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Investment Committee Meeting Minutes - October 2015

  • By Richard Ellis
  • 30 Oct, 2015

There is mixed news in the global economy and so plenty of different interpretations on the state of play are available from the fund managers and economists with whom we speak. 

We continue to be cautiously optimistic about medium to long term prospects but remain of the opinion that how the US and other indebted Western economies manage their interest rate policy, the impact of the slowdown in China and the overall strength of the global economy over the next couple of years will determine the path of equity and bond markets. Commercial Property continues to look attractive as an asset class and we have recently increased our exposure in our model portfolios.

Fraser Heath Market Update


UK


  • September saw the FTSE All Share index fall by 2.7% as evidence of slower economic growth in China accumulated. Overseas negative macro-economic factors, such as falling commodity and oil prices and the expected timing of what would be the first US interest rate rise since 2006, continued to weigh on sentiment.

  • For the second month running, sentiment remained weakest among commodity and energy related stocks, which were among the biggest fallers in share price terms over the month.

  • For the third month in succession, smaller company share prices proved more resilient, reflecting the index’s limited exposure to oil and gas.

  • UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) remained flat, making an interest rate rise unjustified in the short term.

  • If the latest fall in oil prices is sustained, this will provide a further boost to UK growth and contribute to the headline CPI inflation remaining close to zero for a little longer than envisaged in current consensus forecasts.

  • In sector terms, mining and energy related companies saw significant share price weakness as the earnings outlook for such companies became more uncertain.


US


  • The prospect of the Fed increasing interest rates, coupled with China’s slowing growth, unsettled the US equity market which saw the S&P 500 index return

  •  -2.5% (in US $ total return terms).

  • Consumer staples and utilities benefitted from their perceived safe haven (ie companies that have traditionally paid higher dividends) and were the only sectors in positive territory.

  • When the Fed opted to leave interest rates on hold, markets became concerned by negative overseas developments and these seemed to overshadow mounting evidence of a resilient US economic recovery.

  • There was an upward revision to the second quarter GDP growth, which showed that US economy expanded at its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2014.

  • US employers announced a record number of job vacancies with the private sector having created 200,000 jobs in September. Wage growth however remains muted.


EUROPE


  • Concerns over global growth continued to weigh on European equity markets with the FTSE World Europe (Ex UK) Index falling by -4.3.% (in Euro total return terms).

  • Despite the uncertainties about the China led emerging market slowdown, macro economic data in Europe continued to show that the region’s economic outlook is improving.

  • On a year-by-year basis industrial production increased by 1.9% continuing the upward trend since the start of 2015.

  • Euro headline inflation fell to -0.1% year-on-year, but core inflation has remained stable at 0.9% over the past 5 months.

  • The ECB has held out the prospects of additional monetary stimulus should consumer prices and employment figures remain subdued.



ASIA & EMERGING MARKETS


  • Sentiment in the Asian equity markets suffered due to slow global growth and uncertainty about US interest rate policy.

  • The Chinese equity market declined as China’s economic slowdown was weaker than expected.

  • The utilities and IT sectors were the better performers, whilst the energy and telecommunication sectors lagged the most.

  • Global emerging equity markets experienced another volatile month with losses being recorded in all regions. Latin America was the worst performer, followed by Europe.

  • Brazil lost investment grade status from S&P ratings agency, a move not followed by other agencies. Almost 70% of the market decline in the MSCI Brazil Index was attributed to a sharp depreciation of the currency, which fell by 8.3%.


JAPAN


  • Japanese economic data remains mixed. Domestic consumption remains weak with no growth in retail sales, while prices continued to fall, with core CPI inflation turning negative.

  • There have however been signs of higher wages and gradual improvement in the employment market, as the jobs-to-applicants continued to rise.

  • It is expected that the Japanese economy will see a second consecutive quarter of negative growth when Q3 GDP figures are released, increasing the possibility of further monetary policy easing and fiscal stimulus in support of the economy


FIXED INTEREST

  • Whilst Government bond markets benefitted from the Fed’s decision to hold US interest rates at their existing level, so called “risky assets” including corporate bonds and emerging market bonds came under pressure.

  • Ongoing concerns about economic growth in China and the collapse in commodity markets further weighed on returns from corporate bonds.

  • There was also volatility in the corporate bond market as a result of factors specific to individual companies. The exposure of Volkswagen’s fraud added to bond market volatility, with yields on the company’s bonds rising significantly.

  • According to data from Merrill Lynch, gilts returned +.3%, while US Treasuries returned +0.9%.  Sterling investment grade corporate bonds returned -0.1%.


RICHARD WOOLNOUGH – M&G OPTIMAL INCOME FUND - WEB CONFERENCE 14.10.2015


Macro view


  • US economy close to full capacity and unemployment below average.

  • Biggest driver of inflation will be wage growth.

  • Monetary policy acts with a lag, so if interest rates rise now unemployment will continue to fall for 2 years afterwards.

  • Lower oil price also significantly affects global economy and inflation.


Where’s the value in credit?:-


  • Risk assets re-priced this year, especially equities and high yield bonds.

  • Spreads look attractive now compared to the long term average.

  • US and European high yield also look attractive.

  • Default rates in the US very low but the expectation is that these might tick up in 2016, but this is probably discounted at present.


Fund Positioning


  • Positioned to take advantage of current conditions. Fund is usually invested 1/3rd   investment grade bonds, 1/3rd   high yield bonds and 1/3rd   Government bonds.

  • Currently 50% in investment grade, lower than 30% in high yield and around 15% in government bonds.

  • Index-linked bonds starting to look attractive in the medium term.


RICHARD BUXTON – OLD MUTUAL UK ALPHA FUND - WEB CONFERENCE 21.10.2015


Macro view


  • We are all continuing to feel the effects of the fallout from China with the emerging markets slowdown and commodity weakness impacting global industrials.

  • However western economic data solid, unspectacular but not collapsing.

  • Richard has taken advantage of market correction to continue to build positions in companies he likes.

  • Market is not expecting any interest rate rises anytime soon.

  • Investor sentiment so bruised that incremental good news will create rallies.

  • Investors currently comfortable with defensives and don’t feel the need to take extra risks, but as a result are running the winners to higher and higher levels.


Fund positioning


  • Good cash inflows.

  • During the correction over the last three months added to mega caps; Astra Zeneca, GSK, Vodafone, Shell & BP.

  • Bought Worldpay at IPO – lots of research on the business was carried out prior to purchase and Richard got 60% of what he wanted at issue.

  • He is still happy to hold Tesco – he views this as a 5 year journey, which will be a bumpy ride but the business is being restructured and is delivering as expected at the moment.


WHAT DO WE THINK?


There is mixed news in the global economy and so plenty of different interpretations on the state of play are available from the fund managers and economists with whom we speak. We continue to be cautiously optimistic about medium to long term prospects but remain of the opinion that how the US and other indebted Western economies manage their interest rate policy, the impact of the slowdown in China and the overall strength of the global economy over the next couple of years will determine the path of equity and bond markets. Commercial Property continues to look attractive as an asset class and we have recently increased our exposure in our model portfolios.


Date of next meeting 19th   November 2015

Fraser Heath News

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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.  

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By Mark Fletcher 01 May, 2017
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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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