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14 February 2019 · 5 min read

Market outlook: balanced but still biased to upside

Impact of lower rates, China tax cuts and political progress likely to be evident by mid-2019

Weak incoming data, both in respect of profits forecasts and the global economy is in sharp contrast to the strong performance of risk assets such as equities and corporate credit during 2019. Conflicting narratives can certainly create angst but in this case reflect investors’ belief that central banks have acknowledged the slowing global economy. We would concur that easier financial conditions means relief from negative economic surprises may be in sight by mid-year. Despite having risen sharply in the first few weeks of the year, on balance we believe global equities now have the prospect of volatile but still upward progress, as political events unfold.

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6 February 2019 · 2 min read

Global earnings revisions still on a downward trend

Equities bridging a gap in corporate performance - for now

Consensus profits forecasts on a global basis remain on a downward trend even as January’s recovery in risk assets such as equities and corporate debt continues into February. The primary reason for this at first sight paradoxical state of affairs is not hard to find; the US Fed has placed interest rates on pause and acknowledged the slowing of the global economy. Nevertheless, the clock is ticking on the persistence of the current profits downgrade cycle, which is also consistent with economic weakness evident outside the US. While not shifting our neutral stance on equities for the full year, near-term market performance is now in our view more tightly bound than usual to the turn in the direction of global profits forecasts. Therefore, in the short-term we would not chase the rally, at least until there is some evidence of stabilisation in earnings or positive news in respect of US/China trade.

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28 January 2019 · 2 min read

ECB fiddles as eurozone turns

Compared to US Fed, ECB seems flat-footed as growth slows

During the recent period of market volatility the US Fed has in our view successfully re-positioned itself on the doveish end of expectations, both in terms of interest rate and more recently balance sheet policy. The ECB in comparison appears flat-footed, with ECB President Draghi failing to use the opportunity in his press conference last week to emphasise policy flexibility in the event of a downturn. Ironically, the most recent disappointing incoming data is concentrated in the eurozone, rather than the US.

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10 January 2019 · 2 min read

FOMC Minutes: Up to speed with events but US-centric

Meeting minutes suggested Fed closer to market views than originally thought

The minutes of December’s FOMC interest rate meeting suggest the US Federal Reserve is in fact more attuned to the recent tightening of financial conditions and risk of a slowdown than first thought. Tweaks to the language in the FOMC’s December statement were intended to emphasise the data-dependency of the Fed’s monetary policy stance and also that only limited policy tightening was now envisaged. While we view this as reassuring for the remainder of 2019, the heightened volatility of global markets following Fed Chair Powell’s press conference demonstrates the ease of a miscommunication when interest rate policy becomes politically charged.

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20 December 2018 · 2 min read

FOMC: US Fed merely matches expectations

Only a watching brief on overseas developments risks the dreaded divergence

Taking into account US economic conditions of full unemployment and inflation close to target, the reiteration in yesterday’s FOMC statement of the policy of gradually returning US rates to neutral levels is understandable. Furthermore, lowering the rate trajectory for 2019 from 3 to 2 projected rate hikes also makes sense given the tightening of financial conditions (namely falling equity prices and rising credit spreads) since the summer. However, we believe markets were looking for something stronger than ‘wait and see’ to counter the negative psychology which has led to a very poor December for global equity markets.

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19 December 2018 · 3 min read

Brexit: Prepare for a confrontation

No-deal preparations on both sides represent a predictable escalation in tensions

UK PM Theresa May has survived the confidence vote triggered by her own party. A further proposed House of Commons confidence vote is also destined to be defeated. However, PM May’s continued premiership does not mean there will be no change in Brexit tactics. She faces the same unresolved conflicts as before. In order to deliver her deal, she may shift towards a more confrontational position with the EU in order to obtain increased leverage. Investors should not confuse this with actively seeking a no-deal Brexit. However, the road to amending the Withdrawal Agreement and winning UK Parliamentary approval now seems paved with market volatility. While UK markets are now trading at valuation levels which discount a significant degree of Brexit disruption, declining earnings forecasts in both the eurozone and UK suggest that it is too early to materially increase equity exposure to these markets.

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