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 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 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: 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 Outlook: Quality growth through a turning point?
The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 6.1% over the month in NZD-unhedged terms, and 7.1% in NZD-hedged terms.
The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month up 5.7%, whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) rose 5.7% in AUD terms in the month, and 6.3% in NZD terms.
Bond yields declined over the month with New Zealand 10-year government bond yields e...
Harbour Outlook: From stagflation to low growth?
The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell -4.1% over the month in NZD-unhedged terms, and -7.7% in NZD-hedged terms. The index ended the quarter -5.7% in NZD-unhedged and -14.3% in NZD-hedged terms.
The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month down -3.9% (-10.3% for the quarter), whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) fell -8.8% in AUD terms in the mon...
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...
Harbour Outlook: Stagflation risk, real rates & the land(s) down under
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose +2.4% in NZD hedged terms in March and, with the New Zealand dollar strengthening in the past month, the same Index fell -0.6% in NZD terms over the month.
- The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month up 1.1%, whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) rose 6.9% in AUD terms and 7.6% in NZD terms.
- Prompted by shifts towards faster rate hikes from offshore central banks and combined with large mortgage-based hedging flows domestically, market interest rates pushed relentlessly higher through the month, with the New Zealand 10-year Government bond yield ending at 3.2%, an increase of 0.5%.
- Potential easing of the conflict in Europe and a clearer path for US Federal Reserve (Fed) interest rate increases saw equity markets recover through March; while production disruption and Russian sanction constraints contributed to an increase in commodity prices with the price of oil increasing another 7% over the month.
Harbour Outlook: Ukraine invasion heightens already elevated volatility
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell -2.5% in NZD hedged terms in February and, with the New Zealand dollar strengthening in the past month, the same Index fell -5.5% in NZD terms over the month.
- The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month up 0.75%, whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) rose 2.1% in both AUD and NZD terms.
- The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) delivered a hawkish statement along with a 25bp hike to 1.00% in February, retaining the option to move in 50bp increments and revising its OCR forecasts higher than implied by market pricing.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has become a humanitarian disaster. The geopolitical environment is now vastly changed with a wide range of potential outcomes. It has also added further upward pressure to global energy prices and inflation.
Harbour Outlook: Down by the elevator, up by the stairs?
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell -4.9% in USD in January, and with the New Zealand dollar weakening in the past month, the same Index fell -0.9% in NZD terms over the month.
- The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month down ‑8.8%, whilst the Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) fell -6.4% over the month (-5.3% in NZ dollar terms).
- The New Zealand 10-year bond yield rose to 2.60% from 2.39% during January, while the US 10‑year bond yield rose from 1.51% to 1.78%. These moves led to global bond indices declining over the period.
- A sharp lift in interest rate expectations and strong inflation prints contributed to a broad ‘risk off’ move in markets. The pricing of high growth stocks was hit hard, albeit hardly any company was spared by the broad market sell-off.
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
Harbour Outlook: Tricky transition favours stock picking
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 4.0% in USD in December, taking the three-month return to 6.7%. The same Index rose 3.1% in NZD terms over the month, and with the New Zealand dollar weakening in the past quarter, the three-month return in NZD was stronger at 7.5%.
- The New Zealand 10-year bond yield dropped to 2.39% from 2.49% during December, while the US 10‑year bond yield rose from 1.44% to 1.51%. The move in New Zealand yields contributed to positive performance across domestic bond indices, whilst global indices fell.
- Interest rate yield curves flattened over December as central banks globally (the Reserve Bank of Australia being the laggard) acknowledged inflation may be more than transitory and began lifting official rates. At the same time, ongoing shortages and maturing of the economic recovery contributed to the global equity market earnings revision upgrade ratio slowing, to be only slightly positive. This lift in rates and slowing earnings revisions is likely to contribute to a lift in equity market volatility.
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for 2022
Looking back on 2021 it is interesting to ponder how it will go down in history. Could it be seen as the year that inflation had a momentary resurgence before fading back into the background, or the year that entered us into a new normal? Could it be seen as the year that the 2021 United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) brought about meaningful climate change mitigation? Could it be seen as the year that sent Chinese stocks into a bear market or the year that provided the buying opportunity of a generation?READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Push and pull factors dictate equity returns
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell -2.5% in USD in November, taking the 3-month return to -2.0%. Returns in NZD were positive due to a weakening domestic currency, delivering 2.9% in November whilst the 3-month return was 2.0%.
- Global equity markets fell materially on the combination of Omicron COVID variant headlines, the challenges of northern hemisphere lockdowns and the likely upward trajectory of interest rates following strong inflation data.
- While the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) raised the official cash rate (OCR) by 0.25%, their accompanying commentary was more balanced, reducing the risk of aggressive monetary policy tightening.
- Globally bond yields fell on news of the Omicron variant; the New Zealand 10-year bond yield drew back to 2.48% from 2.63%, while the US 10-year bond yield fell from 1.55% to 1.44%. This contributed to positive performance across bond indices.
Harbour Outlook: Earnings surprises support equity returns
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 5.0% in USD in October, lifting the 3-month return to +2.9%. Returns in NZD were more modest, up 1.3% for the month and 0.7% over the past three months.
- October brought a strong earnings season in the US. At the time of writing, 440 companies in the S&P 500 had reported results with 360 companies (82%) beating earnings estimates, compared to a long-run quarterly average of 66% since 1994.
- An emerging trend is that companies with pricing power that have been able to weather supply side constraints have been able to significantly grow profits, beating expectations. We think this trend will selectively continue.
- Bond yields continued to rise through October; the New Zealand 10-year bond yield increased sharply by 0.54% to 2.63%, while the US 10-year bond yield climbed a more modest 0.06% to 1.55%. This contributed to declines for major New Zealand and global bond indices.
Harbour Outlook: Markets face a wall of worry
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index fell 4.3% (in USD) in September, though was down a more modest 1.4% over the quarter.
- The news that one of China’s largest property developers, Evergrande, was facing imminent default caused jitters within the market, with many worried about potential contagion. Evergrande’s troubles came to the forefront following tighter restrictions on property developers’ balance sheets.
- Broader Chinese economic momentum has continued to stall with Beijing prioritising structural reforms over growth.
- Bond yields rose over the month, the New Zealand 10-year bond yield increased by 0.27% to 2.09%, while the US 10-year bond yield climbed 0.18% to 1.49%. This contributed to declines for major New Zealand and global bond indices.
Harbour Outlook: Delta fails to dampen equity markets
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 2.4% (in USD) in August, buoyed by positive earnings momentum and a more dovish than expected US Federal Reserve.
- The New Zealand earnings season was strong with beats outnumbering misses 2 to 1. This helped drive a strong 5% return for the S&P/NZX 50 index over the month.
- Chinese economic momentum looks to have stalled in recent months. Both Caixin and broader PMIs missed consensus estimates during the month, with the non-manufacturing side of the economy particularly weak.
- The outbreak of COVID-19 in the community scuppered the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s (RBNZ) plans of a rate rise in August. The tone of the RBNZ remains hawkish which saw bond yields rise across all maturities during August. This caused market returns to be negative with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+Yr Index returning -1.0% over the month.
Harbour Outlook: Economic strength brings RBNZ into play
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 0.6% (in USD) in June. The Australian market gained 1.1% (in AUD) while the New Zealand market fell 0.5% over the month.
- The US Earnings season has been strong with, at the time of writing, 443 companies reporting earnings and 377 companies (85%) delivering earnings above consensus expectations.
- Concerns around the COVID-19 delta variant and associated mobility restrictions has contributed to some forecasters reducing global growth expectations.
- In contrast, the strength of the New Zealand economy has seen the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) signal imminent rate hikes, seeing rates out to five years increase over the month.
Harbour Outlook: Expansion accelerates taper talk
- The MSCI All Country World (global shares) Index rose 1.2% (in USD) in June. New Zealand and Australian shares (in AUD) also performed strongly, returning 2.8% and 2.3%.
- Bonds delivered a small gain, with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+Yr Index returning 0.12% in June. The fall in 10-year government bond yields in New Zealand was muted (falling just 0.03%) relative to the US, who saw their 10-year Treasury yield fall 0.13% over the month. Globally yield curves flattened in June.
- The market has sided with policy makers in deciding that inflation is transitory, for now. US headline inflation is currently 5% year on year, surveys suggest prices paid by firms are at historic highs and consumer inflation expectations have started to increase.
Harbour Investment Perspectives: Into an expansion
We are six months into the calendar year and investors have enjoyed resilient markets in the first half of 2021; a continuation of the strong recovery from the immediate Covid-19 impacted crisis. Andrew Bascand, our Managing Director, has penned this letter to clients framing the current environment, thanking our stakeholders for their support, and providing some thinking about the period ahead of us.READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Markets ponder higher inflation
- Global equity markets delivered strong returns in May, up 1.6% in US dollars. Cyclical stocks continued to outperform, helping lift the Australian market by 2.3%. New Zealand shares underperformed, down 3.2% over the month.
- Bonds delivered a negative return, with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite Index down -0.7%.
- US economic data have been mixed over the past month and should benefit over the coming year as consumers spend a portion of the US$1.8trn of excess savings built up since COVID-19. US job growth unexpectedly moderated in April and the unemployment rate increased. CPI inflation was surprisingly high at 4.2% year on year.
Harbour Outlook: Better earnings, falling yields see equity markets higher
- The New Zealand equity market (S&P/NZX 50 Gross with imputation) finished the month up 1.4%. The Australian equity market (S&P ASX 200) outperformed, rising 3.5% for the month (2.2% in NZD). The performance of global equities was also strong with the MSCI All Country World Index up 4.2% (+1.9% in NZD).
- Bonds generated a positive return, with the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite Index up 0.7%.
- The US Earnings Season delivered strong results. At the time of writing 438 companies have reported, with 380 beating consensus earnings expectations.
- Vaccinations have gathered speed in the US and Europe; 45% of people in the US and 25% in large euro area countries have received at least one vaccine dose. The New Zealand vaccination programme has started and is expected to ramp up significantly in coming months. We will be watchful for key milestones.
Harbour Outlook: Markets balance higher earnings and yields
- Both New Zealand equity and bond market returns bounced back in March with the S&P/NZX 50 index returning 2.7% and the Bloomberg NZ Bond Composite 0+ year Index returning 0.6%.
- Globally vaccine programmes have gained speed, with the US and UK (alongside Israel) leading the way. The European vaccine rollout has been significantly slower, making re-opening difficult for many nations in the area as they battle rising infections.
- Following changes in New Zealand residential property “bright line” tests and tax deductions on investment properties, expectations of New Zealand’s official cash rate (OCR) increasing were pushed out, contributing to lower bond yields, as well as the New Zealand dollar weakening.
Harbour Outlook: Yields increase accelerating rotation
- Both nominal and real bond yields increased sharply over the month. This saw interest rate sensitive stocks, such as the gentailers in New Zealand and long duration growth stocks give back some performance. Cyclical stocks that would benefit from stronger growth outperformed.
- US earnings season was strong, with 77% of companies either in-line or beating earnings expectations. Our observation, both domestically and offshore, is that the earnings outlook is cautious, reflecting COVID-19 uncertainty, and wary as to the impact of declining government support packages and the on /off impact of lockdowns. In our view, this leaves room for earnings upside.
- The US economy is likely to grow by as much as 7% this year, assisted by a larger-than-expected US$1.9 trn (9% of GDP) stimulus package.
- New Zealand’s economic strength, coupled with a stronger global economic picture, has led to a marked change in interest rate expectations. Market pricing now expects an OCR hike in the middle of 2022. This is a far cry from the negative rates that were priced into markets late last year.
Harbour Outlook: Choppy markets…but with earnings upside
- The COVID-19 vaccine rollout gathered steam during January. Israel, who has given the initial jab to a third of its population, is showing positive early signs. The vaccine rollout has not been as smooth in all jurisdictions, with Europe and the US especially encountering teething issues.
- The US earnings season has shown broad-based strength. At the time of writing, 277 of companies in the S&P 500 had reported earnings, with 79% of companies reporting earnings in line or above consensus expectations.
- New Zealand economic data continued to beat conservative consensus expectations. Stronger inflation and employment data has seen the market no longer price in future interest rate cuts.
Harbour Outlook: Growth continues to accelerate
- COVID-19 hospitalisations continued to increase globally with new strict lockdowns in the UK. However, countries have moved to fast-track vaccines to manage the pandemic. At the time of writing 24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 41 countries including 7.7 million in the US and 1.5 million in the UK.
- Just before Christmas, the US approved USD900bn of additional fiscal stimulus (about 4% of GDP), much larger than the USD500bn expected by most analysts after the election resulted in a split Congress.
- The Democrats took control of the US Senate, by winning both seats at the January 5th Georgia runoff, increasing the prospect of large additional fiscal stimulus, increased corporate tax rates and further regulation.
- New Zealand Quarter 3 GDP data confirmed that economic activity has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, consistent with high frequency activity indicators.
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for 2021 - With video
As we sat down to write the top 10 risks and opportunities this time last year, there was a plethora of things to consider including US/China trade tensions, elections, and global growth. As it transpired, there was only one risk that really mattered, COVID-19. While a key focus of COVID-19 was the speed of the downturn in investment markets, to us, it would be remiss to not focus on the other important aspects. Such as the speed of the fiscal and monetary response, the acceleration we have seen in technological trends and perhaps the most incredible feat, that we have created multiple effective vaccines five times quicker than any other time in history. Necessity really is the mother of invention.READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Effective vaccine, better earnings spur on markets
- The US Election delivered a market friendly outcome - victory for Joe Biden and a split Congress. While the split Congress likely means less fiscal stimulus, corporate tax rises also seem unlikely.
- In November, we heard from both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both of whom used the experimental mRNA technology in formulating a COVID-19 vaccine. Preliminary findings showed the efficacy of these vaccines sat at 95% and 94% respectively. The Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine which relies on more traditional science showed solid, but less spectacular, efficacy in initial trials.
- The US earnings season continued strongly in November, with 82% of companies beating consensus earnings estimates. The NZ reporting and AGM season also came in above expectations delivering a continuation of ‘less worse’ results versus conservative expectations.
Harbour Outlook: Elections, COVID waves come to the fore
- At the time of writing, Joe Biden is poised to become the 46th US President of the United States, most likely presiding over a split congress. This likely outcome has broad implications for markets including less fiscal stimulus, decreased prospect of corporate tax hikes and more cohesive foreign policy.
- Second COVID-19 infection waves in Europe have resulted in the reimposition of lockdowns which are likely to have a negative impact on economic activity.
- High frequency New Zealand growth indicators have largely returned to pre-COVID levels since the country reverted to Level 1 in early October. However, the level of activity remains below pre-COVID levels.
- The earnings season in the US painted the picture of a robust earnings recovery. At the time of writing, 417 companies have reported earnings with 84% of companies beating consensus earnings expectations.
Harbour Outlook: Election, recovery and vaccine uncertainty
- Joe Biden is a firming favourite to become the 46th US President. If Biden wins but the Republicans retain the Senate, most analysts predict little aggregate market reaction. At present, this outcome is finely balanced. A Democrat clean sweep is viewed as a less market-friendly outcome.
- The easiest part of the economic recovery phase now appears to have passed. Investors are more likely to face waves of positive and negative data to anchor views. Economists have widely dispersed views on the near-term outlook for both the New Zealand and Australian economies.
- Looking forward, announcements from many of the nine current COVID-19 vaccine Phase-3 trials are likely this quarter. Already markets have reacted to both positive and negative news, indicating the strong influence that the results have on uncertainty.
Harbour Outlook: Beating cautious expectations
- The world is learning to live with COVID-19 and economies are recovering faster than expected, demonstrated by, in aggregate, better-than-expected economic and earnings data in August.
- With the US Federal Reserve (the Fed) moving to an average inflation target, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) confirming it is on the same page as the Fed and the Reserve Bank of Australia stating it "will maintain highly accommodative settings as long as is required”, central bank policy is likely to stay accommodative for longer.
- The dovish stance from the RBNZ has led to markets pricing the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at -0.20% in a years’ time.
Harbour Outlook: Data supports markets
- Better-than-expected economic data and company earnings have supported risk sentiment over the past month.
- Continued progress towards a COVID-19 vaccine, alongside ongoing stimulus, has also added to the positive mood, outweighing concern about ongoing mobility restrictions and second waves of COVID-19 infection.
- The New Zealand economy continues to benefit from ongoing control of COVID-19, low mobility restrictions and policy support. Fiscal stimulus is likely to wane and ongoing border closure means complete recovery is largely contingent on a vaccine.
Harbour Market Survey: Cautious optimism
In our inaugural Harbour Market Survey, we asked almost 80 investment consultants, investors, brokers and banks some key market questions. Most respondents felt it was a good time to fix your New Zealand mortgage and that NZDUSD was likely to appreciate over the next three months, but they only marginally favoured adding riskier assets to portfolios – implying some weakening in the recent strong relationship between NZDUSD and risk assets. NZDAUD views were mixed.READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Stimulus trumps rise in infections
- Equities continued to bounce back with the S&P/NZX 50 Index returning 5.3%, S&P/ASX 200 Index (in AUD) up 2.6% and the MSCI ACWI Index up 3.0%.
- US employment growth has continued to surprise to the upside, with the improving economic data providing a stark contrast to the worsening COVID case numbers.
- Global COVID-19 containment measures have eased in aggregate, allowing a partial recovery in economic activity. The average lockdown stringency for the world’s 10 largest economies, based on the Oxford University measure, reduced to 60 from 70 in May (where 100 is equivalent to Alert Level 4 and 0 is no restrictions).
- In New Zealand, higher frequency economic indicators are showing a sharp recovery in many sectors.
Harbour Outlook: Beating expectations
- Equities continued to bounce back with the S&P/NZX 50 returning 3.3%, S&P/ASX 200 (in AUD) up 4.4% and the MSCI ACWI Index up 4.1%.
- Government bond yields settled in a low range, as the Reserve Bank’s bond buying (QE) programme offset the pressure that would otherwise have come from increased issuance.
- Australian and New Zealand earnings season so far, on balance, has delivered more upside than downside surprises relative to expectations.
- Budget 2020 in New Zealand overwhelmed on spending but underwhelmed on detail.
Harbour Outlook: Bounce back
- COVID-19 infection rates have slowed in most countries with some positive news on potential treatments and the fatality of the virus.
- Equities bounced back strongly digesting positive COVID-19 news flow alongside large scale monetary and fiscal stimulus.
- US earnings season has kicked off with the results to date above expectations, albeit earnings expectations have fallen in recent weeks. Technology and healthcare companies have led the way.
- The action of central banks saw interest rates fall over the month. They are likely to remain low for some time.
Panic doesn’t pay: Tips from professional investors
Harbour’s investment team has decades of experience in managing Australasian shares and New Zealand bonds. Whilst over time, investors generally experience favourable market conditions allowing us to generate positive returns, it tends to be the downturns that people remember most. The table below illustrates this, as New Zealand share market returns were positive for around three quarters of the years shown:
Harbour Outlook: At Home
- COVID-19 continues to spread globally with cases recently reaching over 1 million.
- Governments and central banks’ stimulus measures are helping mitigate the impacts of a sudden stop in economic activity.
- Equities posted losses as investors digested the impact of reduced economic activity on company profits, while bond yields in many countries rose as investors baulked at the large increase in bond supply which is required to fund expanding government deficits globally.
- Russia’s refusal in early March to back an OPEC production cut resulted in Saudi Arabia dramatically increasing supply to “punish” the country. Combined with reduced global demand, oil prices have fallen more than 50% year to date.
How this could be different to the GFC
- Headlines around COVID-19 outside of Asia have continued to worsen and, coupled with the oil spat between Russia and Saudi Arabia, have sharply reduced investment sentiment and created pockets of financial stress.
- While sentiment is clearly downbeat, we need to recognise that there is still a wide range of outcomes that can occur.
- In the event COVID-19 does result in recession, note all recessions have been different.
- While this volatility is unsettling, it is important to put this sell-off in historical context.
Harbour Outlook: Short term uncertainty reigns
- The spread of COVID-19 outside of China dented sentiment during February, causing global interest rates and equity prices to fall sharply.
- US political risk was elevated during the month, as polling and early primary results saw Bernie Sanders emerge as the frontrunner in the race to become the Democratic candidate for the US Presidency. He since has dropped to a clear second favourite, behind Joe Biden. Sanders is not considered a “market friendly” candidate due to his views on (anti) trade, plans to break up big tech and unconventional views on monetary policy.
- The US earnings season saw 491 companies report. 359 companies (73%) delivered earnings in excess of consensus estimates, with the best performing sectors being technology where 94% of companies beat expectations. The sectors which performed poorest were telecommunications (50% beat rate), and oil and gas (44% beat rate).
- In New Zealand, the December company reporting season was weaker than expected with more misses against expectations in results, versus beats. Company outlook statements were cautious. Consensus earnings forecast downgrades exceeded upgrades.
Harbour Outlook: Coronavirus contagion uncertainty
- The conflict between the US and Iran caused some market volatility but proved to be short lived.
- Activity indicators were generally stronger in January. US manufacturing, which had been an area of weakness, posted a strong print in early February, well above expectations.
- The US earnings season was very strong. At the time of writing, 320 S&P 500 companies have reported with 238 (74%) of those companies beating consensus earnings expectations.
- The outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov), a relatively less deadly but more contagious coronavirus than SARS, will have an impact on global economic activity due to cities being in lockdown and supply chains being disrupted.
- Interest rates and commodity prices have dropped substantially in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Equities, however, appear to have been supported by strong earnings and greater emphasis on the prior uptick in economic activity.
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for the next decade
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction”
- Bill Gates
A decade ago, the world’s largest and fourth largest companies were oil companies, Exxon Mobil and BP. The third largest company was HSBC Bank and the sixth largest company was IBM, the inventor of mainframe computers. Entering a new d...
Harbour Outlook: Downside risks reduced
- Risks of an escalation in trade conflict and a disorderly Brexit subsided in December, boosting equity markets further. The improved sentiment was somewhat dampened by rising geopolitical uncertainty in the Middle East.
- Activity indicators were stronger in December, with a further recovery in New Zealand confidence. The US manufacturing sector remains the fly in the ointment.
- Generally improving economic indicators and the reduction of tail risks saw bond yields rise over the quarter, meaning negative returns for fixed interest investments.
- Domestically, the Government confirmed additional capital expenditure ($12bn over the 5-year forecast period) that should provide further support to economic activity. The Government forecasts that the package will add 1.4% to GDP.
Top 10 risks (and opportunities) for 2020
What a difference a year makes. When we sat down to write down the risks and opportunities for 2019, we were amid a sharp market drawdown. The US earnings season had raised concerns about an earnings recession, the market was worried the Fed was too hawkish and the trade war had injected fear into markets. Fast forward to today and earnings have been resilient, the Fed is on hold and the trade war, which did escalate during 20...READ MORE
Harbour Outlook: Earnings deliver, trade fears fade
Equity markets rallied on the back of positive trade developments, better than expected earnings and improved activity indicators.
The New Zealand market performed strongly on the back of a strong AGM and reporting season. Notably, the more defensive stocks which have outperformed in 2019 delivered weaker returns due to an increase in interest rate expectations.
Lead economic indicators have improved, but it is too ...
Harbour Outlook: Risks reduced but not removed
- Global equities outperformed bonds in October as trade risks abated, US earnings impressed and central bank easing supported sentiment.
- The economic outlook for Australasia improved and the associated higher interest rates reduced the value of fixed income assets. Equities underperformed their global counterparts due to sectoral weakness in electricity, banking and materials stocks.
- We retain a degree of scepticism in the macro outlook. The global backdrop has improved but remains fragile. Domestically, large amounts of monetary stimulus have been delivered but confidence is poor and activity soft.
- This environment should favour growth stocks where Harbour equity portfolio exposure is concentrated alongside maintaining exposure to several defensive investments. Within fixed interest portfolios, we reduced duration in October but remain long relative to benchmark given soft economic activity and residual risk.
Harbour Outlook: Deteriorating Data
- Trade developments continued to whipsaw markets during September. The optimism instigated from a planned resumption in trade talks was soon dampened after a planned visit to US farms by Chinese officials was cancelled. Sentiment recovered later in September in anticipation of October’s round of negotiations.
- Global economic data generally came in weaker than expected during September, though some Chinese data did buck the trend of weak data prints.
- Domestically business confidence surveys have continued to weaken. NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion (QSBO) showed a decline in firms’ own trading activity with a net 11% of businesses reporting demand fell over the quarter, the weakest level since September 2010.
Harbour Outlook: Downside risks
Lead economic indicators continued to weaken and uncertainty around trade negotiations dragged on during September. It was against this uncertain backdrop that global equity markets fell 2.0% (in local currency). New Zealand equities held up comparatively well, down -0.9%, with higher yielding companies faring best after the RBNZ’s surprised 50bp cut to interest rates. Australia suffered the brunt of falling commodity prices, down 2.4% (in AUD)...READ MORE