Week in Review: Middle East Crisis Introduces Fresh Risks

In the past year, concerns about inflation, rising interest rates, and political instability have persisted, even as markets have shown improvement. However, recent tragic events in the Middle East have introduced new worries for investors, as they evaluate how military conflicts might impact financial markets. While acknowledging the human tragedy, the market’s primary focus has shifted to potential effects on oil prices, interest rates, and the strength of the dollar, as these factors have a more direct influence on market performance.

Major indexes concluded the week with mixed results as investors weighed up inflation data against dovish signals from Federal Reserve officials. Leading banks such as Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase initiated the unofficial start of the third-quarter earnings reporting season on a positive note, benefiting from higher interest rates.

The release of minutes from the Fed’s September policy meeting on Wednesday suggested that policymakers agree that they need to maintain restrictive interest rates for some time, while being mindful of balancing the risk of overtightening with the goal of curbing inflation towards the 2% target. In September, CPI rose by 0.4% month-on-month, surpassing market expectations, signalling ongoing inflationary pressures. The Fed’s core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs, also increased by 0.3% in September.

In Europe, the ECB’s minutes revealed that the majority of policymakers voted to raise the key deposit rate to a record high of 4.0%. Meanwhile, the German government lowered its 2023 economic growth outlook from 0.4% growth to a 0.4% contraction due to higher energy costs and reduced demand from major markets like China.

UK retail sales growth slowed to 2.7% year-on-year in September, marking the second weakest month of the year, while GDP rose by 0.2% month-on-month in August, after contracting 0.6% in July.

In China, inflation remained subdued with CPI for September remaining unchanged from a year earlier. Meanwhile, producer prices fell by a higher-than-expected 2.5% compared to the previous year. At the same time, Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings faces its first-ever potential default and restructuring due to difficulties in meeting offshore payment obligations on U.S. dollar bonds, highlighting China’s property debt crisis.

Global equity markets concluded the week with mixed results. In the U.S., the Dow Jones (+0.79%) and S&P 500 (+0.45%) were positive whilst the Nasdaq (-0.18%) was mildly negative. Similarly, European and Asian markets, including the Euro Stoxx 50 (-0.20%), FTSE 100 (+1.40%), Nikkei 225 (+4.26%), Hang Seng (+1.65%) and Shanghai Composite Index (-0.70%) were mixed.

Market Moves of the Week:

South Africa’s latest census data reveals a substantial population growth, with the country’s population reaching 62 million in 2022, up from 51.8 million in 2011. The census also highlights the presence of over 2.4 million migrants, primarily from neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho. Notably, this census is only the fourth since 1994 and the first in over a decade.

On the economic front, South Africa is expected to experience a slight growth upturn in the coming year, primarily due to improved energy supply – this according to a Reuters poll. GDP is anticipated to expand by 1.2% in 2024, exceeding previous estimates and surpassing 2023 projections. Additionally, a decline in inflation is expected to offer some relief to consumers, with inflation projected to decrease to 4.8% in 2024, down from the estimated 5.8% in 2023.

The JSE All-Share Index (+1.76%) was positive this week, driven higher by the resource (+8.42%) sector. Weaker performances came from industrial (-1.38%), and financial (-0.35%) sectors. By Friday close, the rand was trading at R18.98 to the U.S. Dollar.

Chart of the Week:

China’s consumer inflation rate unexpectedly flatlined in September while factory-gate deflation persisted, suggesting the economy’s path to growth is still fragile and in need of additional support. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the consumer price index for the past month remained unchanged from the previous year, falling short of expectations for a slight increase, and approaching the deflationary level observed in July.

Source: Bloomberg

Week in Review: U.S. Jobs Data Surprises

In September, the U.S. economy saw the creation of 360,000 new jobs, and an extra 119,000 positions were included in the count through revisions. The print surged passed expectations of only 170,000 new jobs, re-igniting the bonds sell-off that has swept global markets over the past two weeks. The U.S. 10-year Treasury yields climbed by approximately 14 basis points, reaching 4.88%, marking their highest point since 2007, coinciding with a roughly 50% increase in the likelihood of a rate hike before the end of the year. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.8%. Wage growth remained stagnant, rising 0.2% m/m and 4.2% y/y, while the workforce participation rate stayed steady at 62.8%. However, digging deeper, the data suggests that the labour market is driven more by increased worker supply than excessive demand, creating a more favourable inflation outlook.

In U.S. political news, after failing to secure Republican caucus support in the U.S. House of Representatives for a government funding bill that included spending cuts and increased border security, Speaker Kevin McCarthy allowed a bipartisan bill to proceed. It passed with a 335 to 91 vote, but 90 Republicans opposed it. On Monday, a motion to remove McCarthy as Speaker was filed and succeeded with a 216 to 210 vote on Tuesday. Eight Republican renegades joined with a united Democratic caucus to remove a speaker for the first time in history. The House is in recess until next week when a new Speaker will be elected.

Throughout most of 2023, the U.S. services sector remained strong, while manufacturing experienced a contraction. However, in September, this trend flipped, with the manufacturing index improving to 49 from 47.6, while the nonmanufacturing measure dropped to 53.6 from the previous month’s 54.5. Notably, the nonmanufacturing new orders index hit a low point, declining to 51.8, marking its lowest level in a year, down from 57.5.

Both official and private-sector data indicated a potential slowdown in the eurozone economy during the third quarter. The September reading of the final Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) from S&P Global stood at 47.2, marking the fourth consecutive month of contraction. (A PMI reading below 50 signifies a decrease in business output.)

China’s manufacturing sector showed signs of recovery, marking its first expansion since March and suggesting a potential economic turnaround. The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) exceeded expectations, rising to 50.2 in September from August’s 49.7. Additionally, the nonmanufacturing PMI surpassed forecasts, expanding to 51.7 compared to August’s 51.0.

During another week of trading dominated by large-cap growth stocks, especially in the mega-cap information technology and internet sectors, the major U.S. indexes closed with a mix of performances. The Nasdaq (+1.60%) and the S&P 500 (+0.48%) ended the week higher while the Dow Jones dipped -0.30%. Shares in Europe (Euro Stoxx 50) declined by -0.72%, while the FTSE 100 dropped by -1.49%. Financial markets in China were closed last week for the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday and will reopen on Monday, October 9. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange resumed trading on Tuesday, and the benchmark Hang Seng Index slipped by -1.80% for the shortened holiday week. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell by -1.68%. Brent oil prices declined by -8.36% as demand fears outweighed supply cuts, while gold dropped by -0.84%.

Early Saturday morning, Palestinian group Hamas launched one of the biggest attacks on Israel in years with many killed, hostages taken, and fighting raging after a surprise assault that included gunmen entering Israeli towns after a barrage of rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared a state of war.

Market Moves of the Week:

In South Africa (SA), Absa’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) declined to 45.4 in September from 49.7 in August, missing the consensus estimate of 49.5. The weak reading of the headline PMI was a result of exceptionally low demand and constrained production. Both external and domestic demand for South African manufactured goods came under pressure in the month. Factory production also suffered due to heightened and more severe power disruptions in September, leading to a sharp decline of 8.1 points in the business activity index, which fell to 41.9.

SA Reserve Bank Governor, Lesetja Kganyago, told a webinar on Thursday that inflation has eased, but stressed it was premature to declare victory in the battle to contain price pressures. Kganyago also mentioned that the bank would not step in to protect the local currency despite its current weakness. He stated that the bank was only concerned about the currency to the extent that it fed into inflation. On a related note, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana is anticipated to caution SA about a widening budget shortfall and diminishing revenues when he delivers an assessment of SA’s fiscal status on November 1st this year.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said new Eskom and Transnet CEOs will be named shortly. Eskom has not had a permanent leader for over seven months and is being overseen by Interim Chief Executive Officer, Calib Cassim. Last week Friday, Transnet lost two senior leaders within the organisation. CEO Portia Derby resigned amid rail infrastructure challenges while Nonkululeko Dlamini, the CFO of Transnet, also handed in her resignation. “Finding the right people is a difficult challenge in the southern African context,” Gordhan said.

The JSE (-1.00%) dipped over the week with resource companies (-3.55%) continuing to struggle in the current market environment. The rand slumped against the dollar over the week as risk-off sentiment took hold. The local currency ended at R19.30/$ from last week’s 18.92/$ level.

Chart of the Week:

An index of the dollar’s strength is pushing toward its highest level since November. Risk aversion and rising U.S. yields meant the U.S. dollar was stronger against most currencies in recent weeks.

Source: Bloomberg

Carrick Wins Advisory Award For 3rd Consecutive Year

In the past year, concerns about inflation, rising interest rates, and political instability have persisted, even as markets have shown improvement. However, recent tragic events in the Middle East have introduced new worries for investors, as they evaluate how military conflicts might impact financial markets. While acknowledging the human tragedy, the market’s primary focus has shifted to potential effects on oil prices, interest rates, and the strength of the dollar, as these factors have a more direct influence on market performance.

Major indexes concluded the week with mixed results as investors weighed up inflation data against dovish signals from Federal Reserve officials. Leading banks such as Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase initiated the unofficial start of the third-quarter earnings reporting season on a positive note, benefiting from higher interest rates.

The release of minutes from the Fed’s September policy meeting on Wednesday suggested that policymakers agree that they need to maintain restrictive interest rates for some time, while being mindful of balancing the risk of overtightening with the goal of curbing inflation towards the 2% target. In September, CPI rose by 0.4% month-on-month, surpassing market expectations, signalling ongoing inflationary pressures. The Fed’s core CPI, which excludes food and energy costs, also increased by 0.3% in September.

In Europe, the ECB’s minutes revealed that the majority of policymakers voted to raise the key deposit rate to a record high of 4.0%. Meanwhile, the German government lowered its 2023 economic growth outlook from 0.4% growth to a 0.4% contraction due to higher energy costs and reduced demand from major markets like China.

UK retail sales growth slowed to 2.7% year-on-year in September, marking the second weakest month of the year, while GDP rose by 0.2% month-on-month in August, after contracting 0.6% in July.

In China, inflation remained subdued with CPI for September remaining unchanged from a year earlier. Meanwhile, producer prices fell by a higher-than-expected 2.5% compared to the previous year. At the same time, Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings faces its first-ever potential default and restructuring due to difficulties in meeting offshore payment obligations on U.S. dollar bonds, highlighting China’s property debt crisis.

Global equity markets concluded the week with mixed results. In the U.S., the Dow Jones (+0.79%) and S&P 500 (+0.45%) were positive whilst the Nasdaq (-0.18%) was mildly negative. Similarly, European and Asian markets, including the Euro Stoxx 50 (-0.20%), FTSE 100 (+1.40%), Nikkei 225 (+4.26%), Hang Seng (+1.65%) and Shanghai Composite Index (-0.70%) were mixed.

Market Moves of the Week:

South Africa’s latest census data reveals a substantial population growth, with the country’s population reaching 62 million in 2022, up from 51.8 million in 2011. The census also highlights the presence of over 2.4 million migrants, primarily from neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Lesotho. Notably, this census is only the fourth since 1994 and the first in over a decade.

On the economic front, South Africa is expected to experience a slight growth upturn in the coming year, primarily due to improved energy supply – this according to a Reuters poll. GDP is anticipated to expand by 1.2% in 2024, exceeding previous estimates and surpassing 2023 projections. Additionally, a decline in inflation is expected to offer some relief to consumers, with inflation projected to decrease to 4.8% in 2024, down from the estimated 5.8% in 2023.

The JSE All-Share Index (+1.76%) was positive this week, driven higher by the resource (+8.42%) sector. Weaker performances came from industrial (-1.38%), and financial (-0.35%) sectors. By Friday close, the rand was trading at R18.98 to the U.S. Dollar.

Chart of the Week:

China’s consumer inflation rate unexpectedly flatlined in September while factory-gate deflation persisted, suggesting the economy’s path to growth is still fragile and in need of additional support. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the consumer price index for the past month remained unchanged from the previous year, falling short of expectations for a slight increase, and approaching the deflationary level observed in July.

Source: Bloomberg

Week in Review: Inflation Outlook Improves

In August, the core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy, saw a modest 0.1% increase, marking the smallest monthly rise since November 2020. Over 12 months, the annual increase for core PCE was 3.9%, down from an upwardly revised 4.3% in July. This PCE index is a favoured economic indicator by the Federal Reserve for assessing inflation. This smaller-than-anticipated rise in August indicates that the central bank’s efforts to combat rising prices are showing progress.

Revised figures for the first quarter of the year show that the UK economy experienced a more rapid expansion than initially projected, as per the latest gross domestic product (GDP) data. The Office of National Statistics has revised the first-quarter growth rate to 0.3%, an increase from the prior estimate of 0.1%. Meanwhile, their assessment of second-quarter GDP growth remains unaltered at 0.2%.

Despite the surge in oil prices, inflation decreased across most European countries in September, resulting in the overall rate hitting its lowest point since before the onset of the war in Ukraine. According to the European Commission’s statistical branch, consumer prices in the 20 eurozone countries increased at an annual rate of 4.3 percent in September, a drop from August’s 5.2 percent. Over the past year, inflation in the eurozone has shown a consistent decline, following its peak at an annual rate of 10.6 percent the previous year. Core inflation, which excludes volatile categories such as food and energy and is considered a more reliable indicator of underlying price pressures, also experienced a recent easing, dropping to 4.5 percent in September from 5.3 percent in August.

In September, China’s factory activity saw its first expansion in six months. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is based on a survey of major manufacturers, increased from 49.7 to 50.2, surpassing the critical 50-point threshold that distinguishes between contraction and expansion. This reading exceeded the forecasted 50.0. The PMI data reinforces the signs of economic stabilization, following a preceding period of decline after the initial surge earlier in the year when China relaxed its stringent COVID-19 policies.

Global equity markets concluded the week on a downtrend. The S&P 500 Index sustained its fourth consecutive weekly pullback, driven by upward pressure on interest rates, which appeared to dampen investor sentiment. The S&P 500 Index posted a decline of -0.74%. Similarly, the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced a downturn of -1.34% for the week. In contrast, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite posted a modest +0.06% gain. In Europe, both the Euro Stoxx 50 and the UK’s FTSE 100 recorded losses, sliding by -0.77% and -0.99%, respectively. The Asian markets mirrored this trend, with the Nikkei 225 (-1.68%), Hang Seng (-1.42%), and Shanghai Composite Index (-0.70%) all showing weakness.

Market Moves of the Week:

In the second quarter of 2023, South Africa witnessed a substantial increase in foreign direct investment inflows, reaching R53.8 billion ($2.8 billion), as revealed in data from the central bank. This surge marked a significant rise from the 0.5 billion rand recorded in the preceding quarter. The Quarterly Bulletin from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) attributed this growth to a non-resident firm’s acquisition of a domestic beverage company.

Moreover, the Quarterly Bulletin disclosed that during the first quarter of fiscal year 2023/24, the national government reported a cash book deficit of R47.1 billion. This represented a notable contrast to the R11.5 billion cash book surplus reported during the same period in the previous fiscal year. The central bank indicated that this deficit was primarily covered by the issuance of long-term government bonds in the domestic financial markets.

Additionally, the Quarterly Bulletin noted a decrease in portfolio investment outflows in the second quarter, which dropped to R4.6 billion from R32.0 billion in the preceding quarter.

During the week, the JSE All-Share Index recorded a decline of -1.38%, led by losses in the financial sector at -1.75%, followed closely by industrials at -1.60%, and property at -1.50%. The resource sector also contributed to the week’s losses, ending with a decline of -1.05%. Additionally, the South African rand depreciated during the week, closing at R18.84 against the US dollar.

Chart of the Week:

In August, US consumers’ inflation expectations remained largely stable. The decrease in underlying price pressures has increased optimism that the US central bank may not implement an interest rate hike in November.

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