IMS Monthly Update

  • 1st April 2024

    After the revelation that the UK fell into a technical recession at the end of last year, the latest data suggests that the downturn could be as short as many had predicted. The reversal was largely ignored by local markets given the lack of surprise, but Rishi Sunak will certainly be hoping that the trend continues as we get ever closer to the next election.

  • 1st March 2024

    This month’s update is a little longer than usual as it focuses on two distinct themes, one local and one global. Both subjects are of interest to us from an investment perspective and they will also, I hope, provide an interesting insight into the detail behind some of the big stories of the moment.

  • 1st January 2024

    Recessionary fears cast a long shadow at the start of 2023, fuelled by relentless interest rate hikes. While rates continued to rise through much of the year, a significant shift in sentiment occurred by December, with the focus turning to when the first cuts might come.

  • 1st December 2023

    Markets have rallied strongly since the latest investment review with all of the portfolios now positive over the last one and three months. The consensus view on why this has happened is that markets are of the view that inflation and therefore interest rates have peaked and they’re now focused on when the cuts will come.

  • 1st October 2023

    The factors driving markets over the last month have had a familiar ring to them. 2023 has been dominated by the actions of central banks and September was no different. However, the end of the month saw some decisions made which might suggest that we’re moving into a new phase.

  • 1st September 2023

    The review went out in early August, a famously quiet month in typical years. With politicians, central bankers, investment managers and their clients all off on holiday for much of the period, there is usually a lull in news and activity with markets bubbling along slowly. That wasn’t quite the case this year.

  • 1st July 2023

    As had been widely predicted, no change was made at the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve in the US, with interest rates remaining in a range of 5%-5.25%. The first pause after 10 consecutive hikes was expected, especially with inflation in May falling to 4% (the lowest level in two years), but the accompanying message was that the era of rises was not over.

  • 1st June 2023

    I mentioned in the commentary which accompanied the review that without any further shocks, the fight against inflation would remain the preeminent factor. When I wrote that, I was aware that there was a particular issue that could act as a distraction from the relative mundanity of debates over monetary policy: the rapidly approaching US debt ceiling. Concerns about this recurring headache have been floating around for a while but as we headed towards an uncertain deadline date, they began to peak.

  • 23rd March 2023

    We've put this update together a little earlier than scheduled in light of events over the last couple of weeks which have been leading financial (and indeed many mainstream) headlines. As you will have probably already seen, after a sustained period of negative news stories and despite a brief rally in its shares following the announcement of a $54bn lifeline from the Swiss National Bank, Credit Suisse has been bought by UBS for $3.25bn. Swiss regulators brokered the sale in order to shore up the country’s banking system to try to reduce the contagion risk spreading to other companies.

  • 1st March 2023

    For many of us, February brought a few spring-like days that hinted that we might be approaching the end of what seemed, to me at least, to be an interminable winter. However, towards the end of the month frosty conditions returned as temperatures dropped, echoing what was happening in markets.

  • 1st January 2023

    I started writing this update by reminding myself of our first message from the beginning of last year. In contrast, it is probably fair to say that we enter 2023 with a little more positivity with the pandemic becoming a background noise (for most of us) rather than the dominant story that it was 12 months ago. Actually, this isn’t quite the case everywhere in the world as we’ll cover later on, but the more pressing concern from an investment perspective is the threat of recession, something which markets don’t like but are much more familiar with.

  • 1st December 2022

    In the update that accompanied the review I highlighted the factors that had been dominating markets, with the actions of the US Federal Reserve being one of the key ones. Very early in this new quarter it raised rates again, making its fourth straight 0.75% hike and the sixth rise in a row.

  • 1st October 2022

    It’s not often I cover the details of a budget in these updates as they don’t usually have a direct impact on our investments, but it’s safe to say that the policies announced by the new chancellor were not especially well received outside of a very small group of high earners and business leaders. Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event led to an immediate fall in local indices and saw sterling hit an all-time low level versus the US dollar.

  • 1st September 2022

    I said in the update that accompanied the recent quarterly review that inflation was approaching double digits which was not intended to be a prediction, but rather a statement of fact. This fact was confirmed in the latest update which showed that the UK hit a reading of 10.1% for the 12-months to July, making us the third developed country to pass 10%. The rate is rising rapidly as energy bills have tripled from the level they were at a year ago, and the effect is worse for businesses, where there is no energy price cap.

  • 1st July 2022

    In our last update the focus was on how markets were interpreting the outlook for interest rate rises and in many ways not a lot has changed over the intervening period, at least from a thematic perspective. What we have seen, however, is a growing confidence that major economies like the US are heading for a recession as efforts by central bankers to control inflation without overly cooling their economies appear to be failing.

  • 1st June 2022

    It’s fair to say that markets have not been having the greatest time since the review went out, or indeed since the start of the year for that matter. The main US market, the S&P 500, managed to avoid an ignominious record in the final full week of the month with a (very) positive return helping it to miss out on 8 straight weeks of losses. This would have broken a record dating back before World War II and something that has only happened twice before.

  • 1st April 2022

    It has often been noted that during the pandemic, time appeared to move more quickly; two years passed in a flash. Despite this it does seem to have taken forever for the clocks to finally spring forward after what turned out to be a long and metaphorically dark winter. But they now have and as we enter the second quarter of the year, we can begin to enjoy lighter evenings and, hopefully, a broader sense of positivity as well.

  • 1st March 2022

    In light of recent events it is perhaps unsurprising that the bulk of this update centres on the situation on Europe’s eastern border. While there are other elements that are impacting on the medium term investment outlook, the situation in Ukraine is clearly the most relevant at this juncture. For the avoidance of doubt, this update is designed to cover the investment impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and I’ll leave any commentary on the humanitarian impact to those better placed to comment.

  • 1st January 2022

    As ever, if you looked only at market performance, you could be forgiven for thinking that Covid had indeed ceased to be an issue. Most major indices were up over the month with the FTSE 100 reaching its highest point since the start of 2021 and several, including the S&P 500, finishing the year at record levels. Over the holiday period many markets enjoyed their traditional “Santa rally”, the period around Christmas where markets tend to enjoy a boost. Statistically it is the period during which the S&P 500 index is most likely to produce a positive return versus any other time of year.

  • 1st December 2021

    Following a fairly quiet few weeks where most of the focus was on when interest rates might rise, on the final Friday of the month the spectre of Covid made a dramatic return. Coronavirus infections have been rising in Europe recently and despite the reintroduction of some restrictions markets had seemed largely unconcerned. The change came when, in an act of perverse timing, Black Friday brought with it news that a new variant of Covid 19 had been found.

  • 1st October 2021

    At our recent investment committee meeting, I asked the speaker from Blackrock for his thoughts on the current state of markets in light of the potential headwinds we are monitoring. Primarily I was thinking about the impact of the tapering of the Fed’s asset purchase programme, but I also included the rapidly approaching debt ceiling deadline as well as the potential contagion effect of the Evergrande situation in China. It’s fair to say that I was more than a little surprised to hear that his view was that markets had already “priced in” the potential risks.

  • 1st September 2021

    One of the themes from the quarterly review centred on the sustainability of the market rally we’ve enjoyed since the second quarter of 2020. The recovery from the pandemic low point has been unusual both in how quickly it occurred and also in its scale. In some markets, such as the American S&P 500, it took just 6 months for share prices to bounce back while many of the main indices in the EU reached their previous highs after a year. In the UK, the FTSE 100 is not quite back to its former level, but as we’ve discussed before, there are other factors at play that have held back our recovery.

  • 1st July 2021

    The first half of a year that saw us take the first stuttering steps back to normality ended on a positive note with the new Health Secretary suggesting that Covid restrictions for England would come to an end later this month. And for those of a footballing persuasion, the good news kept on coming. However, while the pandemic remained a recurrent theme over the period, the dominant story from an investment perspective was the return of inflation.

  • 1st June 2021

    All of the IMS portfolios have a mandate that specifies a minimum and maximum level of equity which sets the tramlines between which we have to remain. Below this high level view there are a number of other constraints that detail the maximum and minimum weight we can allocate to a fund, how many sectors we must include, and so on. These mandates were set out when the portfolios were originally created and they form the framework around which we build our asset allocations and fund selections.

  • 1st April 2021

    March is typically a wet and pretty miserable month, and that felt especially the case as we began yet more weeks of lockdown, with our freedoms to travel and to socialise limited. However, towards its end we entered British summer time, with the clocks springing forward to give us an additional hour of evening light, many areas enjoyed record high temperatures, and, as we headed into the 4-day Easter bank holiday weekend, we passed the first stop on Boris Johnson’s roadmap for unwinding lockdown restrictions.

  • 1st March 2021

    This update was written on the anniversary of when Covid first started to impact on global markets. By the end of February 2020 the virus had been devastating China for over a month, but western economies had remained bizarrely aloof. That all changed when Italy became the first western country to shows signs that we might not be immune. It is often said that hindsight is 20-20 which seems to be a rather fitting saying given the lack of awareness or reaction from governments in the early part of that year.