Written by Cormac Nevin.

Last week markets continued on their positive trajectory for the year , spurred on by a flurry of central bank interest rate decisions and press conferences from the Bank of England, US Federal Reserve  and the European Central Bank (ECB). Growth equities led the way last week, with the MSCI All Country World Growth Index up +4.2% in GBP terms. The more value-orientated FTSE All Share Index of UK stocks was up +1.9%, while Emerging Markets (as measured by the MSCI EM Index) were one of the weakest performers but still up +0.9%. Fixed Income markets also had a strong week, with the Bloomberg Global High Yield Corporate Index up +1.0% and even the safest government bonds (measured by the Bloomberg Global Treasury Index) rallying +0.4% (both in GBP Hedged terms).

As mentioned, this price action in markets was largely viewed as the result of the market’s continued game of chicken with global central banks. All central banks raised their policy interest rates in their ongoing fight against inflation, however market participants appeared to be of the view that each policymaker was approaching the end of their rate hiking cycle and responded with a touch of exuberance to the prospect of the end of rate increases (or indeed the commencement of rate cuts). The Bank of England increased rates from 3.5% to 4.0%, the US Federal Reserve moved from 4.5% to 4.75% and the ECB moved from 2.5% to 3.0%.

If you are struck by the paradox of central banks tightening policy (via raising interest rates) but markets responding with looser monetary conditions (via increased equity prices, tighter credit spreads etc.), then you are not alone! We think it is an illustrative reminder of the forward-looking nature of markets as they look through the proximate actions of policymakers and to where “terminal rates” might settle.

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