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1 February 2018

Rising bond yields: Mini-drama perhaps, but not a crisis.

Rising yields a ‘known’ risk – declining economic momentum would be a bigger concern

This week’s modest declines in equity markets may be the largest of the last nine months but that is only an illustration of just how far equity market volatility has fallen. The narrative of rising bond yields and inflation expectations is being used to explain the market declines. This is understandable and we ourselves have previously highlighted the anomalously low level of global bond yields. However, rising yields are a known risk for 2018 and unlikely to create a major sell-off in equity markets by themselves. We would be more concerned if there was firm evidence of a meaningful slowdown in economic momentum. Such evidence is - for now - largely absent in either Europe, the US or China.

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21 September 2017

US rates: Has the fuse been lit?.

Conditions for synchronised, if gradual, tightening of policy appear in place

To our surprise yesterday’s Fed statement and projections not only re-confirmed the probability of a rate increase later in the year but also continue to forecast three further rate increases in 2018. Furthermore, the Fed announced the pace of reduction in its balance sheet which, while an initially modest US$10bn per month in October will rise to US$50bn per month by the end of 2018.  The initial market reaction has been for the yield curve to flatten further as investors price in an increased probability of a Q4 rate rate increase while US 10y bond yields rose by only 3bps. Equity markets may be sanguine for now but we view this monetary headwind as a slow-burn fuse which may challenge investors again during 2018.

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15 February 2017

Yellen’s hawkish testimony: Rate increases ahead.

The strong performance of asset prices in the post-2008 era remains in our view largely attributable to lower than expected growth rates being offset by much looser than expected monetary policy. However, as expressed recently by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney “..we’re coming to the last seconds of central bankers’ fifteen minutes of fame”. If, as we believe, central banks are in the early stages of stepping back from unconventional monetary policy this is likely to have significant implications for asset prices.

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17 March 2016

Was there a “plaza” accord after all?.

Yesterday’s FOMC statement and Yellen’s press comments were unequivocally more dovish than the markets and we were expecting. Going into the meeting there was a reasonable case for preparing the markets for a rate increase in early summer, given declining unemployment and increasing US core CPI. As it turned out, external factors – perhaps a euphemism for undesirable moves in global markets and the US dollar – were in contrast almost overplayed. For us, “Peak fear” was last month’s story, so why bring it up now?

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10 February 2016

Yellen’s testimony - No change to the Fed’s view.

If Fed chair Yellen’s speech today was an opportunity to communicate a more dovish outlook for US interest rates it has been passed up. Yellen highlighted the decline in the US unemployment rate to 4.9%, in-line with the Fed’s own longer-run estimate of a sustainable level and only talked of the uncertainty in regard to recent external factors and financial market movements – and notably to both the upside and downside. This gives little ammunition for bulls expecting a quick and wholesale reappraisal of the trajectory of US interest rates.

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28/06/2018
Equity strategy and market outlook - June 2018

In this month’s strategy piece, Alastair George believes that the US vs rest of the world trade confrontation is becoming the dominant narrative. We cannot rule out at this point that negative responses in financial markets may be a prerequisite to negotiating a face-saving route out of the situation for all sides. However, earnings estimates show few signs of the impact of tariffs or disappointing UK and eurozone economic data and robust growth for 2018 remains the consensus forecast. Profits forecasts have even risen in the US in recent months and the median US company is now expected to deliver close to 20% earnings growth in 2018. However, offsetting the benefits of strong US profits growth is the prospect of tighter US monetary policy and larger fiscal deficits. The recent trade protectionism-related flight to safety is understandable but in our view current US 10-year Treasury yields still appear too low. Emerging markets may continue to struggle as the Fed remains focused on US domestic condition. There is no change to our cautious outlook. We continue to believe developed equity markets are in a period of consolidation. Valuations are moving closer towards long-run averages with markets simply trading sideways as profits grow while monetary policy is normalised.

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