures to alternative sources of return (the Nikko AM option fund and the fund of hedge funds strategy) performed well at around 2%, and so despite the weaker bond markets, the diversified funds again provided monthly returns significantly ahead of the long-term expectations. Within the diversified funds, we remain close to our benchmark weights which has the explicit effect of locking in some of the gains from the strong equity markets and we maintain the desired allocations across sectors and geography.
Emerging markets (EM) slid from February through the year-end on the back of a stronger dollar, an escalating trade war and notably weaker growth in China. However, we see evidence that these previous headwinds may now be turning into tailwinds.
The Japanese equity market fell in December, with the TOPIX (w/dividends) dropping 10.21% on-month and the Nikkei 225 (w/dividends) declining 10.28%.
It is a design fault amongst perhaps the majority of economists that, when things don’t quite go according to their forecasts, they will either ‘blame the data’ and stick to their previous view for too long, or attempt to finesse a ‘U-turn’ in such a way that it does not look like one so as not to undermine their short-term credibility….
Global growth is expected to grind lower in 2019, with continued monetary policy normalization in developed markets being the key headwind for the world economy. Financial conditions will tighten further as the Fed continues its gradual increase in interest rates.
In December, US Treasury (UST) yields fell as risk assets came under pressure from various factors, triggering ‘safe-haven’ buying.
The return of negative bond/equity correlations was a rare silver lining for multi-asset investors in 2018.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 2.6% in USD terms in December, as concerns about slowing global growth, tightening monetary policy and rising geopolitical tensions continued to drive sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -0.1% during December.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 1.50% over the month, outperforming Australian equities which fell 0.12%.
At present, our working hypothesis for 2019 is that, following a potentially quite bright start to the year as the US approaches its ‘peak fiscal stimulus’ and the Administration runs down some of its savings deposit holdings at the Federal Reserve (for reasons connected with the Debt Ceiling), global liquidity conditions and in particular dollar liquidity conditions are likely to tighten quite significantly – and possibly severely – during the second quarter.
The word “volatility” crops up a lot when commentators try to explain price movements in financial markets. More often the word is used to explain a sudden drop in prices, whereas if prices rise investors compliment themselves on their astute insights rather than the vagaries of the markets. Psychologically, losses are felt more intensely than the pleasure of a gain.
While New Zealand markets have had a rather interesting and more volatile time, the main drivers of the economy remain sound.
The Japanese equity market rose in November, with the TOPIX (w/dividends) climbing 1.30% on-month and the Nikkei 225 (w/dividends) rising 1.98%. Equities rose in the early part of the month on strong US economic indicators and easing political uncertainty after the US midterm election results largely matched expectations.
As we wrap up the final weeks of 2018 and look ahead to whatever challenges lay ahead next year, we can’t help but reflect on what has been a testing and frustrating year for investors.
US Treasuries (USTs) registered gains in November, while yields fell along with faltering US equities.
While it is true that the Fed will be criticized no matter what it does tomorrow, it could limit criticism to mild levels if it hikes only 10 bps.
John Vail, Chief Global Strategist for Nikko Asset Management, contributes a regular column to Forbes.com
Today’s release of the 3Q CY18 data on aggregate Japanese corporate profits showed interesting trends regarding our long-term theme about improving corporate governance.
John Vail, Chief Global Strategist for Nikko Asset Management, contributes a regular column to Forbes.com
The macroeconomic backdrop for Asian countries should remain broadly neutral for credit performance in 2019. GDP growth is expected to moderate across the key economies, although we don’t expect any hard landing scenarios to materialize.
One thing is for sure, 2019 will not be a dull year. We expect more headlines and drama on trade but would pay more attention to underlying policy direction at both the Federal Reserve and Chinese authorities, as bigger markers for improved fortunes across Asian markets.
Shakespeare once said, “present fears are less than horrible imaginings.” As we come to the close of 2018, we have observed equity markets turn double-digit returns to losses, an aggressive rise in interest rates and a modest increase on the perception of escalating tensions surrounding the world’s two largest economies.
In addition, we have to consider the eventuality of a prolonged trade war. But China would be able to mitigate its impact initially via a combination of monetary and fiscal stimulus, helping offset the impact of tariffs to a certain extent.
Credit markets didn’t perform in line with the expectations we set at the beginning of the year and disappointed most investors.
The potential hangover from the monetary binge of QE continues to weigh on global equity markets as we head towards 2019. The turning of the calendar will do little to change this.
Once again, the Federal Reserve (Fed) policy has proven itself to be the key determinant of global liquidity, and 2018 was clearly tight.
As we reflect on 2018, we would all agree that Trump and his trade policies dominated the conversations and dictated some of the major moves in the financial markets around the world.
We believe 2019 will be an important year for active selection or alpha and our focus will be on delivering on stock selection returns by picking quality companies who are resilient in growth amid a rising risk environment.
So many developments have occurred since we last met in September, but the major ones were the surprising collapse in oil prices mostly due to geopolitical factors, the U.S.-China trade and BREXIT conflicts becoming increasingly intractable, and that aspects of the global economy showed occasional signs of moderation.
Global growth remains desynchronized, with China, the Eurozone and Japan continuing to show further signs of moderation, while the US remains relatively robust.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index gained 5.3% in USD terms in November, despite persistent concerns over global growth and a slide in technology stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -2.2% during November.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 0.24% over the month, outperforming Australian equities which fell over 2%.
Global growth remains desynchronized, with China, the Eurozone and Japan showing a further moderation in growth, while the US remains robust.
The late 1990s and mid 2000s were periods that appeared characterised by above trend growth in much of the OECD and ‘unexpectedly’ low rates of inflation, a combination that was blithely described as the ‘Goldilocks Economy’.
Earth’s largest single geographic region, Asia represents approximately 60% of the planet’s population and is one of its fastest growing economic areas. The region had more billionaires in 2017 than anywhere else and it will represent 57% of middle-class consumption by 2030.
Over the past year Australian house prices have seen 12 consecutive months of decline, the longest streak of persistent falls in over 20 years.
Volatility is back in a big way in 2018. A large increase in the VIX is showing an annual level not witnessed since 2007. The sell-off that started in October appears to have been triggered by a number of negative technical forces in the USA coming into effect at the same time, which impacted global markets.
One of the pleasures of getting older is that you start to have proper grown-up conversations with your children.
The US economy is enjoying its second-longest growth cycle in history and is on the way to becoming the longest on record.
How do you react when you see blood; do you swoon or just observe with intrigue? Perhaps conditioned by a recent overdose in crime related dramas (favourites include: ‘Killing Eve’, ‘Peaky Blinders’ & ‘Better Call Saul’), it was the latter outcome for me after a recent DIY debacle with a saw.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 10.85% in USD terms, on the back of concerns about rising interest rates, slower economic growth, and persistent US-China trade tensions. Large technology stocks were particularly hard hit.
US Treasury (UST) yields spiked at the start of October as the market responded to stronger US data and Federal Reserve (Fed) Chairman Jerome Powell's hawkish comments.
The Japanese equity market dropped in October, with the TOPIX (w/dividends) falling 9.41% and the Nikkei 225 (w/dividends) declining 9.04% on-month.
Global equities corrected downwards by 7.5% in USD terms in October. Stocks in the US ended the month down 6.5% after an intra-month peak-to-trough drawdown exceeding -10%.
On the back of unrelenting USD strength, 2018 has been a tumultuous period for Asian currencies. Countries in the region with current account deficits have been facing more currency pressure, prompting their central banks to engage in series of rate hikes to defend their currencies.
Clearly, the U.S. Administration has tried to protect the steel and other industries considered important for defense and economic security. The intent is to have them invest in new capacity due to the recently higher product prices.
John Vail, Chief Global Strategist for Nikko Asset Management, contributes a regular column to Forbes.com
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -6.1% during the month.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 0.48% over the month, outperforming Australian equities which tumbled over 6%.
As the world experiences more extreme weather patterns and climate-related incidents, pressure is mounting to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
In 1986, the governors of the G5 ‘arguably most important’ central banks were P Volcker (USA, life-time central banker / Treasury Official); K-O Pohl (Germany, Journalist / Central Banker); S Sumita (Japan, life-time MoF / BoJ); R Leigh-Pemberton (UK, ex Commercial Banker); and M Camdessus (France, bureaucrat).
The trade war between the US and China appears to be morphing into deeper and more protracted conflict as reflected in a recent speech by US Vice President Mike Pence, who criticised China not just for trade practices but more fundamentally for its broad political and economic model.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 1.38% in USD terms in September. The Sino-US trade conflict and rising oil prices were key drags on performance. During the month, the US Federal Reserve raised rates for the third time this year as widely anticipated, amid positive economic data.
In September, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) raised interest rates by 25 basis points (bps). The monetary authority removed the clause that policy rates are "accommodative", and modestly raised its growth forecasts for this year and next.
The Japanese equity market rose in September, with the TOPIX (w/dividends) climbing 5.55% on-month and the Nikkei 225 (w/dividends) rising 6.17%.
Nikko AM values companies based on their sustainable earnings capacity. Embedded in our research process is a consideration of all relevant risks that impact sustainable earnings and therefore have valuation implications. This obviously includes risk factors that fall within the ESG realm.
A trade deal was finally struck between the US and Canada that combined with the Mexico deal has been rebranded as "USMCA", though it could aptly be described as the same old NAFTA with a few tweaks.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -1.8% during the month.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was down 0.42% over the month.
The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once remarked that “Singapore is possibly the most food-centric place on Earth, with the most enthusiastic diners, the most varied and abundant, affordable dishes — available for cheap — on a per-square-mile basis.”
The NikkoAM Asia ex Japan equities team focuses on two core characteristics in our fundamental research; sustainability of returns and positive fundamental change.
As markets continue to grapple with the potential for a protracted trade war between China and the US, central banks have stuck to their task of setting monetary policy.
In my first article, I outlined our philosophy that ESG is fundamental to, and inseparable from, good investing. ESG is fully integrated into our investment process, because it is the right thing to do. We believe that one cannot claim to be a good fiduciary, mandated to create and preserve long-term wealth, while ignoring the principles of sustainable and responsible investing.
While it is difficult to believe that it is ten years since the GFC, the world has changed significantly since then. Although the US financial system remains the dominant force within global capital markets & flows, the way in which banks and financial institutions operate has evolved in the QE / low rate regime.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 1.02% in USD terms in August, largely on the back of currency weakness. Investor sentiments were driven by fears of an escalating trade war and risks of an emerging market contagion. During the month, the US Federal Reserve (Fed) left interest rates unchanged.
In August, the US Treasury (UST) curve flattened. Near-term yields rose due to expectations of a September Federal Reserve (Fed) rate hike, while mid to long-dated yields fell. Escalating US-China trade tensions and the weaker-than-expected July US jobs report pushed UST yields lower at the start of the month.
Our updated house view is that the G-3 and Chinese economies will continue solid through September 2019 approximately in line with consensus expectations, while we expect central banks to reduce their accommodation similarly to consensus expectations.
Wealthy individuals across generations are interested in investing for environmental or social impact, but Millennials are by far the most active in evaluating and indeed, demanding these strategies.
The Corporate Sustainability Department that Nikko Asset Management recently established embodies the Firm’s enduring commitment to integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles in every aspect of its operations.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index rose 1.4% during the month.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 0.81% over the month. The yield curve flattened as the spread between long-term and short-term bond yields narrowed.
In 2011 a dramatic shift occurred throughout the developed world — working age populations began a multi-decade decline. Demographic shifts like this in an economy can have profound effects, including changes in growth and debt metrics.
Confession season was eerily quiet leading into reporting season, unlike the noise from the Royal Commission and the incredible events out of Canberra, where another Prime Minister didn’t reach their full term.
Nikko AM Australia values companies based on their sustainable earnings capacity. That is, we determine the intrinsic value by capitalising the sustainable or mid-cycle earnings of every stock under coverage.
It was just reported that China’s exports to the U.S. accelerated 8% year-over-year in July while U.S. exports to China decelerated to 3% year-over-year.
The macroeconomic issues that plague China are well known, but we believe that China is able to engineer a soft landing and to sustain growth, albeit at a lower level than it is used to.
After improving in the spring, the US trade imbalance is worsening again, especially vis a vis the Eurozone and China, with significant repercussions for international monetary and economic relations.
In many respects, we tend to view the price of a conventional bond and the price earnings ratio of an equity as being broadly equivalent concepts, in that the bond price in effect is the market price for the payment of a known (fixed) income amount over a usually finite number of years, while a PER is the market’s current valuation of a largely unknown income stream over an unknown time span. In effect, both are the markets’ valuation of different types of income stream and we can of course imagine that at times the markets may prefer the ‘certainty’ of a bond, while at other times they may need the flexibility or upside of the income that can be gained from owning equities.
Global growth remains desynchronized, with the Eurozone, Japan and the UK showing an ongoing moderation in growth, whilst the US remains robust.
We entered the year optimistic, and with the knowledge of the last six months, we are pleased that most of our expectations worked out.
All major value equity indices show that the last five years, and in particular the last 12 months, have been a challenge for value as a style.
Nearly every expert seems to be pessimistic about any progress being made during the US-China talks this week, citing the “low level delegations” attending, but there are many signs from both sides of an incipient deal, not to mention the obvious economic and political incentives to achieve such.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index edged higher in July as losses in China and Korea were offset by gains in India, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.
The Japanese equity market rose in July, with the TOPIX (w/dividends) climbing 1.30% on-month and the Nikkei 225 (w/dividends) rising 1.12%. Stocks started the month lower amid anxiety over intensifying trade tensions between the US and China.
The Fed, led by Chairman Powell, will very likely resist any effort by the White House to pressure it into halting rate hikes.
Equity pessimism took a breather in July as investors shifted focus from trade wars to the start of this quarter’s highly anticipated earnings season. With 53% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting, over 80% had positive earnings-per-share surprises and almost 80% reported a positive sales surprise.
In July, US Treasury (UST) yields rose. US-China trade tensions continued to persist. The risk of a trade war between the US and Europe tempered after the two countries announced they will cut trade barriers.
Recent moves by the Chinese government to further liberalize its fund management industry have generated a lot of interest with some observers projecting that China will overtake the UK to be the second-largest asset management market.
Spain is worth paying attention to - it is the second most visited country in the world (in terms of international tourists), behind France, and also generates the second highest tourist receipts globally behind the USA.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index rose 1.4% during the month. The Australian equities market underperformed global equity markets in July led by a fall in resources. Developed markets outperformed emerging markets for the fourth consecutive month.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 0.16% over the month. The yield curve flattened as the spread between long-term and short-term bond yields narrowed. 3-year government bond yields ended the month up 3 basis points (bps) while 10-year government bond yields also rose, up 2 bps to 2.65%.
Global equity markets rallied throughout 2017 without any major setbacks. With volatility at extreme lows, it could be said that 2017 was an unusually fortunate year for market participants in terms of risk and reward.
Trump imposed USD50 billion in tariffs against China with USD200 billion still pending and more in the pipeline to effectively cover all imports (USD450 billion) from China.
“If in doubt, add more credit” seems to have become the global mantra or ‘solve all’ policy recommendation for the last 10 – 20 years.
Financial markets continue to come to terms with a more protectionist and less globalised world. The surprise perhaps is not that tariffs have finally been imposed by the US on its trading partners, but that it took so long for a key campaign promise to become reality in spite of Republican control of the House, the Senate and the White House since November 2016.
In the past few years, Turkey has faced some of the most monumental challenges in its recent history.
In March 2018, Bloomberg announced a conditional decision to include Chinese bonds in its flagship bond index: Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate, starting from April 2019.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 4.8% in USD terms amid persistent concerns about trade tensions between China and the US.
In June, the US Treasury (UST) curve flattened. The US Federal Reserve (Fed)'s 25 basis points (bps) rate hike was accompanied by a more hawkish tone, supporting higher short-term rates.