Global financial markets have been grappling with a mix of factors over recent months, which has led to a degree of turbulence for investors. From persistent inflation concerns to signs of economic recovery and geopolitical tensions, market sentiment has been swinging between optimism and pessimism.
In today’s market update, Commercial Director and Chartered Financial Planner, Aled Phillips, delves into some of the key drivers influencing the markets and their potential impact on investment strategies:
As ever, these market updates are intended to give you some information on portfolio performance and these short-term movements can be ignored as part of a long-term investment strategy and financial plan. With so much going on and being reported in the media it is to give our view and some context on the economy.
Rising inflation – rising interest rates
One of the major factors affecting both equity and bond markets is the persistent inflationary pressure. In the UK, the core Consumer Price Index (CPI) reached a 31-year high of 6.8% in May, while Eurozone inflation remained elevated at 6.3%. Consequently, both the UK and Eurozone are expected to raise interest rates, with the market pricing in European rates to rise to 3.75% and UK rates to rise to 5.5% by the end of the year. These inflation concerns have contributed to market volatility and uncertainty.
Expectations regarding interest rate movements have exhibited a volatile pattern throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, there were expectations of rate cuts in the US and UK during the second half of the year. However, as data releases and economic conditions evolve, interest rate expectations are subject to change. Central banks now face the challenging task of assessing the impact of recent rate hikes on their economies, given the time lag involved.
While concerns over a banking crisis have diminished in recent months, there are indications of tightening financial conditions. Banks have become more cautious in lending, potentially constraining growth and weakening economies. The severity of this impact remains uncertain, and monitoring data releases will be crucial in understanding the full extent of the situation.
The anticipated reopening of China had been a key driver of expected global growth this year. However, weaker-than-expected April data and a new wave of COVID-19 cases in China have hampered growth expectations. This setback has adversely affected investor sentiment, particularly in European and emerging markets, introducing an additional element of uncertainty.
On a more positive note, however, and a contrast to the challenges faced by other regions, Japan's economy continues to exhibit positive momentum. This has resulted in a rally in Japanese stock markets, with the TOPIX (Japan's main stock market index) reaching a 33-year high in May. The resilience of Japan's economy offers a glimmer of optimism amidst the broader market uncertainties.
Despite tightening conditions, US equity markets, as represented by the S&P 500, have remained resilient. The index is nearing a 20% increase since its October lows, which technically signals a bull market. Notably, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) theme has played a significant role in fuelling this rally. Blowout sales guidance and earnings forecasts from companies like Nvidia and Marvel have contributed to a tech rally, generating further momentum.
While the S&P 500 has enjoyed a remarkable rally, it is essential to acknowledge that the performance has been largely driven by a handful of top companies (Facebook / Apple / Amazon etc). The remaining 490 companies in the index have experienced more muted share price growth. This lack of breadth in the market raises concerns and warrants continuous monitoring.
The global financial markets continue to navigate through a complex landscape characterized by inflation concerns, changing interest rate expectations, and geopolitical uncertainties. Investors are confronted with mixed signals that oscillate between optimism and pessimism.
If you have any questions about investments in general or your financial plan, please don’t hesitate to contact your adviser.
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Aled Phillips, Chartered Financial Planner & Commercial Director, was interviewed by Rhys Hicks.
The contents of this article do not constitute financial advice in any way; if you have any concerns about your finances you should talk to your financial adviser. The value of your investments can go down as well as up.