I hope everyone had the opportunity to have a restful break.
Markets have kicked of 2022 with a bang. Inflation is on everyone’s lips and we saw markets gyrate widely ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s meeting in January. What is certain is that markets do not like uncertainly and in this instance the market was trying to process whether the Fed will raise rates, and if so by how much and when. Additionally, markets were eager to understand the Fed’s direction on their liquidity support for the economy via quantitative easing (where the Fed buys government bonds), which has been an anchor for markets for the best part of the last decade. The Fed essentially indicated that inflation may increase further before it moderates, that a rate rise in March is possible and that liquidity support through quantitative easing will continue to slow down. In addition to inflation, the ongoing flow on effects from the pandemic and growing geopolitical tensions between Russia, the Ukraine and western powers has also contributed to market volatility.
As we have learned from previous periods of volatility, it is important not to react emotionally in such periods and focus on fundamentals. In periods of market volatility quality assets often get oversold. During the last two years we have witnessed a record level of new retail investors enter the market, as reflected by the surge in new online share trading accounts being opened and for many this will be their first encounter with a market downturn. No doubt there will be some nervous investors.
In our view inflation is a concern, however we don’t think that exiting the market and going into cash is the answer. Real returns from cash will be negligible and trying to time a re-entry point in the market is difficult. Despite the pull back in markets, assets generally remain in expensive territory. What has changed is that cyclical and liquidity/policy indicators have softened and some of the short term risk indicators have risen. As bond yields have risen the attractiveness of bonds relative to equities is improving. In such environments diversification is important. Our portfolios have exposure to a range of assets and investment styles that can perform in a variety of market environments. Exposure to asset classes such as infrastructure can assist in generating real returns. Furthermore, alternative assets such as gold and diversified strategies should dampen overall portfolio volatility. We are also reviewing are overall exposure to different factors i.e. growth, quality and value to ensure that we are not overexposed to a single part of the market.
As we did during the previous ‘covid’ market pull back, we are holding interim and more regular investment committee meetings to assess the evolving market situation. We are also engaging with fund managers to obtain a range of perspectives on the current market dynamics.
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