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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.

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Andrew Bascand | Posted on Jul 5, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Jun 9, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on May 10, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Apr 12, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Mar 8, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Feb 9, 2021
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Jan 12, 2021
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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.  

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Chris Di Leva, Hamish Pepper | Posted on Dec 17, 2020
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Dec 8, 2020
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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.
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Harbour Team | Posted on Nov 9, 2020