Whether for year-end management reasons, or as a result of political considerations, it is a fact that the US Federal Reserve has allowed effective monetary conditions to ease over the last month. The public sector has injected more than $200 billion of liquidity into the financial system. It therefore comes as no surprise that financial markets are booming, yields are tumbling and the dollar is weak, a situation that we expect to continue into year end.
The just-released 3Q CY23 data on Japan’s aggregate corporate profits was a bit mixed, but the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin surged to a record high on a four-quarter average. The non-financial service sector rose to another record high, but the manufacturing sector fell further from its record high.
We have held on to our view that the “higher for longer” narrative is not necessarily bad for equities, as robust earnings are supported by a US economy that continues to grow at above-trend rates. However, we are also sympathetic to the de-rating process where earnings look simply less attractive compared to higher rates across the yield curve.
We expect macro and corporate credit fundamentals across Asia ex-China to stay resilient with fiscal buffers, although slower economic growth appears to loom over the horizon.
The last few quarters have been a good reminder that we are in a changing world. As a result, we need to focus always on investing in enduring franchises and we would suggest that our Future Quality approach is soundly placed in that regard. We also need to approach monetary policy with an open mind—sometime soon the central banks could change the game again. In surfing parlance, be ready with your trusted board and make the most of the conditions.
Recently many fixed income investors have experienced steep price declines in their bond portfolios. We have argued that it is not only duration that explains the interest risk of a portfolio, but that convexity needs to be accounted for as well. In this paper we point out that credit risk measures also have to be adjusted in an environment of declining bond prices.
In one of the most significant changes surrounding New Zealand’s equity market in recent years, the general election held in October delivered a change of government. Overall business sentiment has been generally positive after the election result. The outcome has been favourable for the aged care sector and building-exposed names. On the other hand, it has thrown up some uncertainties over the future of New Zealand’s environmental policy.
The general election held in October resulted in a change in government for New Zealand. Although it is difficult to gain a full picture at this stage, we can make some key observations on monetary policy: the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s mandate could be pared back to ensure that its sole focus is on managing inflation.
We analyse the Bank of Japan’s decision to further tweak its yield curve control scheme amid the latest developments hinting at sustained wage growth; we also assess why an acute labour shortage could be a golden opportunity for Japan Inc. to change structurally.
While the risk-off environment stretched into another month, we are still finding plenty of positives in Asia. India’s macro remains favourable; Chinese equity markets are near the cheapest in 20 years; and the semiconductor industry is showing signs of a bottoming. With the US potentially having reached peak interest rates, this could be a welcome backdrop for Asian markets going forward.
It has been a wild few weeks within debt markets – sharp sell-offs, even sharper rallies, and then a renewed sell off. Movements in equity markets have looked tame by comparison. Bond markets are certainly having to process a lot of conflicting information – inflation, deflation, politics and a mountain of potential issuance next year following what was an amazingly quiet year for debt issuance in 2023.
We explore the opportunities and risks emanating from China’s near-zero inflation and India’s above-average consumer prices.
Defying seemingly broad sentiment that a slowdown is coming, the US economy continues to chug along, and bond yields are continuing to wake up to the monetary reality that long-term rates need to be repriced accordingly. The adjustment has been aggressive and fast. Still, there is a natural limit to these types of moves.
Amid the current rise in oil prices, global central banks have become more vigilant against inflation, becoming increasingly wary of risks occasioned by a potentially premature end to their rate hiking cycles. Consequently, we deem it prudent to be more cautious on duration. We therefore have a largely neutral view on duration for most countries in the region.
We have long been enthusiastic about the ASEAN share markets, and the region continues to offer appealing prospects. While the fundamental drivers behind ASEAN’s growth and opportunities are not entirely new, in our view the trends remain irrepressible. We discuss two key pillars—industrialisation and consumerisation—that are expected to help cement ASEAN’s place in the minds of investors.
Although the Reserve Bank of New Zealand stated in May that inflation was likely to return to its target range of 1-3% per annum if the Official Cash Rate remained at a restrictive level for some time, market expectations for interest rates have changed significantly since. At that time, rate hikes were expected to lead to rate cuts as inflation began to ease. New Zealand’s inflation has proved stickier than expected, however, as shown by the 6.0% annual rise seen in the consumers price index for the June 2023 quarter. This shows that interest rates continue to be held hostage by high inflation.
We believe that a long-term revival looms for Japan. Deflationary pressures are dissipating amid rising wages. The financial markets are headed for a resurgence, supported by robust stocks—which could benefit further from a re-allocation of the country’s vast household savings—and BOJ monetary policy headed towards normalisation after decades of unorthodox easing.
This month we discuss the timing of Japan’s savings to investments push as assets held by households hit a record high; we also look at the rise in the domestic long-term yield to a 10-year peak and assess its potential impact on the equity and credit markets.
New Zealand equities continued to see weakness in September, with the market falling by approximately 3%. This partly reflected broader volatility given that the Australian market declined by about 4% and US equities saw a fall of approximately 5%. More notably on a domestic level, however, the market’s direction was affected by the key August round of corporate results. The August reporting season is the most significant for New Zealand given that many companies release their full-year results and some firms with December fiscal year-ends release their half-year results during the month.
With oil markets closing in on US dollar (USD) 100 per barrel and US bond yields reaching 16-year highs, one could be excused for being struck by a bout of conservatism. With valuation dispersions again back to all-time highs, we contend that the risk-reward looks more favourable when taking a long-term view of Asia.