9 June 2017 · 2 min read

UK election: Another step-up in political risk

A tactical blunder does not mean the end of Brexit or the Conservative administration

UK PM Theresa May’s strategy of consolidating power when the Labour opposition was seemingly in disarray and the Conservative poll lead unassailable has seriously backfired. The likelihood now is that the UK will be governed by a minority Conservative administration with support from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). May’s future as leader of the Conservative party remains in serious doubt following a number of campaign mistakes, not least the failure to recognise importance of appeasing the older voter. Much now remains open for debate over the next few weeks.

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1 June 2017 · 5 min read

Volatility: Low, but downside protection in demand

We struggle to understand why market volatility has fallen so far in 2017

One of the notable aspects of equity market performance during 2017 has been the rapid fall in market volatility. Trailing 90-day realised volatility for the S&P 500 has reached 7% in recent weeks. Over the last 20 years, these are levels are matched only during a brief period over 2005-2006. We do not see an especially strong parallel with 2005 as at that point US equities were still moderately valued and the US economy was expanding after a mild recession. We believe investors are once again becoming complacent; but also note the skew towards higher priced put options suggesting within the options market at least that downside protection is at a premium.

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14 May 2017 · 3 min read

Earnings forecasts: a short-term support for markets

Rising estimates notable in continental Europe

While economic surprise indices may now be rolling over, US earnings forecasts for 2017 are effectively unchanged since January. In the UK and continental Europe forecasts have risen relatively sharply since the start of the year, reflecting in the UK a continued tailwind from sterling weakness and in continental Europe the long-awaited improvement in economic activity.

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5 May 2017 · 2 min read

Not really an economic surprise…

Economic surprise indices and raw materials prices rolling over in Q2

One of the notable features of improving sentiment in global stock markets over the last 6 months has been its reliance on ‘soft’ economic data and a continuation of positive surprises. We cautioned in March that economic surprise indices were both seasonal and mean reverting and also highlighted the tightening of monetary conditions in China, historically linked to declines in iron ore prices. Six weeks later, global economic surprise has rolled over outside Europe while energy, coking coal and iron ore prices are falling sharply.

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3 May 2017 · 3 min read

Sector view: Boring old insurance

In a fully valued market, a defensive sector priced sensibly

Our view that developed market valuations remain somewhat extended remains place. However, there is one sector which does not appear overvalued or compromised by legacy liabilities and questions over the future sustainable return on equity. Nor does it appear directly in the line of fire of technology’s advance like retail, or subject to on/off policy switches in China which have contributed to the de-rating of the resources sectors. European insurers appear from a top-down perspective to offer sensible valuations, reasonable returns on equity and high dividend yields in a low interest rate environment.

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24 April 2017 · 3 min read

French Election: Is populism already passé?

Relief rally follows 1st round vote which puts Le Pen against a moderate

If last year was the year investors were caught out by misleading polls, today’s market action suggests that investors are being caught out by mistrusting them. A collapse in near-term euro volatility, sharply higher equity markets and a compression in the spread between French and German government bonds emphasises the relief that Le Pen was not in a run-off with a far left-wing candidate.

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