Compared to its global peers the New Zealand bond market was stable in September. In the coming months, the New Zealand market is unlikely to see UK levels of volatility; one factor behind the turmoil in the UK, for example, was the country’s very high rate of inflation and associated pressure from energy issues. Uncertainty over a potentially large public fiscal outlay was similarly UK-specific.
The recent reporting season showed that New Zealand’s “gentailers” (companies that both generate and sell energy) remain committed to developing renewable generation capacity, with five such projects currently under construction. However, a rise in the cost of developing such capacity in the past 12 months is creating a significant challenge for gentailers.
Going forward, despite some expected moderation amidst the slowdown in global growth, we believe that growth and corporate credit fundamentals will remain sufficiently robust to prevent a meaningful widening of credit spreads. However, some modest widening may be expected in the near term, with the benchmark spread level at the tighter end of the expected medium-term range and given the plethora of global market risks.
Central bank tightening is beginning to have an impact, but less evidently in terms of easing inflationary pressures than in causing strains on the global financial system. Policymakers are beginning to blink—first with Japan intervening to support the yen for the first time since 1998, followed by the Bank of England (BOE) returning to quantitative easing (and postponing planned quantitative tightening) to ease pressures on the UK pension system following an ill-advised fiscal easing by new UK government leadership.
Rising interest rates and inflation woes continued to weigh on regional and global markets. US consumer prices registered above expectations with the August consumer price index (CPI) jumping 8.3% year-on-year (YoY). The tight labour market made further case for a rate hike, culminating in a 75-basis-point (bps) interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve (Fed).
Between still high levels of inflation, fast-tightening central banks, a growing energy crisis in Europe and slow growth in China, it is easy to imagine a bleak growth outlook. But these difficult dynamics also harbour opportunities often masked in exaggerated mispricing based on fear and confusion.
This month we analyse what immediate impact the full reopening of Japan could have on the economy and markets; we also review the factors that may make Prime Minister Kishida’s “asset-income doubling plan” more effective in the long term.
The current environment in fixed income is definitely challenging for investors as the rate cycle has turned. However, we believe that by unlocking the full performance potential of the different credit asset classes achieving positive absolute performance is still possible.
Our scenario is fairly ugly for the 4Q, but has a strong silver lining thereafter. We are not optimistic about the global economy and investor returns reverting to normal for an extended period, but there should be clear intermediate term relief and pockets of strong outperformance due to idiosyncratic advantages.