An indecisive period for global equity markets came down on the side of caution after worse than expected US employment figures and subsequent inflation data triggered a sell-off in the NASDAQ.
Rising inflation is the bugbear though the data was always going to be lumpy as comparisons work through with last year. The S&P 500 had reached new highs in early May but closes this period down 1% or so with the VIX moving back up quite sharply. The NASDAQ did (just) reach a new high at the end of April but then sold-off and is down by around 6%. In other markets, the one that has been struggling most is Japan, down by around 4% over this period.
Big tech has suffered despite some astoundingly good figures (time to look forwards), Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce all fell between 6% and 8%, while Intel sank 15% after disappointing first quarter figures. Alphabet and Facebook fared rather better being little changed. The real damage was done among the stocks that have yet to reach profitability or were pricing in shy high expectations: Uber sank 23%, Twitter by 26% and Tesla by 20%, while the US-listed Chinese stocks, JD.COM and Alibaba, both fell again. It was a similar picture in Japan with Sony Group down 15%, Panasonic by 14% and Softbank also sliding 15% after some rather mixed messaging on their share buy-back. The car companies weakened in the wake of tech and worries about chip shortages, Volkswagen fell 10% while Daimler, Ford Motor and Nissan all slipped around 5%.
Elsewhere, the markets were steadier. The consumer staples continued to recover, most notably a 5% gain for Unilever after they reported first quarter sales up 5.7%, Diageo also performed well after reporting good figures for their first half and a return to their share buy-back programme. Pharmaceuticals were mixed with gains for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson but drift from Abbot Laboratories and Roche. The financials were equally mixed though better for choice, the European banks were strong as were the US banks but the Swiss banks are still under a cloud, Credit Suisse and UBS both fell again.
Mining stocks have been on a roller-coaster on the back of some extraordinary moves in commodity prices, quite surprisingly, BHP Group and Rio Tinto are little changed overall. The oil majors mostly gained 3-5% over this period, though the price of oil has not really participated in the commodity squeeze.
It would appear that the choppiness that we have been seeing in markets this year and within the various sectors is likely to persist. The inflation concern is not going to go away soon, despite soothing words from central bankers, and bond yields are beginning to move up again. The inflation case is still easy to make and reports such as McDonalds increasing wages for their US staff by 10% only fan the flames.