WeeklyWatch – Global equities end mixed quarter on high note

4th July 2023

Stock Take

Global equities finish the quarter on a high note

Both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ ended the week up more than 2%. The NASDAQ in particular has performed well this year, helped by its technology-heavy portfolio – it rose by 32% over the first half of 2023, its best first six months in four decades.

The rise in confidence around AI technologies has helped spur rapid growth among tech companies. Chipmaker Nvidia, for example, saw its market cap break $1 trillion this year as confidence in its AI capabilities pushed its valuation even above the levels of the 2021 tech bubble.

Wider economic data has also proved encouraging for investors – a key part of this has been the reduction in inflation, which peaked in the US last year. While it’s still above the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) 2% target, it’s been coming down consistently this year, fuelling hopes that we’ll soon hit peak interest rates. The Fed itself has said it will likely further increase interest rates this year, but the scale of these increases is expected to be smaller.

A more complex picture in Europe

The FTSE ended the week up slightly, but has generally struggled this year against stubborn inflation. Markets are betting on the Bank of England (BoE) further increasing rates as the year goes on, with many expecting it to reach above 6% at its peak this year.

A major difficulty for the BoE in making these decisions is the increasingly apparent lag in house price behaviour. Most residential properties in the UK either have no mortgage or are on a fixed-rate mortgage, which means the BoE’s rising rates aren’t being felt in the housing market immediately. More and more headlines are warning of the pressure house prices are coming under – pressure that will increase as more fixed-rate mortgages end their terms.

In the eurozone, shares were lifted by another drop in inflation. Last week, headline inflation figures for May were reported, now at 5.5%.

BlueBay’s Mark Dowding thinks that increases in interest rates across the Western World will continue to affect wider economic performance throughout the year. He notes:

“What this means is that the impact of past policy action will continue to tighten financial conditions further, even in the absence of additional policy action. From this point of view, we continue to expect growth to slow to a standstill in the second half of the year, with the outlook in 2024 also looking downbeat. Interest rates have risen substantially in this cycle and some additional tightening may yet be ahead of us. In light of this, a mild recession remains likely, as a baseline assessment.”

Strong performance in Japan

Last week, the Nikkei 225 finished up 1.24%, leaving it up over 18% for the quarter – more than even the NASDAQ. It’s a good reminder of the importance of diversifying your investments; adding exposure to different markets helps to offer different opportunities, as well as mitigate the losses of any single market.

For example, while Japanese shares have performed extremely well this year, Pantheon Macro Economics notes:

“Consumption, business investment and inventories all rebounded in Q1. Automakers and semiconductor equipment makers ramped up work-in-progress inventories, suggesting budding optimism about the outlook. But Japan’s reopening recovery has been a stop-start affair; the past nine quarters have seen four declines and five increases in GDP. We think Japan is slowly moving towards a self-sustaining growth cycle, but it probably will not get there in H2 2023, given the likely export drag.”

Wealth Check

The State Pension forms the foundation of many people’s retirement income. Many women will rely on the State Pension even more than men, either because they’ve been on a lower income or have taken career breaks. And if you’re divorced, it’s even more important to check that you’re getting the correct State Pension.

The State Pension is a benefit paid to individuals who have reached their State Pension age and have made National Insurance contributions during their working life. It’s usually paid based on the individual’s own National Insurance contributions. How much you get depends on the number of years you have on your National Insurance record.

In the UK, from April 2023, the maximum amount of State Pension you can receive went up to £10,600 over the year, or almost £203.85 a week. The full basic State Pension before 2016 was £156.20 per week in 2023-24 for people who have all the qualifying years of NI contributions for their date of birth.

When you want to retire, a full State Pension could be a key part of your retirement income. It can:

  • Provide you with a regular source of income in retirement so you don’t have to rely solely on your savings or investments
  • Help you meet your basic day-to-day expenses in retirement, such as food, housing and energy costs
  • Help make sure your money lasts as long as you need it to – especially since many of us are living longer
  • Help you enjoy your retirement without worrying about money, giving you peace of mind.

If you reached your State Pension age before April 2016 and divorced later in life, you could be missing out on unclaimed State Pension. When you think about how long you might be retired for, it could add up to a significant sum over the longer term.

The problem is that the ‘old’ system assumed wives were financially dependent on their husbands, so women could pay a reduced rate of NI contributions. This means they may have generated little or no State Pension in their own right. Under the ‘old rules’, you could register your ex-husbands’ NI contribution as your own, up to the date of divorce. This often provided a welcome uplift to State Pension income, especially since many women had gaps in their own NI contributions due to raising a family or providing care for others.

In April 2016, the ‘new State Pension’ was introduced to provide a simpler and fairer State-backed pension in old age.

In the Picture

The global top ten companies often underperform the S&P 500 average when looking over a ten-year period. If your investments are too concentrated, you could miss out on opportunities elsewhere. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

Source: Bloomberg

Returns for Industrial Bank of Japan, Fuji Bank and Dai-ichiKangyo Bank from 12/31/1990 to 9/21/2000 (on 9/21/2000, these three banks merged to create Mizuho Financial Group).

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

The Last Word

“I don’t expect that France will become unstable, even if the images of course are very distressing.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the current French riots.

BlueBay is a fund manager for St. James’s Place.

The information contained is correct as at the date of the article. The information contained does not constitute investment advice and is not intended to state, indicate or imply that current or past results are indicative of future results or expectations. Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.

Source: London Stock Exchange Group plc and its group undertakings (collectively, the “LSE Group”). ©LSE Group 2023. FTSE Russell is a trading name of certain of the LSE Group companies.

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© S&P Dow Jones LLC 2023; all rights reserved.

Source: MSCI. MSCI makes no express or implied warranties or representations and shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to any MSCI data contained herein. The MSCI data may not be further redistributed or used as a basis for other indices or any securities or financial products. This report is not approved, endorsed, reviewed or produced by MSCI. None of the MSCI data is intended to constitute investment advice or a recommendation to make (or refrain from making) any kind of investment decision and may not be relied on as such.

SJP approved 03/07/2023