Harbour Outlook: Inflection Points
Global share markets delivered one of their strongest monthly returns as market expectations moved from a ‘higher for longer’ interest rate environment to a ‘soft-landing’ for the US economy. The fall in long term bond yields was driven by softer economic data, renewed signs of slowing inflation, and a lower-than-expected US Treasury funding requirement. The continued fall in inflation data allowed central bankers to deliver ‘hawkish pause’ (not lifting rates but ready to if inflation re-emerges) type comments during the month. This weak inflation data contributed to markets beginning to price in cuts to official interest rates over 2024. Given the rise in bond yields was the key headwind for equities in prior months, the fall in yields drove a sharp rally in equity markets.READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Economic Crosscurrents
- The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) continued its decline, posting a -2.7% loss in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms (and a 0.2% gain in unhedged NZD terms). Despite three consecutive months of negative returns, the 12-month return figure for the index stands at 9.5% in NZD-hedged terms and 10.4% in unhedged terms.
- Returns for the month were similarly weak in local markets, with the S&P/NZX 50 Gross Index (with imputation credits) falling -4.8%, and the S&P/ASX 200 Index falling -3.8% (-2.4% in New Zealand dollar terms).
- Bond indices were also negative over the month. The Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+ Yr Index fell -0.2%, whilst the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Bond Index (hedged to NZD) also dropped -0.7% over the month. This came as the US market saw 10-year government yields increase to 4.9%, a level not seen since 2007, with resilience in US economic data prompting the market to largely unwind an expectation that the Federal Reserve would be cutting rates in 2024.
Harbour Outlook: Higher for longer, but how much longer?
The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) declined for the second month in a row, posting a -5.0% return in unhedged New Zealand dollar terms (-3.4% in hedged terms after strengthening in the New Zealand dollar). Returns were similarly weak in local markets, with the S&P/NZX 50 Gross Index (with imputation credits) falling -1.9%, and the S&P/ASX 200 Index falling -2.8% (-4.1% in New Zealand dollar terms).
Globally, weakness was...
Harbour Navigator: What you need to know about neutral interest rates
After declining between 1960 and 2020 due to growing working populations and decreasing productivity, neutral interest rates have stopped falling in recent years. This has prompted increased debate about where they go from here.
Neutral interest rates matter for financial markets because they help assess the impact of monetary policy and affect the valuation of financial assets based on discounted cash flows.
Harbour Outlook: Past the winter solstice, but is it spring yet?
After a string of strong returns for equity markets August saw a retreat. The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) returned -2.1% in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms, however weakness in the New Zealand dollar over the month helped the index move 1.6% in New Zealand dollar terms. Closer to home the S&P/NZX 50 Gross index (with imputation credits) fell 4.2%, whilst the S&P/ASX 200 Index fell a more modest -0.7% in AUD...
Harbour Navigator: Is a2 Milk the canary in the coal mine pointing to a Chinese structural slowdown?
Our recent visit to China has changed our view of the structural impediments facing our largest trading partner.
Demographic changes are impacting consumers’ medium-to-long-term outlook of the economy and they are adjusting their spending as a result.
The a2 Milk Company gave us a flavour last month of the impact from deteriorating demographics on the youngest age cohort.
After a multi-year COVID hiatus, we finally...
Harbour Navigator: New Zealand’s weakening export outlook to provide multiple challenges
Slowing global demand, led by a stalling Chinese economy, has seen New Zealand’s commodity export prices fall sharply in recent months.
Weaker export revenues will likely weigh on economic activity, supporting our view that further Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) rate hikes are not necessary and causing a further deterioration in the fiscal accounts that may require additional bond issuance.
Export weakness is also likely...
Harbour Outlook: Inflection points for interest rates and earnings?
It was another strong month for equities, with the MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) returning 2.0% in New Zealand dollar terms, and 3.2% in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms. Closer to home the S&P/NZX 50 Gross index (with imputation credits) advanced 1.2%, whilst the S&P/ASX 200 Index added 2.9% in AUD terms (and 2.4% in NZD terms).
Globally, returns were strong across all sectors, with energy leading the way at ...
Harbour Navigator: After the inflation peak
Investors should gradually gain confidence in most assets, as pessimism in the outlook for the economy gives way to understanding that highly restrictive monetary policy has done its job.
Despite the range of risks for financial markets, falling inflation has certainly been a positive factor for broad investment returns. Up until recently equity markets have also enjoyed a period of generally better than expected corporate ea...
Harbour Outlook: Is a soft landing really possible?
It was a strong month for global markets. The MSCI All Country World Index (ACWI) returned 3.5% in New Zealand dollar terms, and 5.4% in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms. Returns were strong across all sectors, with consumer discretionary standing out at 9.9%. There was a general shift towards cyclical sectors with industrials and materials rounding out the top 3.
Australasian markets also rallied, with the S&P/NZX ...
Investment Horizon: Top 10 risks and opportunities for 2023 – A mid-year reflection
At the risk of jinxing things and, barring a few weeks in March where the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank looked like it could create broader risks for the banking system, the first half of 2023 was relatively uneventful. Particularly when compared to the corresponding periods
in 2020 and 2022.
After a year of negative returns for both bonds and equities, “the scores on the board” look healthier for both. Equities have bou...
Harbour Outlook: AI: the fourth industrial revolution?
The conflict between observed inflation and soft lead indicators for economic activity continues to influence interest rates and economic forecasts. While some central banks may pause from raising rates, the overall balance of risks tilts towards tighter financial conditions. Investments with robust fundamentals and manageable debt levels are preferred in this environment.
It was a weak month for Australasian marke...
Harbour Navigator: Is inflation sticky?
After an aggressive RBNZ tightening cycle, the New Zealand economy is likely to enter recession later this year.
Inflation, however, is unlikely to quickly return to the RBNZ’s 1-3% target range and involves three broad steps – supply chain normalisation, lower housing costs and a drop in wage growth. Only the first step is complete.
We expect the RBNZ to increasingly recognise the impact of its rapid rate hikes to highly...
Harbour Outlook: Catch-22 - Inflation vs. Earnings
At a headline level, stock markets appear to be in a “catch-22”, digesting lower inflation numbers while trying to assess how much of this inflation is down to lower growth, which may then flow through to earnings. See more under ‘what to watch’.
New Zealand equities and bonds both delivered strong returns over the month, with the S&P/NZX 50 Gross index (with imputation credits) returning 1.1% and the Bloomberg NZ ...
Harbour Navigator: New Zealand's external reliance is in the spotlight
New Zealand is a small, open economy with a heavy reliance on the rest of the world for export revenue and funding.
The funding reliance is particularly acute currently as our tourism sector isn’t generating its normal amount of foreign revenue, pushing our current account balance to its largest deficit on record, almost 9% of GDP.
While our current account balance should improve as tourists continue to return to New Zea...
Harbour Navigator: Chinese economic recovery accelerating
Less than six months ago the Chinese economy was partly locked down with COVID restrictions and commentary remained bearish across a range of industries.
Fast forward to now and Chinese non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) readings are pointing to a very solid recovery in Chinese economic activity from 2022’s COVID lockdowns.
A core indicator, the China non-manufacturing PMI for March of +58.2 was well up fro...
Harbour Navigator: Fortress Australia
The banking system in Australia has multiple points of difference compared to the US, all pointing to a greater capacity to weather financial and economic stress. What we heard in our visit to Australia this week was exceptionalism and resilience in the banking system.
“A show of force” is how the Australian Financial Review subsequently described their Summit. In previous years you might have heard the regulators bemoan the ...
Harbour Outlook: Inflation not giving up without a fight
The MSCI All Country World Index returned 1.3% in New Zealand dollar terms, and -1.9% in New Zealand dollar-hedged terms. At the sub-sector level, we saw a continuation of last month’s thematic with defensive sectors (utilities, materials) lagging as investors rotated into the more interest rate-sensitive sectors such as information technology and financials.
The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with i...
Harbour Navigator: RBNZ not done yet but getting close
The RBNZ lifted the OCR by 50bps at the February MPS and continues to anticipate further tightening from the current 4.75% to 5.5% as inflation remains too high and labour markets are too tight for comfort.
The North Island floods are likely to add to inflation and activity in the medium term. Beyond the floods, the tension between strong historical data and weak forward indicators continues in New Zealand – we believe the...
Controlling inflation is a key pillar to calm markets
Central banks are focussed on bringing down inflation
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand amongst the earliest to hike rates and now others are moving rapidly
Sharp interest rate rises are now largely baked into financial markets
Lowering inflation is the best outcome for businesses and ultimately households
We think expectations of a cash rate of 4.6% by May 2023, is excessive although markets will continue to monitor inflation ...
The end of the “Great Moderation”?
Most economists expect historically high inflation to moderate over the next year, but the near-term outlook is uncertain.
Over the long term, changing structural inflation forces may create even greater uncertainty for investors.
The possible end of the great moderation – the period of relatively benign economic cycles - that has prevailed for most of the past 40 years - may see fixed income investors seek greater compensat...
Harbour Outlook: Cycling at warp speed … recession priced in?
The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell -0.2% over the month in both NZD-hedged and -unhedged terms.
The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month down -4.8%, whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) fell -2.6% in AUD terms (-1.9% in NZD terms).
Bond yields tracked downwards through May with a partial re-tracing through the last week of the month. As a res...
Central banks forced to prioritise inflation over growth
Inflation has risen sharply over the past year. What was initially expected to be transitory has become more widespread and persistent, with signs that price rises are being seen as the new norm.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is adding to already-high global inflation, while also reducing growth prospects.
With inflation dangerously high, central banks (including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ)) are backed into a corn...
The bond market is not signalling a recession
- Markets have aggressively baked in a sequence of interest rate rises as central banks shift to tackling inflation
- These rate rises are now front-loaded and may come quicker than expected
- This may pose risks for economic activity and continued market volatility. However, markets are not signalling a recession is likely
- After an initial flurry of rate rises, we expect a pause and more patience to judge the impact on activity and inflation
Uncertainty around hawkish central banks has led to volatility
- Global equity markets were strong in 2021 benefiting from accommodative central banks and record earnings growth to spur on returns
- Loose monetary and fiscal policy, implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to an increase in inflation, which central banks now need to combat
- Uncertainty around the exact extent of future interest rate changes has led to a volatile start to 2022 in markets
Still a large gap in New Zealand output
- The New Zealand economy shrank at the end of last year as the construction sector struggled to find the resources to continue to expand, while retail trade and accommodation activity dropped due to a lack of tourists.
- New Zealand is in a better position than many other economies, but there is still a gap between our potential output and where we are currently tracking, which is acting as a disinflationary force.
- It seems unlikely that the RBNZ will hike rate hikes in the next year; they have many other actions they could take before contemplating interest rate hikes.
- Longer-dated bond yields could be led higher by offshore developments as global growth beats expectations.
Harbour Macro Research Day: Light at the end of the tunnel
- Harbour’s internal Macro Research Day is a chance to hear from external research providers, challenge assumptions and anchor our medium-term view.
- Highly effective COVID-19 vaccines and early rollout are allowing investors to look past the current acceleration in northern hemisphere cases.
- The New Zealand tourism industry is likely to miss international visitors over summer, however the rest of the economy is doing exceptionally well. Perhaps too well in the case of housing where Reserve Bank of New Zealand Loan-to-Value Ratio restrictions are coming to curb high-risk lending.
A bold bounce
- Many economies, including New Zealand, are re-opening and recovering faster than expected
- High growth rates are normal after such a large contraction in activity and the recovery, so far, is partial
- Ongoing policy stimulus is expected, given the residual uncertainty
Faster please, to avoid the void
As we all battle COVID-19, some spending is stopping, suddenly.
For many businesses it is like stepping into the void. Already in a few days New Zealand has over 27,000 wage subsidy applications. That is a lot and it’s just the start. Sadly, higher unemployment will happen as many of us battle in the grandstands against something we can’t see while we all wish the very best for our brave medical specialists at the front line....
Harbour Macro Research Day: Mixed Signals
Harbour’s internal Macro Research Day is a chance to hear from external research providers, challenge assumptions and anchor our medium-term view.
The local outlook is mixed. Monetary conditions have eased and should support a recovery, but structural impediments mean business confidence may not pick up.
The global picture has improved which makes additional central bank support less likely.
Harbour held its bi-annual interna...