It would not be surprising if the major swings in the markets and macroeconomic conditions, including historic central bank shifts, have made most investors somewhat seasick. Recently on a day-to-day basis, markets seem to react quite irrationally, but the overall backdrop is fairly clear: the markets are getting accustomed to one of the most rapid and major shifts in Federal Reserve policy ever in its history.
An ability to look forward to better times and remain optimistic is invaluable. These attributes are no less helpful when investing in equities. Whilst you can get an unpleasant surprise from misjudging the direction of the tide while enjoying your picnic, the consequences for misjudging the direction of the liquidity waves look more pronounced than ever as we enter 2022.
As is often the case, markets are a better reflection of general sentiment than news headlines and so far, it points to an ongoing global recovery as equities hold their gains of 2021 and long-term bond yields rise. It may not be time yet to write off more difficult scenarios derived from the outbreak of Omicron, but facts so far do speak more positively than just one month ago.
On the back of uncertainties surrounding Omicron and major central banks turning hawkish, we deem it prudent to hold a slightly cautious stance on duration, as well as a slightly defensive stance on Asian currencies.
Taiwan and South Korea were buoyed by strong exports as sustained global demand for electronics supported hardware tech stocks amid widespread supply chain disruptions. The ASEAN region saw mixed returns. Thailand was the best performer as policymakers approved new stimulus measures to support domestic consumption, while the Philippines had to delay COVID-19 vaccinations on the back of Typhoon Rai.
We expect Japanese equities to rise significantly in 2022, supported by factors such as the government’s fiscal and coronavirus policies, the reshuffling of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) and robust exports.
New Zealand faces the same kind of uncertainties other countries are confronting due to the global pandemic. But New Zealand, in some ways, has been in the vanguard of recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following the emergence of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant and with the World Health Organization declaring its concern, we hold a neutral view on duration in the near term and a slightly cautious stance on Asia currencies.
COP26 included a pledge by New Zealand and 100 other countries to achieve 30% cuts in methane emissions by 2030. Similar progress is being seen in the area of corporate disclosure as New Zealand is set to have its first climate-related disclosure standard by the end of next year.
We maintain a constructive view of risk assets but are cognizant that the path toward realising gains will be more delicate as we traverse the course of the Fed and other central banks removing their easy policies.