The S&P 500 is making new highs again, up around 8% since our last note and leading world markets.
This time, the NASDAQ has more than kept pace as the value/growth needle swung back towards growth. European markets rose, led by France and Germany, and the UK followed suit. Swiss stocks are lagging again as Nestlé only managed a small gain, despite good first quarter sales, while Roche continued dull. The two Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and UBS, also had a torrid time in the wake of the collapse of Archegos Capital Management, notably the former, which fell more than 20% over the period. Eastern markets were dull, Hong Kong and China both trod water while Japanese stocks fell. Overall, world indices put on around 5% in sterling terms.
After a busy period in March, we have not made any changes to the Fund’s portfolio this month but there has been lots of news from portfolio companies. Novozymes has just reported Q1 figures, surprising with good organic growth and margin expansion, taking their stock to new highs. Among the industrials, Nordson moved back up to record levels, recovering the set-back earlier in the year, but micro-motor manufacturer Nidec Corp was flat after selling-off on their Q4 results. A more conservative forecast from Nidec appears reasonable at present given production problems at the auto manufacturers.
There was mixed performance from the staple goods companies too. Heineken reported a better start to the year than expected with volume growth in beer sales in Africa and Asia Pacific more than offsetting declines in Europe, their stock rose 10%. After the previous period’s recovery, Essity has faded back down again after their Q1 results missed estimates, though it was a difficult comparator period after last year’s stock-building. Equally mixed was the performance of our pharmaceutical holdings, Stryker jumped 13% and our latest addition GN Store Nord got off to a good start with a 15% increase and a Q1 report that included an upgrade to full-year guidance. But Johnson & Johnson, Gilead and Lonza were little changed and Roche was a drag again.
The consumer discretionary sectors provided some of the best performance for us from the luxury good stocks and from Amazon, which are beginning to move after nine months of ‘consolidation’. The luxury goods companies were led by LVMH, whose Q1 figures featured startling revenue growth from all their core brands, led by Louis Vuitton and Dior, their stock jumped 14%. Hermes were close behind with a 12% gain on the back of equally impressive Q1 sales.
The financials were comfortably ahead over the period though Swiss Re was an exception, falling 10% following removal of their annual dividend payment (6.4% of the stock price) and their ‘financial condition’ report. Morgan Stanley were caught up in the Archegos debacle, but their $911 million loss pales by comparison to the Swiss banks, they also reported bumper Q1 figures. The reporting season for our technology holdings is just commencing, over this period they all posted strong gains led by Ansys and Oracle.