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Last week, the MSCI All Country World Index (MSCI ACWI) retreated -0.9% (-4.1% in September, -3.3% in the third quarter, 10.5% YTD).
In the US, the S&P 500 Index closed with a loss of -0.7% (-4.8% in September, 13.1% YTD), suffering a fourth consecutive weekly pullback, as upward pressure on rates appeared to weigh on investor sentiment. Within the index, utilities lost the most ground. Energy stocks, on the other hand, outperformed.
Growth stocks fared better than value stocks, while small-cap shares, which have lagged large-caps meaningfully this year, eked out gains and outperformed large-caps. The Russell 1000 Growth Index returned -0.3% (-5.4% in September, 25.0% YTD), the Russell 1000 Value Index -0.9% (-3.9% in September, 1.8% YTD) and the Russell 2000 Index 0.6% (-5.9% in September, 2.5% YTD). Over the week, the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was broadly flat, returning 0.1% (-5.8% in September, 27.1% YTD).
In Europe, the MSCI Europe ex UK Index decreased -0.7% (-2.5% in September, 9.2% YTD) amid concerns about a prolonged period of higher interest rates and a weak Chinese economy. Major country stock indexes retreated. Germany’s DAX Index slid -1.1% (-3.5% in September, 10.5% YTD), France’s CAC 40 Index slipped -0.7% (-2.4% in September, 13.4% YTD) and Italy’s FTSE MIB Index dropped -1.2% (-1.9% in September, 24.0% YTD). Switzerland’s SMI Index moved down -0.4% (-1.3% in September, 5.4% YTD). The euro weakened versus the US dollar, ending the week at USD 1.06 for EUR, down from 1.07.
In the UK, the FTSE 100 Index ticked lower -0.9% (2.4% in September, 5.2% YTD) and the FTSE 250 Index was down -1.7% (-1.5% in September, -0.5% YTD). The British pound was little changed versus the US dollar, ending the week at USD 1.22 for GBP, a six-month low. The pound depreciated by -3.7% against the US dollar in September, its worst month since last year’s mini budget of Liz Truss.
Japan’s stock markets fell. The Nikkei 225 Index declined -1.1% (-1.7% in September, 24.3% YTD), the broader TOPIX Index decreased -1.5% (0.4% in September, 25.6% YTD) and the TOPIX Small Index lost -0.6% (0.1% in September, 20.9% YTD). Concerns about US interest rates potentially remaining higher for longer and the soaring price of oil weighed on sentiment. However, investors welcomed the Japanese government’s announcement of a new economic stimulus plan. Meanwhile, slowing core inflation in the Tokyo area lent support to staunch commitment of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to its ultra-accommodative monetary policy stance in pursuit of its inflation target.
The yen weakened to JPY 149.4 against the US dollar, from JPY 148.4 the previous week, hitting an 11-month low. This added to speculation that Japanese authorities could intervene in the foreign exchange market to prop up the yen, having repeatedly stated that they would respond appropriately to rapid currency moves. However, Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki denied that the authorities have in mind a specific level for the US dollar-Japanese yen exchange rate that would trigger an intervention.
In Australia, the S&P ASX 200 Index slid -0.3% (-2.6% in September, 5.0% YTD) as the concern for a November hike due to higher inflation was partially offset by the dovish tone from the preview of the coming Tuesday's RBA meeting. Long-term Australian government bond yields rallied, with the curve steepening. The Australian dollar strengthened by 0.2% against the US dollar as the improvement in the outlook for global growth and gradual stabilisation in China reduced the downside risk for the domestic economy and currency.
MSCI Emerging Markets Index closed the week down -1.2% (-2.6% in September, 2.1% YTD), with a positive contribution to performance from the stock market of Brazil and negative contribution from those of China, India and South Korea.
Chinese stocks fell in a holiday-shortened week as a lack of positive news on the economy dampened investor sentiment. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Index lost -0.7% (-0.2% in September, 3.3% YTD) and the blue-chip CSI 300 Index gave back -1.3% (-2.0% in September, -2.5% YTD) for the week ended Thursday. Stock markets in mainland China were closed Friday, the start of a 10-day holiday for the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, and will reopen Monday, 9 October. In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped -1.4% (-2.6% in September, -6.8% YTD) for the week ended Friday.
In Hungary, the National Bank of Hungary (NBH) has been reducing certain interest rates in the last few months in an attempt to normalise what policymakers considered an “extraordinary” interest rate environment that has been in place since October 2022. At that time, policymakers were confronted with financial market turbulence and a weakening forint currency that exacerbated already-high inflation and forced them to raise certain interest rates sharply.
While the central bank’s base rate has remained at 13.0%, the NBH has reduced the overnight collateralised lending rate – the upper limit of an interest rate “corridor” for the base rate – in several steps, from a peak of 25.0% in late 2022 and early 2023 to 14.0% on 26 September. The central bank last week reduced the overnight deposit rate, which is the lower limit of that corridor, to 12.0% from 12.5%. In addition, the central bank has been reducing its depo rate – the interest rate paid on optional reserves – in several 1% increments. On Tuesday, policymakers reduced the depo rate to 13.0%, completing its convergence with the base rate.
According to the NBH’s post-meeting statement on 26 September, policymakers have “concluded” the normalisation of the extraordinary interest rate environment, with monetary policy entering “a new phase” in which the base rate “will become the effective central bank interest rate” and the interest rate corridor will be symmetric. Policymakers, however, did not signal that interest rate reductions would continue; rather, they asserted that “monetary conditions need to remain tight” and that “a cautious approach to monetary policy is warranted,” even though they expect annual inflation to fall to between 7% and 8% toward the end of 2023.
T. Rowe Price credit analyst Ivan Morozov believes that the central bank may continue cutting rates, though the size of additional interest rate reductions could be smaller. He also believes that policymakers will be watching the forint closely and could decide to pause rate cuts if the currency weakens materially.
In Brazil, the central bank published early in the week the minutes from its most recent policy meeting, and, according to T. Rowe Price sovereign analyst Richard Hall, the tone was on the hawkish side. For example, policymakers suggested that there are risks that the neutral level of real (inflation-adjusted) interest rates is higher than they had previously thought and that the output gap is likely narrower than they had estimated. They also noted that the El Niño weather phenomenon presents upside risks to food inflation. While Hall detected some hints of dovishness in the minutes – such as central bank officials noting that inflation data have been benign, and that potential growth might have increased due to structural reforms – he does not believe that policymakers are preparing to accelerate the pace of interest rate cuts.
Last week, the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Index (hedged to USD) returned -0.6% (-1.7% in September, -1.8% in the third quarter, 1.1% YTD), Bloomberg Global High Yield Index (hedged to USD) -0.6% (-1.1% in September, 5.5% YTD) and Bloomberg Emerging Markets Hard Currency Aggregate Index -1.0% (-2.4% in September, 1.1% YTD).
Higher oil prices contributed to concerns that inflation could prove more difficult for central banks to tame, spurring a sell-off in bonds. As the week wore on, the increasing likelihood of a US government shutdown may also have weighed on investor sentiment. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury note peaked above 4.6% on Wednesday. However, yields ticked modestly lower after the release of encouraging eurozone and US inflation data. Over the week, the 10-year Treasury yield increased 13 basis points (bp), up to 4.57% from 4.44% (up 46bp in September and 70bp YTD). The 2-year yield decreased -6bp, down to 5.05% from 5.11% (up 18bp in September and 62bp YTD).
European government bond yields broadly climbed as investors focused on the higher-for-longer rates narrative in financial markets. Germany’s benchmark 10-year bund yield rose to nearly 3% – a level unseen in more than a decade – before backing off this high on Friday. Over the week, the 10-year bund yield increased 10bp, ending at 2.84% from 2.74% (up 38bp in September and 27bp YTD). Italian bond yields also advanced amid concerns that the government would need to increase debt issuance next year to finance a bigger deficit.
In the UK, the yield on the benchmark 10-year gilt climbed above 4.5% before retreating a bit on Friday. Over the week, the 10-year gilt yield increased 20bp, to 4.44% from 4.24% (up 8bp in September and 77bp YTD).
The yield on the 10-year Japanese government bond (JGB) rose to 0.76% from 0.74% at the end of the previous week. The JGB yield reached its highest level in over a decade, despite the BoJ stepping into the market to buy JPY 300 billion (USD 2 billion) of JGBs with maturities between five and 10 years. This follows the BoJ loosening its yield curve control policy in July to allow rates to rise more freely, although it effectively caps them at 1%.
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