I admit to feeling a shiver down my spine writing anything on 19th October*… But, following a rather turbulent five weeks, I was rather surprised to see that the leading US Indices are within a whisker of where they were in mid-September, the big changes this time have all been in the bond and commodity markets.
The reporting season is just getting under way (so far so good), we should be better informed by the end of the month.
As far as the individual stock markets are concerned, London led the pack for a change with gains of around 2.5% thanks to its weighting in big oil, while Tokyo lost around half the previous period’s gains in the wake of the change in PM. But, these flat numbers belie a 5% swing in US stocks over the period and a great deal of individual stock volatility. The markets have been increasingly alarmed by the persistence of inflation and central bank acknowledgment (about time) of the problem, not to mention supply shortages and energy prices. It is increasingly clear that tapering is approaching and base rates will start to rise soon. 10-year bond yields are rising/prices falling, the US long bond has fallen around 5% over the period and the UK equivalent by 8%.
On the bull tack, the oil production companies led the field, Royal Dutch Shell, Repsol and TotalEnergies all gaining around 20%, in the wake of the gains for oil and gas prices. A number of the motors put in strong performance too; Ford Motor gained 21% despite suspending production at a number of sites thanks to component shortages, while Daimler gained 14% even as German production figures sank by 4% in August, led by a 17.5% slide in car/car parts production. Tesla beat earnings expectations again and gained 17%. Then it was the turn of the banks, logical, banks like higher interest rates, gains switched away from America this time despite bumper figures from Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to the more unloved, but definitely cheaper, European and UK banks: Barclays, Société Générale and ING Groep all recorded gains of around 10% while HSBC put on 15%.
The tech sector was mixed, Facebook has not had a great period, having lost their Chief Technology Officer, the company is under attack for its monitoring and, more recently, from a whistle-blower, not to mention a major outage at WhatsApp. Sir Nick Clegg must be busy. Alphabet and Amazon were flat while Netflix was an outlier with a gain of 10% following the success of Squid Game. Samsung Electronics fell a further 8% but Salesforce gained 15% after lifting their guidance for 2022.
The consumer staples were a weak feature, deemed to be poor performers with rising long-term interest rates, L’Oréal sank 9% and Unilever fell a further 5% (what a disappointing year they have had). The pharmaceuticals were mixed, Pfizer fell 8% (looking good value now) and Bristol-Myers Squibb also by 8% but AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk and Roche Holding all gained.
*For the more youthful among us, Monday 19th October 1987 was the day when the Dow Jones Industrials (the US equity index that we followed back then) fell 25% in one day. Figures for the US trade deficit on the previous Thursday had roiled markets and Friday saw a 5% fall. The weekend appeared to make matters worse and huge order imbalances at the opening on the Monday led to the worst ever day for the stock market. Over in London, Friday had been a wipe-out as London had been blown apart by the hurricane and markets were closed for much of the day. Those of us who did get in, largely by walking, had great difficulty in transacting at all. By the time the dust settled in late October/early November (and Alan Greenspan at the Fed had poured calming oil on the waters), US stocks had fallen 41% from their summer peak and UK stocks 38%. Worst of the lot was Hong Kong, which recorded a 50% fall; they were worrying about mainland China back then too…