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Investment Committee Meeting Minutes - May 2015

  • By Richard Ellis
  • 26 May, 2015

Fraser Heath Market Update


  • The FTSE All Share Index generated a total return of 3% during the month of April.
  • Inflation remained at 0%
  • Oil & Gas producers sector was amongst the better performers while the Food and Drug Retailer sector was amongst the worst.
  • The Bank of England left interest rates unchanged.
  • Barclays announced its full year results which included a further provision of £800 million to cover any further potential fines relating to dealings in the foreign exchange markets.


  • The S&P 500 Index returned a modest 1% (in US $ total returns terms) in April.
  • The US economy grew more slowly than expected in the first quarter of the year and expectations of an imminent interest rate rise have all but faded.
  • Economic growth dipped in the first quarter to a rise of just 0.25%, well below expectations. This was as a result of the strengthening US dollar which impacted on exports and consumption.
  • This weakness is expected to be temporary and some of the lost output is expected to be made up in the second quarter as consumption spending and residential investment rebound.
  • The energy sector was the strongest performer led by stocks which rose following the stabilisation of the oil price. The US is poised to cease being a net importer of energy for the first time since the 1950’s as successful extraction of domestic fossil fuel and efficiency measures reset its relations with world suppliers.
  • Concerns over the global economic outlook have seen a surge of US companies returning cash to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks. As a result of a combination of slower economic growth and a lower expectation for returns from capital investments, shareholders in the biggest US companies stand to receive a record 1 trillion US$ in cash this year.


  • European equity markets ended the month flat in Sterling terms.
  • The FTSE World Europe Index gained in the first half of the month but lost ground in the second half due to uncertainty surrounding negotiations between Greece and its Euro partners.
  • Oil & Gas was the strongest sector, advancing by 8.1% (in Euro total returns terms) due to the pick-up in the oil price.
  • The utilities sector was also among the top performers after lagging the broader market in the previous months.
  • Eurozone inflation stood at 0% in April ending a 4 month run of declines in consumer prices, tempering deflationary pressure concerns raised earlier in the year.


  • Performance of Asian equity markets was mixed in April as slowing growth and falling inflation has resulted in rising expectations of further monetary easing.
  • The Chinese and Hong Kong equity markets had strong gains while the Indian and Indonesian markets were weak over the month,
  • Chinese equity markets made strong gains despite the challenging outlook for earnings given slowing economic growth and deflationary pressures. The rally was helped by strengthened expectations of further monetary policy easing and stimulus measures to support growth. In a surprise move, the Peoples’ Bank of China cut the amount of cash commercial banks must hold as reserves by 1% in a move to speed up economic growth.
  • Global emerging markets advanced strongly during April to consolidate their best start to a year versus developed markets since 2009.
  • The best performing Emerging Market region was Latin America
  • The Russian equity market also made impressive gains resulting from the rebound in oil prices and ceasefire in the Ukraine. Increased confidence was reflected in the currency market where the Rouble appreciated more than 10% versus the US dollar over the month. The Rouble has now rallied over 25% since its low in January of this year.


  • The Japanese equity market made modest gains in local currency terms following strong performance over the first quarter of the year.
  • The Bank of Japan announced that no further monetary easing was required despite lowering its inflation and growth forecasts.
  • The markets were also supported by three large public pension funds transferring more assets into equities, following a similar move by the Government Pension Investment Fund last year.


  • Interest rate sensitivity drove performance returns. Across all the major bond markets returns in all but the highest yielding sectors were negative, reflecting the low level of compensation for duration risk across markets.
  • According to data from Merrill Lynch, Gilts returned -2.2% while German Bunds returned -1.4% Sterling investment grade corporate bonds returned -2.0%
  • Bonds investors have increasingly found themselves in an environment that challenges the fundamental principles of investing where investors are now sometimes paying for the privilege of lending. In April, Switzerland became the first Sovereign to issue a 10 year bond carrying a negative yield.


Ian Spreadbury, Fixed Income Manager, Fidelity Investments

  • Ian manages Fidelity Extra Income and Strategic Bond funds, which are widely owned by our clients.
  • He is a very experienced manager and uses this to help navigate through difficult markets, such as the current climate.
  • After a strong year in 2014, he believes that returns from fixed income assets (bonds) will be lower going forward.
  • He is of the opinion that there is a systemic risk in the market which is largely being ignored.
  • The ratio between Government debt and GDP is at its ever highest level and, although keeping interest rates at or close to 0% and pumping in Quantitative Easing into the system helps stave off depression, it also protects bad companies from failing!
  • He thinks there is a 25% chance that the fixed income sector could react very badly to the continuing environment of low growth and low inflation during the next 5 years.
  • He is positioning his portfolio to help protect against such an event by focussing on the debt of companies which would survive a systemic event, for example pharmaceutical companies.
  • There are plenty of bonds still be issued but he said managers need to look even more closely than usual at what they are buying.

Jeremy Podger, Global Equity Manager, Fidelity Investments

  • Jeremy has run the Fidelity Global Special Situations Fund for Fidelity for the last three years, having previously had a very successful career at Threadneedle Investments.
  • We added the fund to our model portfolios twelve months or so ago and it has been one of the best-performing global equity funds in the last year.
  • The fund aims to provide capital growth by investing in three key themes, companies who will benefit from corporate change (eg new management), those whose current share price offers exceptional value and unique businesses.
  • His view of the World equity markets at present is that they offer fair value and are trading within their respective “normal” ranges.
  • Inflation is not a problem for most western economies and so he expects a gentle rise in interest rates when they start to pick up.
  • His fund has benefitted from an over-exposure to the US market, which was one of the best performers in 2014, but he has now reduced his exposure to the US in favour of Europe.
  • He sees plenty of good investment opportunities at present and is confident about medium to long-term prospects.

As an alternative to our “What do we think” slot, we thought it would be interesting if we provided a snapshot of how the major sectors performed over the last 12 months, along with levels of volatility.

While the graph above shows the actual return, the chart below compares the risk taken by each sector as measured by volatility against the return over the past year

Date of next meeting 30th   June 2015

Fraser Heath News

By Mark Fletcher 03 Jan, 2018

The UK equity market retreated in November, only the second month in 2017 where we saw a meaningful fall in the key FTSE 100 Index. Comments made by Mark Carney, following the November Base rate rise, highlighted the Bank’s view that inflation will be a problem for some time to come and how business and consumers react to this will determine the path for the UK economy over the coming months. The Bank said in a statement: “The decision to leave the European Union is having a noticeable impact on the economic outlook.  

By Mark Fletcher 22 Nov, 2017

The Bank of England’s decision at the start of November to raise interest rates for the first time in 10 years was widely expected and caused little initial stir in the markets. Since then the FTSE 100 has fallen a couple of percentage points at the time of writing. Perhaps the combination of negative talk around Brexit combined with the prospect of rising interest rates are starting to bring back a little fear to the market which has, for some time, felt like it has been in a state of complacency.

By Mark Fletcher 01 Nov, 2017

Most commentators expect interest rates in the UK will rise for the first time since July 2007 when the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England next gets together for its monthly meeting on 2nd November 2017. Indeed, Mark Carney said on the BBC Today programme, shortly after the minutes of last month’s meeting were released, “What we have said is that if the economy continues on the track that it has been on - and all the indications are that it is - in the relatively near term you can expect that interest rates will rise”. He went on to say, “We are talking about just easing a bit off the accelerator to keep with the speed limit of the economy”, which has been widely predicted to mean that rate rises will be gradual and measured.

By Mark Fletcher 02 Oct, 2017
There used to be a time when the market would jitter at the slightest bad news story. Nowadays it seems that record breaking storms and a war of words amongst leaders with mass devastation at their fingertips can’t shake the nerves of investors. Which is not to say that markets have been driving forward (the FTSE 100 is, at the time of writing, where it was in the middle of January) but rather there hasn’t been the volatility we have seen in recent years.
By Mark Fletcher 05 Sep, 2017
It’s always the case that news stories like Brexit negotiations stalling, the actions of the North Koreans, the daily travails of the leader of the Western World, terrorist attacks and housing market slowdowns can grip us and make us fear the worst.
By Mark Fletcher 31 Jul, 2017
June was another good month for markets, in general terms, with many of the major developed markets once again flirting with new all-time highs. However, we have a sense that all may not be as it seems.
By Mark Fletcher 01 Jul, 2017
As we can see from the above commentary, markets generally continued to make progress in May despite plenty of uncertainty and conflict around the World.
By Mark Fletcher 01 Jun, 2017

Our reason for showing these graphs is to highlight that the VIX index is trading back at 2007 levels of low volatility while stock markets are at all-time highs. We can no more see the future than anyone else but we do know that when it comes to investing, the most money is often made when every sinew in your body is screaming that it is madness to invest, and that sometimes the opposite is true.

By Mark Fletcher 01 May, 2017
A mixed set of results this month reflects the fact that markets are waiting to see what happens in various political arenas around the Globe. Politics is definitely at the forefront of most news bulletins, whether it be President Trump's latest tweets, the UK government triggering Article 50 or the fight to become the next President in France or Chancellor in Germany.
By Richard Ellis 01 Apr, 2017

It has been a strong start to the year for investment portfolios, mostly driven by signs of continued strength in the US Economy and the promise of more to come under the Trump presidency. Markets always move ahead of the economy so to make money, investors will position portfolios to benefit from what they think is around the corner. But what if the promise does not materialise? One fund manager described this recent wave of enthusiasm as the “Trump Bump” and that this may well be followed by the “Trump Dump” if the new President is unable to deliver on his campaign promises due to lack of support from political colleagues. In this respect, it seems that the failed repeal of Obamacare has given investors pause for thought over the last week or so.

While some asset classes are looking expensive, on an individual basis, there remains optimism amongst fund managers. Those who particularly seek to invest in undervalued, unloved but robust companies can see plenty of scope for increased valuations in their investment pool.

Eight years have now passed since the FTSE 100 hit its Credit Crunch low point. In investor memory, particularly among younger investors, we are getting to the point when the slide that started in summer 2007 down to its nadir risks being forgotten. We don’t know what the future holds but the past tells us that investing needs time on your hands to ride out the tough times. We’re confident that investing remains the best long term strategy for your money but make sure that you understand the strategy you are taking and that your portfolio is right for your attitude to investment risk and your time frame.

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