A slightly longer period since our last global equity commentary and markets have taken the opportunity to move to new highs for the S&P 500 and most European markets.
In the UK, the FTSE 100 is still 11% off its May 2018 high, thanks to dire performance from the big oil companies and banks and, more recently, from GlaxoSmithKline, though this latter might be changing. The NASDAQ has picked back up again after the February/March scare, Switzerland is lagging thanks to the dull performance of index heavyweights, Novartis and Nestlé and a 25% slump in Credit Suisse, which was badly caught in the collapse of Archegos (and Greensill Capital). Chinese markets are in a world of their own as the authorities redefine the rules for their technology sector.
The sector switchback that has been under-way since November last year moved back towards ‘growth’ companies this time. Technology stocks gained, Apple, Microsoft and Salesforce all rose around 11% while Adobe jumped 20%. Alphabet and Facebook (strictly speaking in the media sector these days), rose 12% and 15% respectively. In the discretionary spending area, Volkswagen resumed their meteoric rise this year and Tesla recovered 10% from the sharp set-back in early March. LVMH reported stunning figures, led by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, lifting their stock price, L’Oréal also reported good figures though, perhaps, not as startling as LVMH.
Consumer staples companies recovered across the board, led by Diageo, PepsiCo and Walmart. Even the pharmaceuticals had a good month, Johnson & Johnson’s stock wobbled as their one-shot vaccine was put on hold, but still managed a 3% gain, the rest fared rather better.
Over to the more cyclical ‘value’ areas and the banks had a distinctly mixed month despite JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs opening the US quarterly reporting season with much better than expected figures. JP Morgan recorded only a 1% gain while Morgan Stanley fell 3%, MS were also caught-up in Archegos collapse but to a much less of an extent. Credit Suisse was the principal casualty while Deutschebank also fell back as did HSBC. The oil majors all fell as the price of Brent blend trod water. Royal Dutch Shell fell 10%, Chevron, Total and Exxon were all down by around 5%.
It is hard to escape the feeling that much of the price action inter-sector is actually being driven by ten-year bond yields at the moment. After the steep rise in the US ten-year yield from 91bp at the turn of the year to 174bp at the end of March (and equivalent fall in bond prices), it has been drifting back in rather calmer markets since.