The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index fell by 2.6% in USD terms in December, as concerns about slowing global growth, tightening monetary policy and rising geopolitical tensions continued to drive sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -0.1% during December.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 1.50% over the month, outperforming Australian equities which fell 0.12%.
The word “volatility” crops up a lot when commentators try to explain price movements in financial markets.
While New Zealand markets have had a rather interesting and more volatile time, the main drivers of the economy remain sound.
US Treasuries (USTs) registered gains in November, while yields fell along with faltering US equities.
The macroeconomic backdrop for Asian countries should remain broadly neutral for credit performance in 2019. GDP growth is expected to moderate across the key economies, although we don’t expect any hard landing scenarios to materialize.
One thing is for sure, 2019 will not be a dull year. We expect more headlines and drama on trade but would pay more attention to underlying policy direction at both the Federal Reserve and Chinese authorities, as bigger markers for improved fortunes across Asian markets.
Shakespeare once said, “present fears are less than horrible imaginings.” As we come to the close of 2018, we have observed equity markets turn double-digit returns to losses, an aggressive rise in interest rates and a modest increase on the perception of escalating tensions surrounding the world’s two largest economies.
In addition, we have to consider the eventuality of a prolonged trade war. But China would be able to mitigate its impact initially via a combination of monetary and fiscal stimulus, helping offset the impact of tariffs to a certain extent.
The potential hangover from the monetary binge of QE continues to weigh on global equity markets as we head towards 2019. The turning of the calendar will do little to change this.
Once again, the Federal Reserve (Fed) policy has proven itself to be the key determinant of global liquidity, and 2018 was clearly tight.
As we reflect on 2018, we would all agree that Trump and his trade policies dominated the conversations and dictated some of the major moves in the financial markets around the world.
We believe 2019 will be an important year for active selection or alpha and our focus will be on delivering on stock selection returns by picking quality companies who are resilient in growth amid a rising risk environment.
So many developments have occurred since we last met in September, but the major ones were the surprising collapse in oil prices mostly due to geopolitical factors, the U.S.-China trade and BREXIT conflicts becoming increasingly intractable, and that aspects of the global economy showed occasional signs of moderation.
The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan (AxJ) Index gained 5.3% in USD terms in November, despite persistent concerns over global growth and a slide in technology stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned -2.2% during November.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) was up 0.24% over the month, outperforming Australian equities which fell over 2%.
Over the past year Australian house prices have seen 12 consecutive months of decline, the longest streak of persistent falls in over 20 years.
Volatility is back in a big way in 2018. A large increase in the VIX is showing an annual level not witnessed since 2007. The sell-off that started in October appears to have been triggered by a number of negative technical forces in the USA coming into effect at the same time, which impacted global markets.