Stock markets have had an uncomfortable five weeks, unsettled by the steep rise in long-term interest rates, most notably in the US.
The S&P 500 has been down 5% and back up 5% to show little change overall, but the NASDAQ is still down 5% after being down by more than 10% at one stage. European stocks have put in the best performance, led by a huge move in Volkswagen (up by more than 50% over this period), as they vie to steal Tesla’s crown (Tesla fell by 10%). Sterling’s rise against the US dollar appears to be running out of steam as the dollar has continued to recover against most currencies, while the euro has lost ground against both sterling and the dollar.
The rotation around the sectors carries on apace, this time the consumer staples have begun to recover while the oil and mining stocks are turning down again. This is reflected in the Fund’s portfolio, where Nestlé, Essity and Unilever all recovered but Rio Tinto sank by 13%; we do not hold any oil stocks. Rio Tinto’s Chairman, Simon Thompson, is to step down next year, the latest casualty of the Juukan Gorge disaster and the Company, rather belatedly, is setting up an Indigenous Advisory Group to monitor all such matters.
Two of the ‘high value’ pharmaceutical holdings in the portfolio, Illumina and M3 Inc, suffered notably with the sell-off in the NASDAQ. However, the weakness gave us an opportunity to establish an opening position in GN Store Nord, the Danish ‘audio solutions’ company (most importantly, hearing aids). We did reduce the holding in Lonza Group by 50%, it has been an excellent investment for us but is looking fully valued by comparison to others now. We also took the opportunity to add to the holding in Johnson & Johnson, which suffered a 7% fall over the first couple of weeks for no discernible reason.
Our technology had a mixed showing against the weakness in the NASDAQ, Mastercard rose 5% over the period, anticipating growth in consumer spending, and Oracle gained 8% despite some rather underwhelming third-quarter sales figures. Ansys was knocked-back hard from its quite heady valuation in February, we added to the holding. We sold our entire holding in Uber Technologies, feeling that their valuation was hard to justify (they are still loss-making) against a background of rising long-term interest rates, and concerned by the rulings on drivers’ terms and conditions. Latterly, we added to our holding in Apple after their shares had fallen 17% from their January highs.