Spencer Maynard Wealth Management No Comments

All major equity markets posted negative returns in December as investors began to price in the risks of impending recession. The strongest declines were seen in developed markets (MSCI World Index fell 4.2%) while emerging markets were relatively resilient (MSCI Emerging Market Index fell 1.5%). Emerging markets were supported by Chinese equities which rallied in December on the back of lifting of restrictions related to COVID-19.

Government bonds also posted negative returns during the final month of the year. As expected, the European Central Bank delivered a 0.5% hike. However, a surprisingly hawkish statement, and forecasts triggered a sell-off across Eurozone markets. In the US, a lower-than-expected November CPI print didn’t significantly move the market. As anticipated, the Federal Reserve hiked rates by 0.50% during the month, although forecasts for the peak rate increased marginally. This drove US Treasury yields higher, particularly at the longer end of the curve. In the UK, gilts recorded poor performance even as the Bank of England moved in a more dovish direction. The Bank of England met market expectations with a 0.50% rate hike, and confirmed that they believed UK inflation had peaked. The Bank of Japan surprised markets as it moved to relax its Yield Curve Control policy, resulting in notable falls in Japanese bond markets.

We saw some dollar weakness during December, triggered primarily by the lower than expected US CPI print. The Euro was the second strongest performer in the G10 in December, in part benefitting from a still hawkish ECB. Sterling traded largely sideways against the USD amidst ongoing signs of poor economic performance and a still dovish Bank of England.

Oil prices fell during December, as markets continued to discount the commodity on expectations of slowing growth in 2023. This was despite OPEC+ reaffirming its commitment to its current oil production cuts of 2m barrels per day until the end of 2023.

Headline inflation rates have begun to cool, and we expect to see the end of hyper-aggressive monetary tightening. We forecast another 0.5%-1.00% of Federal Reserve rate hikes in the first quarter of 2023. This may reverse later in 2023 if the economy tips into significant recession. We expect targeted fiscal policy support, which will help limit the depth and duration of any cyclical downturn e.g. limiting the effects of the energy shock in Europe.

Currently we are expecting a US recession in 2023. Household spending held up well last year, but savings rates now sit near record lows, and the labour market may be cooling.  In the Eurozone, recession also looks likely with some activity indictors consistent with contraction. Sufficient levels of gas storage have helped limit the impact of the energy shock to activity but this will be tested as we progress deeper into winter.

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