MONTHLY UPDATE: The battle of the bulls and bears
An ongoing battle between the bulls and bears – the optimists and pessimists in markets – continues this month.
On one side we have those feeling confident after markets recovered from a mid-March slump and maintained further momentum throughout April. But others are more focused on persistent signs of a US recession this year that would impact markets worldwide.
Here at Coutts, as long-term investors with a rigorous, data-driven approach, we believe it’s best to remain cautious until the ‘winner’ of this battle emerges.
Sven Balzer, Head of Investment Strategy at Coutts, says, “While the equity rally is creating renewed optimism among some investors, deteriorating macroeconomic data, coupled with falling house prices and tighter lending standards, remain reasons to be cautious and patient.”
An important new phase for markets
Sven adds that we’re seeing several shifting dynamics at the moment.
“US inflation is cooling, and we believe it’ll continue to drop into the summer,” he says. “As a result, the US Federal Reserve suggested it may pause raising interest rates for now. This potentially marks an important new phase for markets.
“Investors may now shift their focus from ‘when will interest rates peak?’ to ‘when and how fast might they fall?’ This could develop a new dynamic for markets, but we’ll have to wait and see. Again, we’re being patient, but are focused on the data and ready to pounce once opportunities arise.”
This cautious approach is reflected in our investment positioning. We’re defensively positioned on stocks, for example. We’ve found that the more ‘defensive’ sectors we invest in, like healthcare, which tend to do well in a challenged economy, have performed positively since mid-March.
Meanwhile, government bonds have provided useful diversification so far this year as bond prices benefit from expectations that interest rates will fall later this year and next.
In April, we sold our exposure to the bond class financial credit and bought more investment grade bonds instead. With persistent recession signals and our expectation of tighter bank lending over the coming quarters, we prefer the less volatile and more diversified exposure of investment grade bonds at this point.
The value of investments, and the income from them, can fall as well as rise and you may not get back what you put in. Past performance should not be taken as a guide to future performance. You should continue to hold cash for your short-term needs.