The World In A Week - Hot summer and cold winter

Written by Cormac Nevin.

Markets continued to stage a broad-based recovery last week, as returns for June continue to be strong in what has been a challenging year to date. The MSCI All Country World Index returned +1.5% last week in GBP terms and was assisted by a rebound in global growth equities. Bonds also rallied as treasury yields fell, and even riskier high yield bonds rallied strongly.

While the debate regarding whether we will see a recession in the US this year is ongoing, it appears more likely that this will come to pass in Europe sooner rather than later. Measures of business confidence have fallen to lows not seen since the depths of the COVID-19 market selloff over 2 years ago. Germany in particular is being hit particularly hard by soaring energy costs due to its reliance on Russian natural gas. Inflation in Germany has risen to 8.2% in June, and is also putting a major squeeze on consumer incomes. In addition, the recent dry spell has reduced the water level on Germany’s main rivers which has caused shipping disruptions on the Rhine.

In Italy, the Eurozone’s third largest economy, the spectre of political uncertainty has returned. Mario Draghi resigned as the Prime Minister last Thursday which triggered the dissolution of parliament after three of the largest parties in parliament boycotted a confidence vote in his leadership. This led to a sell-off in Italian debt, and cost of borrowing vs German debt costs has been widening in what is a heavily indebted economy.

There is now a scramble across Europe to build up stores of energy in advance of winter, as it is not apparent how much energy Russia will be willing or able to provide given the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 25th July 2022.


The World In A Week - Point of impact

Written by Millan Chauhan.

Last week, we saw central banks implement another interest rate increase as they attempt to slow down inflation.  In theory, the effective implementation of a higher interest rate depends on how swiftly savers and spenders change their consumption behaviour.  Savers will now be financially compensated and spenders may reduce their consumption levels, especially at company level where borrowing becomes more expensive with higher interest rates. Reduced consumption and demand for goods and services will therefore begin to slow down inflation, but there is a time lag associated while consumer and producer behaviours adjust to the new information.

The Federal Reserve implemented a 0.75% rise, 0.25% above expectations. In the US, the likelihood of a 0.75% raise was priced in at 2% until last Monday when the Wall Street Journal reported that officials from the Federal Reserve were weighing up the possibility of a 0.75% rate rise. Higher mortgage rates are often a very direct consequence of rising interest rates and last week US mortgage rates surged to their highest levels in 35 years with the 30-year fixed rate jumping to 5.78%.  In the UK, the Bank of England raised rates by 0.25%.  As expected, we have begun to see banks and building societies raise their main fixed-rate mortgages as the market expect further rate rises beyond the current interest rates of 1.25%. The Bank of England also announced that it expects inflation to increase further beyond its current level towards 11%.

Global equity markets sold off last week, following the news of the Federal Reserve’s more aggressive stance on interest rate hikes, with MSCI ACWI returning -4.5% in GBP terms. Some sections of the global investment universe remain more sensitive to interest rates and it is most critical to hold a diversified portfolio as the macroeconomic landscape continues to change.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 20th June 2022.
© 2022 YOU Asset Management. All rights reserved.


The World In A Week - Walking the tight rope - Part II

Written by Shane Balkham

Economic data was mainly centred around the UK last week, with the latest inflation, confidence, and employment data being published for April.  The inflation rate for April came in at 9%, which was slightly below the market expectation of 9.1%, but still at a 40-year high, and it was the first month since the end of 2021 that inflation data has been lower than expected.  The monthly increase from March of 2.5% was primarily driven by the surge in energy prices as the domestic price cap was lifted by 54%.  Focus naturally moves to October, when the domestic price cap for energy is scheduled for a further rise.

To muddy the waters further, UK consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level in almost 50 years, driven down by the continuing rise in the cost of living.  The survey measures how people view the state of their personal finances and wider economic prospects, and certainly points to weaker consumer spending going forward.

It is ironic that official data showed UK unemployment falling to the lowest rates in almost 50 years to 3.7%.  In these circumstances, a strong labour market adds to the risk of higher inflation, as workers seek higher wages to combat the squeeze from the cost of living.

In the past, the Bank of England would have preferred to look through the supply shock in energy and commodity markets, however the strength of the labour market is at odds with this plan of action.  These data releases point to one conclusion and that is added pressure on the Bank of England to continue its plan of interest rate hikes in 2022.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is playing catch-up, due to not yet raising its interest rates.  Comments from François Villeroy, the Governor of the Bank of France, has created expectations of 100 basis points (1%) of interest rate hikes from the ECB for 2022.  His remarks about expecting “a decisive June meeting and an active summer” have led to the market’s conclusion.  The taming of inflation is the most significant risk to policymakers and next month’s meetings of the central banks will be closely monitored.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 23rd May 2022.
© 2022 YOU Asset Management. All rights reserved.


The World In A Week - Walking the tight rope

Written by Shane Balkham

Inflation concerns are still the hot topic for investors, politicians, and policymakers.  The US published its inflation data last week for April and it was a mixture of good and bad news.  The relatively good news was that the headline Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell from an annual rate of 8.5% to 8.3% and that core inflation, a measure that excludes certain volatile and seasonal prices such as energy and food, fell from 6.5% to 6.2%.

The bad news was that these data points were still higher than markets had expected.  The decline in used vehicle prices helped the reduction in core inflation, however services inflation picked up, showing demand shifting from goods to services.  It is the uptick in the stickier parts of the inflation basket that will be of greatest concern to the policymakers within central banks.  With the next policy meetings for the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England just four weeks away, one month’s worth of data showing a slight downturn will not be sufficient for policymakers to change their current course of interest rate hikes.

In the UK, the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey will be meeting the Commons treasury committee today, ahead of the UK’s inflation data which is due to be published on Wednesday.  Expectations are for April’s inflation data to show another sharp increase in prices and add pressure on the Government to help ease the spiralling rise in the cost of living.

Inflation has become a political hot potato and Governor Bailey can expect a hostile reception from MPs, who will want some reassurance that the independent central bank has control over the path of prices.  The Bank of England considers inflation to be less entrenched than in the US and that price rises will slow as the economy contracts later in the year.  That is a difficult narrative to promote when they also think that this temporary level of inflation has yet to reach its height of 10% in the coming months.

One country that does not have a rampant inflation problem is China, with headline CPI @2.1%, year-on-year for April 2022.  China’s core inflation dropped to 0.9%, evidence of weaker demand as China continues its zero-tolerance policy for COVID-19.  Retail sales have dropped over 11%, year-on-year in April, highlighting the toll that lockdowns are having on Chinese growth.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 16th May 2022.
© 2022 YOU Asset Management. All rights reserved.


The World In A Week - Not all doom and gloom

Written by Richard Warne.

It has been a gruelling start to the year for both equities and bonds, and it would be very easy to get despondent with all the negativity that persists. Topics that have and will continue to generate headlines have become familiar to us all; continued supply chain issues, inflation, rates, and the human cost of the Ukraine war. Amongst all this, there are some bright spots, though you would probably not have known it from recent share price actions. Globally, the Q1 earnings season has been remarkably strong, with 80% of US companies reporting and beating expectations. Unfortunately, even companies beating expectations and raising forward guidance have not been able to escape negative share price moves.

We did see good signs from companies like Airbnb and Booking Holdings, beating expectations into what is expected to be a busy summer for the travel sector. Though it is clearly not all plain sailing. From a macro perspective, it was concerning that the Zillow (US real estate company) forward guidance was weaker than expected on broader concerns for the housing market. Inventory levels have significantly fallen year on year, interest rates are surging, and housing affordability remains under considerable pressure with no signs of letting up.

Though we are clearly on the rate tightening path from central banks on both sides of the pond, it was encouraging to see Jerome Powell, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, potentially ruling out a 75bps rate hike in the future and remain committed to a flexible yet well-telegraphed plan for tightening.

Investing is certainly never easy; time and patience tend to be your only friends in times of shifting sands for markets. Through all the noise and volatility we are currently witnessing, this often creates good opportunities. To quote the wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffett “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete. Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 9th May 2022.
© 2022 YOU Asset Management. All rights reserved.


The World In A Week - Remember, remember the 5th of November!

Written by Richard Warne.

Wow! Just like Guy Fawkes night, both equity markets and bond markets have kicked off the month at a rocketing pace, with the MSCI All Country World Index +3.3% in Sterling terms and the Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index +2.3% (local terms) and +0.8% in Sterling hedged terms. A nice seasonal winter warmer with the days drawing in and getting steadily colder.

As we near the tail end of the Q3 earnings season in the US, it feels like Groundhog Day, as US indices continued to make new all-time highs. Dovish commentary from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in the US, and the Bank of England (BoE) meetings in the UK, sent bond yields falling as central banks continue to attempt to control inflation against an uncertain macro backdrop. FOMC Chairman Powell’s ability to weave a fine line, feeding a dovish enough tone, encouraged investors to add risk. However, under the surface, companies that reported last week, certainly delivered a mixed bag of results.

Investors punished any company that missed their earnings. Companies that benefitted from the Work From Home (WFH) last year, during the pandemic, had a chastising week. Roku (TV streaming), Peloton (home fitness) and Chegg (educational services) all sold-off sharply after materially guiding below market expectations. It appears expectations versus reality are starting to bite, with some of the valuations on these WFH themes previously hitting unsustainable highs.

On the flip side, we saw companies that are benefitting from economies reopening, coming to the fore, and beating expectations. Many signalling how they are dealing with supply chain issues or inflation, which are topics hot on the lips of many investors now. Under Armour (sportswear & apparel) beating expectation by cost-cutting and staying tight on inventory. While Nike (sportswear & apparel) had a strong week after they announced that their Vietnamese factories are returning to full operations after the COVID-related shutdowns. Live Nation (live entertainment) rebounded following positive earnings.

A positive week for markets, but not all fireworks. Treason and plot in equal measure.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete.  Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 8th November 2021.
© 2021 YOU Asset Management. All rights reserved.

The World In A Week - Metamorphosis & other Market Machinations

Written by Cormac Nevin.

There was a sense of fearlessness in markets last week as we entered the Halloween weekend,  with the MSCI All Country World Index returning +0.9% in GBP.

The continuation of the rally we have seen throughout September was largely driven by US equity markets. This is in spite of rather disappointing Q3 results from tech giants Apple and Amazon that were announced last week. The former referenced the global semiconductor shortage, which they anticipate will continue into the festive period, as a reason they missed revenue estimates, while the latter blamed labour shortages and general inflationary pressure for missing earnings’ estimates. Against this backdrop, Facebook rebranded its corporate holding company as “Meta”, while excited promotional videos featuring Mark Zuckerberg and our very own Nick Clegg added a no doubt welcome distraction from the ongoing criticism the Company is receiving on multiple fronts.

While the fundamentals of some large cap US tech names are arguably deteriorating, markets were assisted by the drop in long-term interest rates  witnessed last week. However, while long-term rates dropped, short-term rates rose in the UK and US – and in certain markets like Canada and Australia they rose incredibly sharply. This “flattening” of the yield curve is indicative of market participant’s bets that global central banks will start lifting interest rates sooner than they are currently maintaining in the face of persistent inflationary pressures.

Whether central banks are spooked by the ghoulish apparitions appearing in bond market expectations, it is likely to be one of the closest watched developments for the rest of this year.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete.  Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 1st November 2021.
© 2021 YOU Asset Management.  All rights reserved.

The World In A Week - Pricing in the power

Last week was a strong week for equities with the MSCI All Country World Index returning +1.2% in GBP terms, largely driven by a good earnings session in the US.  The S&P 500 returned +1.6% in GBP terms with earnings momentum driving the S&P 500 to new highs. With supply chain constraints and rising raw material prices, that we have seen in the last few months, investors were anticipating how this would impact companies’ bottom lines.  Overall Q3 earnings were reported to have been 33% higher than a year ago, albeit from a much lower base.

Elsewhere, UK inflation marginally fell in September to 3.1% year on year from 3.2% in August.  This was an unexpected fall given that there was an extensive oil supply shortage and consumers continue to face rising energy bills.  Huw Pill (Chief Economist at the Bank of England) stated that inflation could surge beyond 5% in 2022 as the product and labour shortages continue to hamper the UK’s economic recovery.  Policy makers at the Bank of England are set to meet next week, on November 4th, as they will vote whether to raise interest rates from the current 0.1% level.

The giant Chinese property developer, Evergrande, finally repaid its missed interest payment of $83.5 million which had entered its last few days of its 1-month grace period.  A month ago, Evergrande failed to pay back the interest on its debt which sparked a sharp selloff in risk assets as concerns regarding the liquidity of the Chinese real estate sector came to light. MSCI China rallied +3.7% last week but remains -10.8% year-to-date following the Chinese Government’s intervention into the generation of certain companies’ excessive supernormal profits.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete.  Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 25th October 2021.
© 2021 YOU Asset Management.  All rights reserved.

The World In A Week - Circus Act

Written by Shane Balkham.

Inflation is the lion that every central banker is trying to tame and ahead of the UK’s inflation figures that will be published on Wednesday, the Bank of England readied its whip.  Speaking to the G30 group of central bankers last night, the governor of the Bank of England’s rhetoric was aimed at preparing market expectations.

The forward guidance from Andrew Bailey confirmed that the Bank would need to act in order to curb the current inflationary pressures and that might mean an interest rate rise sooner than the general expectations of early in 2022.  The role of policymakers during this crisis has been to ensure that nothing was off the table in terms of magnitude and type of action.

In a similar speech at the end of last month, the governor also looked to ensure that the Central Bank was seen as using all the tools at its disposal.  Being a policymaker is a subtle game of managing expectations in such a way as not to surprise the markets.  In the next fortnight we have the publication of the UK’s inflation rate and the UK’s budget, both  are potentially flammable for the policymakers at the Monetary Policy Committee.

The key is to ensure that a strong enough signal has been sent out and understood by the market, and that signal is saying an interest rate raise of 0.15% is not off the table for this year, in order to bring UK interest rates up to 0.25%.

It is unlikely that this decision will be made at the next month’s meeting, as previous minutes have shown that the committee want to see the full effect of the furlough scheme ending before any action is taken.  This leaves the December meeting as the earliest most likely meeting if the committee decide to act this year.

Any opinions stated are honestly held but are not guaranteed and should not be relied upon.
The information contained in this document is not to be regarded as an offer to buy or sell, or the solicitation of any offer to buy or sell, any investments or products.
The content of this document is for information only. It is advisable that you discuss your personal financial circumstances with a financial adviser before undertaking any investments.
All the data contained in the communication is believed to be reliable but may be inaccurate or incomplete.  Unless otherwise specified all information is produced as of 18th October 2021.
© 2021 YOU Asset Management.  All rights reserved.

How to protect your budget from the energy price crisis

Gas price rises have soared thanks to rocketing demand for the fossil fuel as the global economy gets going again.

It is something of a perfect storm for households as the government’s energy price cap is rising too. It now stands at £1,277 and is predicted to rise again next April to above £1,600, thanks to mounting wholesale prices.

The issue it has created for the UK is that many firms in the energy market rely on low prices to offer better deals to households than the ‘big’ firms.

But this has led to a lot of companies collapsing as energy prices rise. The upshot of this is that consumer choice in the market has been totally wiped out. Price comparison services such as uSwitch have even suspended their energy price comparison services as a result.

So, what can you do to keep a handle on your energy bills with such issues at hand?

Still try and switch

If you weren’t already on a cheap deal, you could still find a provider that will offer you a better price than the energy price cap currently stipulates.

Firms such as Octopus Energy, E.On and others still offer lower prices although you may not be able to find them on price comparison sites at the moment. It is worth researching and getting quotes from as many companies as you can.

Improve your home’s efficiency

Improving energy efficiency of your home can range from minor tweaks to big projects, but there are some ways to go about it – especially if you live in an older property. For starters, excluding any kind of draft and keeping doors inside closed will retain more heat in rooms.

Other ideas, which may seem more wacky but are in fact quite effective, include getting radiator foil which reflects heat from your radiators back into the house.

Smart plugs and timers strategically placed in the house can also be a good way to save energy, especially if you forgot to turn the TV off at the socket before bed.

Other higher investment and more long-term efficient solutions include getting brand new roof and wall insulation installed. This can cost thousands but will be recouped as your bills come down over time.

Finally, installing new eco-friendly biomass boilers or solar panels have a high upfront cost, but could in time pay you for putting energy back into the grid. According to Renewable Energy Hub such equipment could save you up to £2,000 a year in energy bills.

Turn down the thermostat

Ultimately the ‘price’ you are quoted is only ever an estimation by the energy company of what they think you will use.

If you live in a three-bed house and they estimate you’ll use £1,500 of energy per year, it doesn’t mean you’ll actually use that amount. The one sure-fire way to pay less for your energy bills is to simply use less energy! This means turning down the thermostat, putting on a jumper and slippers and having a hot water bottle in bed at night.

Although it is not advisable to slash your energy usage in mid-winter, especially if you’re older or have any health conditions, finding ways to cut down on overall energy usage can have miraculous effects on your bills.

Minor changes such as turning off electric appliances you’re not using at the wall socket, cutting down on tumble dryer cycles, and switching to energy efficient lightbulbs will have a significant impact on your bills in the end.