Last week saw the continuation of a reversal of fortunes for major asset classes. Having been totally unloved since 2016; UK Equities were the only equity asset class in positive territory for the week. In addition to this, tech stocks as measured by the NASDAQ index sold off heavily, while global value equities outperformed global growth equities.  Furthermore, within Fixed Income,  a stark divergence in outcomes has emerged since the start of the year. High Yield bonds are in positive territory, China Bonds are flat, global credit and global treasuries are down and Sterling credit and Gilts are down heavily.

The primary reason for this shift in market dynamics has been the sharp and sustained rise in inflation expectations since their trough in March of last year, and the corresponding rise in global interest rates. While it is critical to bear in mind that inflation and interest rates remain at very low long-term historical levels, the recent trends have broken the market foundation that these variables are always on a persistent downward trend. This trend has been a major factor in allowing growth equities to dominate to the degree in which they have recently.

We are seeing this play out in multiple markets. The copper market (which has been dubbed “Dr Copper” given its alleged clairvoyance for rebounds in economic activity) has hit a 9-year high. WTI Crude Oil Futures are now priced at $60 dollars a barrel, having traded in negative territory last April, and the broader-based Bloomberg Commodity index is up +9.3% for the year to date. As mentioned in previous updates, global shipping costs have also risen sharply.

Global central banks, in particular the Federal Reserve in the US, have committed to leaving base interest rates unchanged to support the economic recovery from COVID-19. The Bank of England has also shown no desire to raise rates, although the prospect of negative rates now seems very far removed, however market interest rates have risen sharply. For the year to date, the yield on a 10 Year US treasury bond is up by +49.7%, while the yield on a 10 Year UK Gilt is up a whopping +261%. Chinese 10 Year rates are up only +3.3% over the same period, which has been beneficial to our positioning.

All of the above reinforces our view that now is the time for nuanced and tactful positioning across asset classes. A relatively higher inflation and interest rate environment would be no bad thing for the Value Equity, China Bond and High Yield components of our portfolios, and would also likely be supportive of  our recent decision to overweight UK Equity in lieu of the tech-dominated US market.

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