By Michelle McGrade, chief investment officer of TD Direct Investing
On Wednesday, 29 March the world’s eyes will be back on Europe as Article 50 is triggered and Britain starts the formal process of Brexit.
The UK’s vote to leave the EU last June was always likely to catalyse political uncertainty across Europe. This was especially true with a number of Eurozone countries, including the Netherlands, France and Germany, holding elections over the course of 2017. With Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory in the US, concerns around the rise of populist governments gaining power in Europe have been further raised.
The result of last week’s Dutch election, in which the populist measures proposed by the Party for Freedom (PVV) lost out to the current People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) government, was a positive outcome for European markets looking for stability. The risk of a potential exit from the European Union (EU) and the euro, as well as further restrictions on immigration, have all receded.
But what does this mean for investors?
According to our most recent customer survey, 65% of respondents believe Europe has been wounded by the rise of the populist movement. But when asked whether a populist movement – in this case triggering Article 50 – will have a positive impact on their portfolios, investors were split; 38% were unsure while only 32% thought it would.
While the Dutch result suggests this risk might be over-inflated, the uncertainty will persist until the outcomes of these elections are known.
Europe 2017 political timeline
We need to stop being blinkered by the politics
When the Dutch election vote came through, I said publically that instead of focusing on politics, we should probably concern ourselves more with the fundamentals. Ian Ormiston, fund manager of Old Mutual Europe (ex UK) Smaller Companies, agrees. He believes there are reasons to be positive on the outlook for European equities and agrees that we should largely ignore politics. “Investing in European equities is not the same as investing in Europe,” he says. “Next time you are tempted to talk politics, opinion polls, and the vagaries of the US Electoral College system, try restraining yourself, however tempting. No one knows how key political events are going to transpire, just as no one knows what the stock market’s reaction to those events is likely to be. As investors, let’s try to stick to the knitting and focus on company fundamentals.”
The cyclical recovery across Europe is showing signs of gaining momentum. Lead indicators remain positive and there are signs of improving confidence from companies and consumers. Eurozone unemployment is also continuing to fall, supporting the recovery seen by consumers. This is being aided by easier borrowing conditions for both corporates and households, helped by a European banking system which is finally becoming better capitalised and willing to lend. The threat of deflation is also abating, with inflation approaching the European Central Bank’s (ECB) target of 2%.
So, where are the European fund opportunities?
John Bennett, head of European equities at Henderson Global Investors and manager of Henderson European Selected Opportunities, points to a meaningful move away from growth and towards value investing. He is particularly keen on European banks.
“While it is early days, the signs are good that this change in leadership [from growth to value] could be durable,” says Bennett. “Such a shift, should it continue, favours Europe, home to many ‘value’ stocks, and is positive for the kind of stocks and sectors that investors have found easy to avoid for much of the last decade.”
“Our tilt to value accelerated significantly in the second half of 2016,” he continues. “That acceleration was writ large by our move into European banks despite, like many other investors, finding the sector still very easy to dislike. History shows that investing in European banks would have been a spectacularly wrong call from 2008 until recently, but we feel a combination of vastly improved capital ratios and a turning point in interest rate expectations has made the industry once again investable.”
In addition to the two funds above you could also tap into opportunities in European equities via BlackRock Continental European Income, which seeks to generate income by investing in companies with a strong competitive position and earnings stability, and with sustainable and growing dividends, or Jupiter European Special Situations, which invests in high-quality companies whose profits are growing.
For European equities, the strengthening economic backdrop is improving earnings prospects. Following several years of moderate or no growth, expectations are for high single digit earnings growth this year, with further improvement in 2018.
Europe now turns its attention towards France and its upcoming presidential election. Should Marine Le Pen’s Front National win there could be consequences for the EU, but the two-stage electoral system in France could act against her. Nevertheless, investors are likely to remain cautious until the political risk across Europe reduces.
What we’ve learnt from Brexit is that no one knows how key political events are going to turn out, and what the stock markets’ reaction to those events will be. As investors, it is better to stick to what you do know and focus on a long-term investment horizon.
Dollar edges lower as investors favor higher-risk currencies
By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar lost ground on Friday as market participants favored currencies associated with risk-on sentiment over the safe-haven greenback.
Risk appetite was stoked by better-than-expected economic data and expectations that U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package will come to fruition.
“The dollar’s down against other currencies but not by a whole lot,” said Oliver Pursche, president of Bronson Meadows Capital Management in Fairfield, Connecticut. “I expect the dollar to be where it is now at the end of the year, and the main reason for that is while I see some signs of improvement in the economy, monetary policy is going to stay where it is.”
“I don’t think the dollar is underpriced or overpriced,” Pursche added.
For the week, the dollar slid about 0.2% against a basket of world currencies, the euro was essentially flat, and the yen lost more than 0.5%. But the British pound advanced more than 1.1% against the dollar, its best week since mid-December.
Bitcoin continues soar to record highs. The world’s largest cryptocurrency was last up 6.6% at $54,961.67, hitting $1 trillion in market capitalization.
Its smaller rival, ethereum, was last up 0.7% at $1,953.28.
The digital currencies have gained about 89% and 1,420%, respectively, year to date, leading some analysts to warn of a speculative bubble.
“One concern I’ve always had (about cryptocurrencies) is how susceptible they are to manipulation,” Pursche said. “But they’re going to continue to gain legitimacy.”
“While it’s great that Tesla made an investment in bitcoin, I’m more intrigued by Blackrock and other major investment firms taking a hard look at cryptocurrencies as a viable investment.”
The Australian dollar, which is closely linked to commodity prices and the outlook for global growth, was last up 1.21% at $0.7863, touching its highest since March 2018.
The New Zealand dollar also gained, closing in on a more than two-year high, and the Canadian dollar advanced as well.
Sterling, which often benefits from increased risk appetite, rose to an almost three-year high amid Britain’s aggressive vaccination program. It had last gained 0.27% to $1.40.
The euro showed little reaction to a slowdown in factory activity indicated by purchasing manager index data, rising 0.21% to $1.2116.
The yen, gained ground against the dollar and was last at 105.495, creeping above its 200-day moving average for the first time in three days.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp, additonal reporting by Tommy Wilkes; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Shares rise as cyclical stocks provide support; yields climb
By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets snapped a 3-day losing streak to edge higher on Friday, as the recent selling pressure on high-flying big technology-related stocks eased even as investors showed a preference for economically sensitive cyclical sectors.
Oil prices fell from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather, while the U.S. Treasury yields extended their recent rise.
The MSCI’s global stock index was up 0.47% at 681.88, after losing ground for three consecutive sessions.
On Wall Street, stocks steadied as cyclical sectors edged higher while tech names made modest advances after concerns about elevated valuations led to some selling in recent sessions.
“What we saw (this week) represents a market that is tired and may not do very much. So we are headed for some sort of a pullback, but I don’t think we’re there just yet,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
“Investors are not really pulling out of the market, but they are becoming more cautious. It already has factored in another good positive earnings season.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 119.97 points, or 0.38%, to 31,613.31, the S&P 500 gained 12.93 points, or 0.33%, to 3,926.9 and the Nasdaq Composite added 92.58 points, or 0.67%, to 13,957.93.
The S&P 500 technology and communication services sectors, housing high-value growth stocks, were among the smallest gainers in early trading, while financials, industrials, energy and materials rose more than 1%.
European shares edged higher on Friday as an upbeat earnings report from Hermes boosted confidence in a broader economic recovery. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was 0.64% higher.
U.S. Treasury yields on the longer end of the curve rose to new one-year highs on Friday as improved risk appetite boosted Wall Street, while the yield on 30-year inflation-protected securities (TIPS) turned positive for the first time since June.
Core bond yields have pushed higher globally, led by the so-called reflation trade, where investors wager on a pick-up in growth and inflation. Growing momentum for coronavirus vaccine programs and hopes of massive fiscal spending under U.S. President Joe Biden have spurred reflation trades.
The benchmark 10-year yield was last up 5.1 basis points at 1.338%, its highest level since Feb. 26, 2020.
Oil prices retreated from recent highs for a second day on Friday as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Brent crude futures were down 28 cents, or 0.44%, at $63.65 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 66 cents, or 1.09%, to $59.86.
Copper jumped to its highest in more than nine years on Friday and towards a third straight weekly gain as tight supplies and bullish sentiment towards base metals continued after the Chinese New Year.
Spot gold XAU= was down 0.58% at $1,785.71 an ounce.
The dollar lost ground on Friday, extending Thursday’s decline as improved risk appetite sapped demand for the safe-haven currency and drew buyers to riskier, higher-yielding currencies. The dollar index was off 0.295%.
Bitcoin hit yet another record high on Friday, hitting a market capitalization of $1 trillion, blithely shrugging off analyst warnings that it is an “economic side show” and a poor hedge against a fall in stock prices.
(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
Oil falls after surging past $65 on Texas freeze
By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Thursday despite a sharp drop in U.S. crude inventories, as market participants took profits following days of buying spurred by a cold snap in the largest U.S. energy-producing state.
Brent crude fell 41 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $63.93 a barrel. During the session it rose as high as $65.52, its highest since January 2020.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 62 cents, or 1%, to settle at $60.52 a barrel, after earlier reaching $62.26, the highest since January 2020.
Brent had gained for four straight sessions before Thursday, while WTI had risen for three.
“The market probably got a little bit ahead of itself,” said Phil Flynn, a senior analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “But make no mistake, this selloff in oil doesn’t solve the problems. The problems are going to persist.”
Though some Texas households had power restored on Thursday, the state entered its sixth day of a cold freeze. It has grappled with refining outages and oil and gas shut-ins that rippled beyond its border into Mexico.
The weather has shut in about one-fifth of the nation’s refining capacity and closed oil and natural gas production across the state.
“The temporary outage will help to accelerate U.S. oil inventories down towards the five-year average quicker than expected,” SEB chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop said.
Prices dropped despite a decrease in U.S. oil inventories. Crude stockpiles fell by 7.3 million barrels in the week to Feb. 12, the Energy Information Administration said on Thursday, compared with analysts’ expectations for an decrease of 2.4 million barrels.
Crude exports rose to 3.9 million barrels per day, the highest since March, EIA said.
“The big nugget was the big jump in exports of crude oil,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. “We’ll have to see what happens with that next week weather in Texas, but I have been looking for a pickup there for a while.”
Oil’s rally in recent months has also been supported by a tightening of global supplies, due largely to production cuts from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers in the OPEC+ grouping, which includes Russia.
OPEC+ sources told Reuters the group’s producers are likely to ease curbs on supply after April given the recovery in prices.
(Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Steve Orlofsky, David Gregorio and Jonathan Oatis)
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