Our previous report in this series, written on 11 March, came close to the lows for the markets this year.
US markets rallied strongly from there, taking most international markets with them. The rally has faded somewhat since but the US still shows a 6% gain, which is similar for most markets, only Shanghai is negative over the period, struggling with more lockdowns and a slowing economy.
Beside the geo-politics, inflation and the bond markets remain key to the rest of the year for equities. Inflation has printed at levels not seen in forty years in America, 8.5% being the latest reading, in the UK we are showing a thirty-year high at 7%. The all-important question is whether we are now close to peak levels, we suspect that April/May will probably mark the top and that we should see a gradual easing after that, but this is more than usually uncertain at present. Bond markets have been hit hard as rates have risen sharply, the US ten-year yield to 2.7% and UK to 1.8%. The central banks have a difficult juggling act, raising their base interest rates to curb inflation (the Fed is talking about 8 / 9 increases this year) without hitting economies too hard and triggering recessions.
Most sectors were positive over the period though the technology sectors struggled with the rise in long-term interest rates. The NASDAQ Index was up 6.2% buoyed up by a near 30% rally in Tesla and strong performance from index heavyweights Apple and Amazon, but Alphabet is unchanged, Microsoft and Netflix gained just 3% and Salesforce a small negative. HP Inc., the old Hewlett Packard printers and peripherals business rallied 5% as Berkshire Hathaway announced a stake of 11.5% in the company becoming HP’s largest shareholder.
McDonald’s was a feature in the generally buoyant consumer discretionary sectors, rallying 11% after a difficult first couple of months, the car companies all rallied notably Toyota Motor, which gained around 15%. The Consumer Staples were notably strong after their dismal start to 2022, Diageo picking-up 17%, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo both by around 12%. The tobacco giant, Philip Morris, also saw a 14% gain.
The oil majors tended firmer again, despite a 5% fall in the price of Brent Crude over this period, Repsol gaining around 17%, BP and Shell around 10%. There were similar gains among the miners, Newmont, Anglo American and Rio Tinto all gaining close to 10%. The financials presented a more mixed picture, the major US banks drifted, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all down a percent or two, Citigroup was the exception falling 7%. European banks were generally better, but Barclays produced a shocker, revealing a loss of around $591mn having had to buy-back a series of debt instruments that it had failed to register with the SEC. Their stock sank 11% over the month taking it back to the March low point.
The pharmaceuticals had another good month, many are now showing significant gains for the year. The features were Novo Nordisk up 17%, Roche Holding up 11% and good gains for the UK leaders, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithkline.
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Please also note the value of investments and the income you get from them may fall as well as rise, and there is no certainty that you will get back the amount of your original investment. You should also be aware that past performance may not be a reliable guide to future performance.