CIO3: Markets in Perspective
CIO3: Key Points on Global Market Themes
Here are the top three market themes affecting positioning and performance last month from some of our experts, including our CIOs (Chief Investment Officers) across Russell Investments. All data is as of July 31, 2015. For longer-term asset class performance please see the Asset Class Dashboard.
1. Greece still in . . . for now
Greece agreed to a new three year bailout agreement, which preserves its status as a member of the common currency (for now). For the region as a whole, this is good news and helps allow investors to refocus on the strong macro fundamentals in Europe. Eurozone equities rallied, up 5.1%1, in local currency terms, on this news. For Greece, the economic damage has already been severe and new elections are likely in the Fall.
2. Bottom falls out from oil again
The proposed Iranian nuclear deal and an uptick in U.S. rig counts led to renewed concerns of excess supply in the oil market. For the month, WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude oil prices were down 22.5%2. Unease around the Chinese equity market and economy exacerbated declines in other commodity prices.
3. Economic growth modestly improved
After a slow 2015 start, the U.S. economy bounced back in the second quarter posting 2.3% growth in GDP. European GDP numbers were also up in July and contagion from Greece to the broader European economy has been limited. Both eurozone economic activity and business sentiment remained at positive levels in July.3
1. Factor performance rewarded large cap growth
Global markets focused on earnings and revenue growth but also showed a preference for larger capitalization and defensive companies. Smaller cap, value and commodity producers were out of favor during July.4
2. Sectors with less economic sensitivity outperformed
Sectors considered to be “non-cyclical,” such as health care, consumer staples and utilities were the best performers5 as global markets grappled with mixed economic data and fears about a potential hard landing in China.
3. Emerging markets plummeted
The return gap between developed markets and emerging markets was unusually wide with developed markets outperforming substantially.6 China and Brazil led emerging markets downward with the impact evident across multiple regions. There were very few places for emerging markets equity managers to hide.
1. Developed market government bond yield curves flattened7
Despite bouncing back in the second quarter, U.S. economic data remained subdued in July with modest GDP and corporate earnings growth. Low U.S. jobless claims and inflation uptick in July were in-line with a neutral U.S. Federal Reserve (the Fed) statement and a continued forecasted interest rate hike date in September (as noted in the Global Market Outlook – Q3 Update). In other developed markets, longer-term yields were brought down by lower inflation expectations given weaker commodity prices and generally lukewarm global economic data.
2. Global credit spreads widened, driven by the U.S.
U.S. and global industrials sectors underperformed the broader bond market mostly due to a fall in energy prices during the month. European spreads generally tightened8 moderately following the Greek debt deal in July.
3. U.S. dollar rallied sharply
In July, there was a significant tumble in commodity prices,9 including crude oil, gold, and copper. Lower commodity prices caused commodity-sensitive currencies depreciate, which caused the U.S. dollar to appreciate.10
1. Commodities sell off
With global producers actually (or showing signs of) ramping up production, oil fell back into the $40s in July. This development in oil also affected the pipelines sector in listed infrastructure, which was down dramatically11 (-8.5%) as the worst performing sector in the index. Precious metals fell as the market anticipated a Fed rate hike in September. Gold was also pressured by a strong USD and lack of investor interest in the safe haven asset despite global economic uncertainty. Global macro hedge fund managers benefitted12 from short positions in oil and precious metals.
2. Continued dispersion of global returns, some reversals
Real estate investment trusts (REITs) reversed second quarter trends.13 In this types of investments, the U.S. rebounded 5% in July after being the weakest region in Q2. Meanwhile, Hong Kong went from leading the globe to being down 5% for the month. European property stocks also staged a modest recovery as macro concerns about Greece subsided. Within listed infrastructure,14 emerging markets were the worst performer, as Chinese infrastructure companies fell 9%, while continental Europe was the best performer. Also this month, equity long/short hedge funds had an improved trading environment15 with greater shorting opportunities within equity markets for investors.
3. Interest rates and high yield effects
The U.S. 10-year Treasury was almost flat during the month. This helped listed infrastructure utilities rally after the second quarter sell-off.16 Widening high yield spreads (in part due to energy declines) negatively affected hedge funds in credit event driven strategies in July.
1 Russell Europe ex-UK Index
2 Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream
3 Source: Russell analysis
4 Source: Russell analysis ex Healthcare, Consumer Staples, and Utilities sectors
5 Source: Russell Global Index
6 Source: Government bond returns, Bloomberg data
7 Source: Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, Barclays Euro-Aggregate Bond Index
8 Source: U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), Bloomberg data
9 Source: Dow Jones-UBS Commodity Index
10 Source: Bloomberg
11 S&P Global Listed Infrastructure Index
12 As observed across third party managers by Russell Investments
13 FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Developed Real Estate Index
14 S&P Global Listed Infrastructure Index
15 As observed across third party managers by Russell Investments
16 Source: Bloomberg
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