Market Update October 2017
The first three quarters of the year has been generally positive in financial markets despite a host of reasons for uncertainty around the globe. Sentiment around global economic growth prospects has clearly picked up in recent months and this is providing a support to markets. The generally benign backdrop over the first three quarters of the year allowed the funds on our Recommended List to rise by more than 6% (in euro terms) on average year to date.
The prospect of interest rate rises, particularly in the US, continues to cast a shadow, although any interest rate rises in the developed markets over the next two years are likely to be very measured. Of the three dominant scenarios facing markets (i) continued rises (ii) a correction or (iii) just bumping along, we are now leaning towards the last option as being the most likely although the risk of a correction has certainly not gone away.
Equity markets continued on a solid growth path through the third quarter, although there were considerable variations between the different regions. China led the way and is now up almost 30% year to date. All other major markets moved in a positive direction over the quarter and both the US and Europe are up by strong double digit percentages so far this year. For euro-based investors, currencies were a significant fly in the ointment, as the euro continued to strengthen against most other currencies. The strong rise in the US market over the year was reduced to less than 3% in euro terms while the rise in China was halved when converted to euros from local currency. Performance data for the major markets is shown below:
Q3 2017 YTD 2017
US +4.1%* +14.2%*
UK +1.5%* +6.8%*
Europe +3.9%* +12.4%*
Japan +2.2%* +8.4%*
Ireland +0.5%* +7.0%*
China +8.6%* +29.8%*
* Source: Financial Express Analytics
Markets look far from cheap at current levels and we are not strongly bullish on equities as a result. That said, markets are receiving continuing support from a gradually improving economic backdrop around the globe and our general view is that markets are most likely to bump along over the short term. In terms of new investment in equities, we continue to advise clients to take a phased approach and to lean towards funds with a focus on income. Longer term, we remain most positive on continental Europe and emerging markets.
All investors are aware of the poor to no return from cash deposits, a situation which is unlikely to change for quite a long time to come. Our recently launched Cash Alternative Strategy, which incorporates a range of very low volatility funds which offer a return significantly better than cash without involving a high degree of risk, grew by 1.1% over the quarter. We are strongly of the view that cash rich clients should be looking to switch at least part of their cash holdings into such a strategy.
With central banks considering possible interest rate increases over the coming months, the risk to bond prices has risen somewhat. As a result we continue to see little value for retail investors in mainstream bond markets. We are continuing to promote exposure to some specialist areas of the bond and credit markets where we still see value such as emerging market bonds and mortgage backed securities.
Property remains one of our favoured asset classes and it is one to which all clients should have a long term exposure in their portfolios. Yields on commercial property are still attractive across most of the developed markets. We favour ungeared or lowly geared pooled investments, particularly those with a visible income stream. Irish residential property is a particular hotspot at the moment, and looks to remain so for at least a couple of years. Harvest plans to bring bespoke opportunities to our clients over the short term offering exposure to this sector.
For euro-based investors, currencies have been the major bugbear over the past year. A strengthening euro has meant that returns from dollar and sterling denominated investments have been considerably diluted. Currencies have probably found their level over the very short term although looking into 2018 a recovery in the dollar looks quite likely. Brexit will probably ensure that a sustained recovery in Sterling does not happen for quite some time yet.
Gold and Oil
Gold has risen by 10%* in dollar terms since the start of the year but is actually down marginally when converted to euros. The uncertain background will provide ongoing support for the gold price. We would reiterate our view that a small exposure to gold in your portfolio is worth considering. Oil markets have recovered over recent months and a barrel of oil is now trading at $57, unchanged since the beginning of the year. We see no prospect of a sustained recovery in the foreseeable future.
* Source: Financial Express Analytics
Inflation is has not been a factor in markets during the current year but could well emerge as a significant topic in 2018.
As expected there were no significant changes to Pensions in today’s budget. We will review the Finance Bill 2017, which is due to be published over the coming weeks, and provide any relevant updates at this time.
As always, you should only consider the investment views contained in this update in the context of your own attitude to risk and how such choices might impact your Asset Allocation model. Should you wish to discuss your investment portfolio, please contact your Harvest Financial Services Client Manager or call us on 01 2375500 – email firstname.lastname@example.org.