Stepping back and considering asset class returns over the past 10 years

On the 9th of October 2007, the summit of the previous US equity bull market was reached. The US S&P 500 index peaked at 1565. By the end of 2007 it had dropped by 100 points or 6.4%. Since then the world has experienced the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and is currently in the midst of another massive bull market that continues to run hot. This is evident by the great 24.6% return in USD of the S&P 500 during 2017 and an annualized return of 8.5% in USD per year over the past 10 years.

Many developed markets had a great 2017, notably the UK (FTSE 100) with 22.6% and Japan (Nikkei 225) with 25.6% both in USD. However, both these markets have underperformed the US since 2007 (UK 1.7% and Japan 5.9% both annualized in USD). The biggest winner during 2017 were emerging markets with the MSCI Emerging Markets index returning a whopping 37.8% return in USD. This stellar return has only occurred during the past 2 years and the 10-year return is quite disappointing with on 2% annualized. This is at least far better than the Chinese market (SSE Composite) which has gone backwards 3.4% annualized over the past years.

Looking at currencies, although the US dollar weakened against Pound Sterling and the Euro (-7% and -12% respectively) during 2017, the greenback is still significantly stronger than both currencies over the 10 years. 31 December 2017: GBP/USD 1.34 and EUR/USD 1.20. 31 December 2007: GBP/USD 2.02 and EUR/USD 1.47.
With the slowing of and the change in the focus of Chinese economy from infrastructural spending to more consumer orientated, commodities prices have not done a lot. Copper has largely gone sideways and downwards apart from 2017 when the metal price increased by 30% to bring it back up to its 2007 price of US$500. Oil which was above US$100/barrel for much of 2011 to 2014, has languished at US$50/barrel since then, only on the last 6 months moving over US$60. Gold although up over 10 years has gone sideways over the past 5 years ending 2017 just under US$1300/ounce.

Inflation in the US has averaged 1.62% since the end of 2007, however it has swung between 0% and 4% and during the GFC it first peaked at 5.6% and then bottomed out below -2%. Over the last 2 years it has moved up from 1% to just under 2.2% at present. In the UK, CPI has swung further. In the midst of the GFC it fell from 5.25% to just over 1%. However, during 2015 it went below zero and since then it has steadily climbed up the present level of 3.1%. Japan which has suffered from deflation for decades has managed to increase its inflation marginally from the average of just 0.38% over the ten years to 0.5% currently.

Stepping back and considering asset class returns over the past 10 years
On the 9th of October 2007, the summit of the previous US equity bull market was reached. The US S&P 500 index peaked at 1565. By the end of 2007 it had dropped by 100 points or 6.4%. Since then the world has experienced the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and is currently in the midst of another massive bull market that continues to run hot. This is evident by the great 24.6% return in USD of the S&P 500 during 2017 and an annualized return of 8.5% in USD per year over the past 10 years.

 

Many developed markets had a great 2017, notably the UK (FTSE 100) with 22.6% and Japan (Nikkei 225) with 25.6% both in USD. However, both these markets have underperformed the US since 2007 (UK 1.7% and Japan 5.9% both annualized in USD). The biggest winner during 2017 were emerging markets with the MSCI Emerging Markets index returning a whopping 37.8% return in USD. This stellar return has only occurred during the past 2 years and the 10-year return is quite disappointing with on 2% annualized. This is at least far better than the Chinese market (SSE Composite) which has gone backwards 3.4% annualized over the past years.

Looking at currencies, although the US dollar weakened against Pound Sterling and the Euro (-7% and -12% respectively) during 2017, the greenback is still significantly stronger than both currencies over the 10 years. 31 December 2017: GBP/USD 1.34 and EUR/USD 1.20. 31 December 2007: GBP/USD 2.02 and EUR/USD 1.47.

With the slowing of and the change in the focus of Chinese economy from infrastructural spending to more consumer orientated, commodities prices have not done a lot. Copper has largely gone sideways and downwards apart from 2017 when the metal price increased by 30% to bring it back up to its 2007 price of US$500. Oil which was above US$100/barrel for much of 2011 to 2014, has languished at US$50/barrel since then, only on the last 6 months moving over US$60. Gold although up over 10 years has gone sideways over the past 5 years ending 2017 just under US$1300/ounce.

Inflation in the US has averaged 1.62% since the end of 2007, however it has swung between 0% and 4% and during the GFC it first peaked at 5.6% and then bottomed out below -2%. Over the last 2 years it has moved up from 1% to just under 2.2% at present. In the UK, CPI has swung further. In the midst of the GFC it fell from 5.25% to just over 1%. However, during 2015 it went below zero and since then it has steadily climbed up the present level of 3.1%. Japan which has suffered from deflation for decades has managed to increase its inflation marginally from the average of just 0.38% over the ten years to 0.5% currently.

To end, let us focus on three facts:
1. Since 2007, 9 out of 10 calendar years posted a positive return for the S&P500.
2. Since 1937, 62 out of 81 years posted positive returns for the S&P500.
3. In the last 35 years, only five calendar years have been negative.
While the background for global growth still looks positive, we remain cautious of the sustained US bull market and are mindful that the correction when it comes will have a major effect on all other world markets. That said we continue to believe our continued research, macro-economic work and fund diversification will continue to protect investors returns during 2018.

Market Insights

United States

The US ISM manufacturing index hit 59.7 in December, while construction spending rose 0.8% in November. Unemployment eased off slightly creating 100 000 fewer jobs during December with the labor force participation rate remaining steady at 62.7% and keeping the unemployment rate at 4.1%.
The Federal Reserve voted 7-2 to lift the range for its benchmark interest rate by 0.25% to between 1.25% and 1.50%, the third increase for 2017. The forecast is for a further three quarter-point rises in 2018. On the policy front, US Republicans revealed their joint tax reform bill on December 20th.
Corporation tax will fall from 35% to 21%, whilst the highest individual income tax rate will drop to 37% from 39.6%. This gives President Trump his first major legislative achievement.

United Kingdom

The British economy grew 1.7 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2017, above the preliminary estimate of 1.5 percent. It was the weakest annual growth rate since the first quarter of 2013. The economy continues to bring mixed messages with the CBI Business Optimism dropping to -11 in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the GfK consumer confidence index falling by 1 point to -13 in December 2017, its lowest level since 2013.

The Bank of England decided to leave its interest rates unchanged
despite inflation rising to 3.1% for the 12 months to November. The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI fell to 56.3 in December 2017 from November’s 51-month high of 58.2 and below market expectations of 58. New export sales continued to increase solidly, as demand improved from clients in Europe, the US, China and the Middle East.

China

China’s economy continues to lose momentum in Q4 as the economy transitions to a more sustainable growth trajectory. The annual Central Economic Work Conference was held during December 2017 which made mention China will press ahead with supply-side structural reform in 2018 with more efforts to improve economic quality.

China will crack down on irregular and illegal activities within the financial sector, one of three tough battles that the country has vowed to fight. Secondly, the country will prioritize its measures for targeted poverty reduction and thirdly they will look to take action to prevent and control pollution. This slow but steady deceleration is expected to continue during 2018.

Europe

Eurozone inflation slowed to 1.4% in December from 1.5% the month before allowing the European central bank to keep interest rates on hold. Composite PMI climbed to 58.1 in December from 57.5, its highest reading since February 2011. Growth is expected to remain strong in 2018.

South Africa

An eventful end to 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa becoming the next ANC president bringing an 11% appreciation in the Rand fuelling Bond market gains, what does 2018 bring? Unemployment is at its highest, a declining business confidence and a PMI figure below the neutral 50-point mark, South Africa can’t afford another downgrade. With the February 2018 budget looming, one way for SA to avoid a further downgrade is for Zuma to be recalled in the same way that former president Thabo Mbeki was. ETM Analytics believe inflation is not a threat whilst Investec economists forecast 2018 CPI Inflation round 5.7%.

Growth is expected to below 2% for the next 3 years far from the 5%
needed for job creation, needless to say, a downgrade would hinder the growth rate further. Capital Economics is forecasting a growth of 1.5% to 1.7% for the year.

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