Notwithstanding various data disappointments over the past month, mainly reflecting business surveys moderately descending from elevated levels, actual activity remains firm and the global backdrop supportive for financial markets. This environment can be characterised by modest nominal growth, ongoing central bank support and improving corporate earnings.
Since March the market narrative has suggested less enthusiasm for the reflation trade across most asset classes, resulting in investors favouring growth over value. We believe some of this pessimism has been overdone and expect that the hurdles have now been lowered for markets to be positively surprised by data or policy announcements. While there is disappointment around the Trump administration’s ability to execute on pro-growth policies, we believe that any expression of intent to implement legislation, especially cutting corporate taxes, may be enough to reassure investors. That being said, we have no desire to add to risk levels from here and we retain our modest overweight exposure in risk assets. Our risk exposures are tilted towards more specific and targeted areas of the market, whether by sector or market-cap, to reflect our degree of confidence in the near-term fundamental outlook.
Although our view remains constructive in the shorter term, we can envisage being more cautious further out. We recognise that we are in the later stage of the market cycle and investor sentiment could be more vulnerable to potential pressure points as we move through the year. In particular, we would highlight the potential headwinds of higher US interest rates and tighter financial conditions in China. Indeed, one of the key elements to a stable financial environment over the last few years has been central bank support, which has been reflected in rising valuations across asset classes. Political risks also remain elevated, particularly in the UK, where we remain underweight domestic assets.
Equities: The backdrop remains generally supportive and our view remains that a modest overweight in equity is appropriate. Valuations and performance prevent a more positive stance towards equity overall, as we are mindful of potential event risk and being in the later stage of the market cycle. We wish to remain fully invested in the US (and no more given valuations), with more targeted exposure in healthcare, industrials and smaller companies. We are maintaining overweight positions in European and Japanese equities, which favour our pro-cyclical stance. In Japan, we have taken some exposure to smaller companies in our higher risk strategies. UK equity remains an underweight position and we believe it is still too soon to repatriate overseas assets, given domestic political uncertainties. We are maintaining a bias to UK larger companies, which have performed well as sterling has weakened over the last year. We increased our EM exposure versus DM in 2016 and are comfortable with the current modest overweight positioning. Over the shorter term, we may see some consolidation as EM equity has had a good run of late, although we are reassured by the trend in corporate earnings upgrades. The longer-term structural case remains intact. We believe EM assets will be supported by improving growth prospects, policy easing in several economies as inflation trends ease and ongoing liquidity flows.
Bonds: The loss of momentum in the reflation trade has benefited bond markets through lower inflation expectations and falling bond yields. With a slightly more hawkish Fed and with the ECB likely to consider its QE exit strategy, we believe that a short duration stance remains appropriate. Credit spreads – both US corporate credit and emerging market sovereign debt (hard and local currency) – continue to tighten given the solid growth backdrop.
Property: UK commercial property has seen improving activity since the end of last year as the economic backdrop has remained resilient. Nonetheless, there are certain potential headwinds that should not be ignored including slower UK growth, increased supply and a slowdown in rental growth as occupational demand declines. We retain our underweight position, believing this to be a prudent stance in light of UK political uncertainties, as well as acknowledging the maturity of the current cycle. On a regional basis, we are primarily invested in cities outside of London, which are less sensitive to Brexit and benefitting from more attractive supply/demand dynamics. Outside of the UK, we are also looking at opportunities in US REITs (real estate investment trusts), although for now we remain wary of the impact of the Fed’s more hawkish interest rate stance.
Commodities: Concerns around the effectiveness of OPEC production cuts to counter rising US production are likely to continue to weigh on the oil price, although these forces may be somewhat offset by an improving global economic environment. We are maintaining our position in gold as we continue to see it as an important diversifier for portfolios. Industrial/base metals prices have been pressured on concerns of slowing Chinese growth and any further tightening measures could weigh on this part of the complex.
Hedge funds: While we have held a limited allocation to hedge funds in recent years on concerns around performance, we believe that increasing monetary policy divergence should create more opportunities in this sector going forward. Our preference remains for macro/CTA strategies, but we are also taking a more positive view on equity hedge strategies given the greater likelihood of increased stock dispersion (i.e. between winners and losers).
Cash: We have reasonable levels of liquidity across our portfolios both in cash and short-dated bonds, which we will invest as and when we see specific opportunities. Market volatility remains low – a situation that we believe is unlikely to persist as we move into the second half of the year.
Northern Trust: Outsourcing Accelerates Through Pandemic as Investment Managers Seek to Improve Margins, Enhance Business Resilience, and Future-Proof Operations
White Paper Sees Increase in Managers Outsourcing Middle and Front Office Functions to Achieve Optimal Business Structures
According to a white paper published today by Northern Trust (Nasdaq: NTRS), investment managers of all sizes and strategies have been prompted to undertake a comprehensive review of their operating models as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic which has accelerated existing trends that are compounding cost pressures. This has led increasing numbers of managers to outsource in-house dealing and other functions, such as foreign exchange and transition management, hitherto seen as core.
While cost savings remain a core driver, and indeed are one outcome of outsourcing, costs are no longer the only focus. Far from being solely a defensive reaction to increased pressure on margins, the white paper (‘From Niche to Norm’) describes outsourcing as part of the target operating model, or moving toward the ‘Optimal State’ for many investment managers, and explains how the focus “has expanded to the variety of other potential benefits offered – enhanced capabilities, improved governance and operational resilience.”
Gary Paulin, global head of Integrated Trading Solutions at Northern Trust Capital Markets said: “The pandemic has challenged a range of operational assumptions. Working from home has, for example, questioned the need for a portfolio manager to be in close proximity with the dealing desk. Previously considered essential, the pandemic has effectively forced firms to ‘outsource‘ their trading desks to remote working setups and the effectiveness of this process has disproved the requirement for proximity, in turn, easing the path to third-party outsourcing. Many investment managers are actively considering outsourcing to a hyper-scale, expert provider as a potential, cost efficient solution – one that maintains service quality and, hopefully, improves it whilst adding resiliency.”
Northern Trust’s white paper compares outsourced trading to software-as-a-service stating: “instead of carrying the cost and complexity of running an in-house solution, firms move to an outsourced one, free up capital to invest in strategic growth and move costs from a fixed to a variable basis in line with the direction of travel for revenues.”
Guy Gibson, global head of Institutional Brokerage at Northern Trust Capital Markets said: “The opportunity to deploy capital to build new fund structures, develop new offerings, focus on distribution and enhance in-house research has been taken up by several of our clients to the benefit of their investment approach, and to the benefit of their investors. Additionally, in the last two months alone, many firms have recognized that outsourcing to a well-capitalized, global platform has enabled them to take advantage of cost-contained growth opportunities in new markets.”
A further development, which has echoes of the journey the technology industry has already undertaken, is the move towards ‘whole office’ solutions, which represent the next potential wave in outsourcing.
According to Paulin; “recently we have observed a growing number of managers wanting to outsource to a single, hyper-scale professional service provider who can do everything, everywhere. This aligns with Northern Trust’s strategy to deliver platform solutions for the whole office, serving our clients’ needs across the entire investment lifecycle.”
Integrated Trading Solutions is Northern Trust’s outsourced trading capability that combines worldwide locations and trading expertise in equities and fixed income and derivatives with access to global markets, high-quality liquidity and an integrated middle and back office service as well as other services, such as FX. It helps asset owners and asset managers to meaningfully lower costs, reduce risk, manage regulatory compliance and enhance transparency and operational efficiency.
How are investors traversing the UK’s transition out of lockdown?
By Giles Coghlan, Chief Currency Analyst, HYCM
Just when we thought we had overcome the initial health challenges posed by COVID-19, the UK Government has once again introduced lockdown measures in certain regions to curb a rise in new cases. This is happening at a time when the government is trying to bring about the country’s post-pandemic recovery and prevent a prolonged economic downturn.
This is the reality of the “new normal” – a constant battle to both contain the spread of the virus but also avoid extended economic stagnation.
Of course, no matter how many policies are introduced to spur on investment, traders and investors are likely to act with caution for the foreseeable future. There are simply too many unknowns to content with at the moment.
To try and measure investor sentiment towards different asset classes at present, HYCM recently commissioned research to uncover which assets investors are planning to invest in over the coming 12 months. After surveying over 900 UK-based investors, our figures show just how COVID-19 has affected different investor portfolios. I have analysed the key findings below.
At present, it seems that by far the most common asset class for investors is cash savings, with 78% of investors identifying as having some form of savings in a bank account. Other popular assets were stocks and shares (48%) and property (38%). While not surprising, when viewed in the context of investor’s future plans for investment, it becomes evident that security, above all else, is what investors are currently seeking.
A third of those surveyed (32%) said that they intended to put more of their wealth into their savings account, the most common strategy by far among those surveyed. This was followed by stocks and shares (21%), property (17%), and fixed interest securities (17%).
When asked about what impact COVID-19 has had on their portfolios throughout 2020, 43% stated that their portfolio had decreased in value as a consequence of the pandemic. This has evidently had an effect on investors’ mindsets, with 73% stating that they were not planning on making any major investment decisions for the rest of the year.
Looking at the road ahead
So, it seems that many investors are adopting a wait-and-see approach; hoping that the promise of a V-shaped recovery comes to fruition. The issue, however, is that this exact type of hesitancy when it comes to investing may well slow the pace of economic recovery. Financial markets need stimulus in order to help facilitate a post-pandemic economic resurgence, but if said financial stimulation only arrives once the recovery has already begun, the economy risks extended stagnation.
It seems, then, that there are two possible set outcomes on the path ahead. The first is a steady decline in COVID-19 cases, then an economic downturn as the markets correct themselves, followed by a return to relative economic stability. The second potential outcome is a second spike of COVID-19 cases which incurs a second nationwide lockdown – delaying an economic revival for the foreseeable future. At present, the former of these two scenarios is seemingly playing out with economic growth and GDP steadily increasing; but recent COVID-19 case upticks show that it’s still too soon to be certain of either scenario.
A cautious approach, therefore, will evidently remain the most common investment strategy looking ahead. But investors must remember that, even in the most uncertain times, there are always opportunities for returns on investment. Merely transforming a varied portfolio into cash savings risks a long-term decline in value.
High Risk Investment Warning: CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 73% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. For more information please refer to HYCM’s Risk Disclosure.
Hatton Gardens 5 top tips for investing in Diamonds
By Ben Stinson, Head of eCommerce at Diamonds Factory
Investing in diamonds can be extremely rewarding, but only if you know what to look for. For investors who lack experience, finding your diamond in the rough can be quite daunting.
For even the most beginner of diamond investors, the essentials are fairly obvious. For instance, you need to ask yourself will the diamond hold its value over time? What’s the overall condition of the stone and the jewellery? Is there history behind the item in question?
Although common sense plays a big part in investing, people often need insider tips and tricks to go from beginner to expert. Tony French, the in-house Diamond Consultant, at Diamonds Factory shares his professional knowledge on the 5 most important things to look for when investing in diamonds.
1: Using cut, weight and colour to determine value
Firstly, consider the shape, colour, and weight of your diamond, as this can play a pivotal role in guaranteeing growth in the value of your item. Granted, investing trends change with time, but a round cut of your diamond will almost always be the most sought after. The cut of your diamond is incredibly important, as it can influence the sparkle and therefore, the overall value. It’s a similar story for the intensity of some colours, such as Pink, Red, Blue, Green etc. Concerning weight, the heavier (bigger) stones will generally increase in value by a bigger percentage. Collectively these factors also contribute to the supply and demand aspect, which will determine their high price, and will ensure your item is re-sellable.
Looking for significant value? Well, aim to own jewellery or diamonds that come from an important public figure. If you’re lucky enough to own a piece that has significant history, or was owned by a celebrity or person of interest, it’s an absolute must to have concrete evidence of this. Immediately, this proof will increase an item’s overall value, and there’s a good chance the stardom of your item might drum up interest amongst diehard fans, increasing the value even further…
Equally, it’s possible to proactively bring provenance to unique diamonds of yours. For instance, you can offer to loan bespoke, or unusual pieces for film, theatre, or TV performances – then it can be advertised as worn by xyz.
3: Find the source
Establishing your diamond’s source is one of the most important things you can do when investing in diamonds. If you’re starting out, try to purchase diamonds that have NOT been owned by too many people, as the overall value of the diamond will reflect multiple ownership. Alternatively, I’d always recommend buying from suppliers like ourselves or other suppliers and retailers, who buy directly from the people who have had them certified.
Primarily, this will allow you to have a greater degree of transparency, which is crucial when buying such a valuable item. Next, you should immediately see an increase in value of your diamonds, as identifying a source will allow traceability and therefore, market context.
Linked closely with my previous point, is the requirement to ensure that your diamonds are certified by a credible lab, and you have the evidence to prove so (a written document with specific grading details about your diamonds) – this will remove any doubts of impropriety.
It’s essential to remember that not all labs are the same, and many labs are better than others. Both the AGS (American Gem Society) and GIA (Gemological Institute of America) have great reputations and are world renowned. I’d recommend doing your own research into the labs, and when you’ve found the pieces that you’d like to invest in, then make an informed decision based upon your findings. Ultimately, proving certification will make your stones easier to insure, and deep down, you can have peace of mind knowing you have got what you have paid for.
Don’t forget to keep this paperwork in a safe location as well – you’d be surprised how many people we’ve met who have lost, or forget where they’ve placed it.
5: Patience is a virtue…
If the market is strong, it might be tempting to look for an immediate sale once you’ve purchased a high value item. However, I suggest holding onto your diamonds for some time before even thinking about selling. More often than not, an item is more likely to increase in value over a few years than a few days – try and wait a little longer!
Equally, I would encourage having your diamonds, or jewellery professionally valued regularly. If you don’t have the knowledge to make a rough judgement on how much your pieces are worth, a consultant or expert can provide both a valuation, and contextualise that amount in the wider market. From there, you should be empowered with the knowledge to decide whether to keep or sell.
The importance of app-based commerce to hospitality in the new normal
By Jeremy Nicholds CEO, Judopay As society adapts to the rapidly changing “new normal” of working and socialising, many businesses...
The Psychology Behind a Strong Security Culture in the Financial Sector
By Javvad Malik, Security Awareness Advocate at KnowBe4 Banks and financial industries are quite literally where the money is, positioning...
How open banking can drive innovation and growth in a post-COVID world
By Billel Ridelle, CEO at Sweep Times are pretty tough for businesses right now. For SMEs in particular, a global financial...
How to use data to protect and power your business
By Dave Parker, Group Head of Data Governance, Arrow Global Employees need to access data to do their jobs. But...
How business leaders can find the right balance between human and bot when investing in AI
By Andrew White is the ANZ Country Manager of business transformation solutions provider, Signavio The digital world moves quickly. From...
Has lockdown marked the end of cash as we know it?
By James Booth, VP of Payment Partnerships EMEA, PPRO Since the start of the pandemic, businesses around the world have...
Lockdown 2.0 – Here’s how to be the best-looking person in the virtual room
By Jeff Carlson, author of The Photographer’s Guide to Luminar 4 and Take Control of Your Digital Photos suggests “the product you’re creating is...
Banks take note: Customers want to pay with points
By Len Covello, Chief Technology Officer of Engage People ‘Pay with Points’ – that is, integrating the ability to pay...
Are you a fighter or a freezer? The 4 “F’s” of Surviving Danger
By Dr.Roger Firestien, Author of Create In a Flash. The fight, flight, freeze survival response – or FFF for short...
Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for
By Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ® Taking single use plastics out of circulation is no easy feat, but...