WeekWatch

Stock Take

Global equities finished the quarter on a high note, with the majority of the major indexes finishing the week in positive territory.

US shares helped lead the charge, with both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ ending the week up more than 2%. The technology heavy NASDAQ has performed especially well this year. Over the first six months of 2023 it rose 32% – it’s best first half year in four decades.

In particular, the rise in confidence around AI technologies has helped spur rapid growth among a number of tech companies. Chipmaker Nvidia, for example, saw its market cap break $1 trillion this year, as confidence in its AI capabilities helped push its valuation above even the 2021 tech bubble heights.

Beyond just technology, wider economic data also provided encouraging reading for investors. A key part of this has been the reduction in inflation, which peaked last year in the US. Although it remains above the 2% the Federal Reserve (Fed) is aiming for, it has been coming down consistently this year, fuelling hopes that we may soon hit peak interest rates. The Fed itself has said it will likely further increase interest rates this year, but the scale of these increases is expected to be smaller.

The picture is a little more complicated in Europe. The FTSE ended the week up slightly, but has generally struggled this year in the face of stubborn inflation. Markets are betting on the Bank of England further increasing rates as the year goes on, with many expecting it to reach above 6% at its peak this year.

Part of the difficulty the Bank faces in making these decisions is an increasingly apparent lag in house-price behaviour. The majority of residential properties in the UK either have no mortgage or are on a fixed rate mortgage. This means when the Bank increases its rates, the full effect on the housing market may not be felt immediately. There are an increasing number of headlines warning that house prices are coming under sustained pressure, and as more and more fixed rate mortgages end their fixed rate terms, this pressure is likely to increase.

In the Eurozone, shares were lifted by another drop in inflation. Last week, headline inflation figures for May were reported, now at 5.5%.

BlueBay’s Mark Dowding thinks that the increase in interest rates seen across the Western World this year will continue to affect wider economic performance throughout the year. Dowding notes: “What this means is that the impact of past policy action will continue to tighten financial conditions further, even in the absence of additional policy action.

“From this point of view, we continue to expect growth to slow to a standstill in the second half of the year, with the outlook in 2024 also looking downbeat. Interest rates have risen substantially in this cycle and some additional tightening may yet be ahead of us. In light of this, a mild recession remains likely, as a baseline assessment.”

One of the big winners of the quarter was Japan. Last week, the Nikkei 225 finished up 1.24%, leaving it up over 18% for the quarter – more than even the NASDAQ. The performance of Japanese shares this year is a good reminder of the importance of diversifying your investments, as adding exposure to different markets can help offer different opportunities, while also mitigating the losses of any single market.

For example, while Japanese shares have performed extremely well this year, Pantheon Macro Economics noted: “Consumption, business investment and inventories all rebounded in Q1. Automakers and semiconductor equipment makers ramped up work-in-progress inventories, suggesting budding optimism about the outlook. But Japan’s reopening recovery has been a stop-start affair; the past nine quarters have seen four declines and five increases in GDP. We think Japan is slowly moving towards a self-sustaining growth cycle, but it probably will not get there in H2 2023, given the likely export drag.”

Wealth Check

The State Pension is the foundation of many people’s retirement income. Many women will rely on the State Pension even more than men, if they’ve been on a lower income, or have a smaller pension pot due to taking career breaks. And if you’re divorced, it’s even more important to check that you’re getting the correct State Pension.

The State Pension is a benefit paid to individuals who have reached their State Pension age and have made National Insurance contributions during their working life. This pension is usually paid based on the individual’s own National Insurance contributions. How much you get depends on the number of years you have on your National Insurance record.

In the UK, from April 2023, the maximum amount of State Pension you can receive went up to £10,600 over the year, or almost £203.85 a week. The full basic State Pension under the old system (before 2016) was £156.20 per week in 2023-24 for people who have all the qualifying years of NI contributions for their date of birth.

When you want to retire, a full State Pension could be a key part of your retirement income. It can:

  • Provide you with a regular source of income in retirement so you don’t have to rely solely on your savings or investments
  • Help you meet your basic day-to-day expenses in retirement, such as food, housing, and energy costs
  • Help make sure your money lasts as long as you need it to – especially since many of us are living longer
  • Mean you enjoy your retirement without worrying about money, giving you peace of mind.

If you reached your State Pension age before April 2016, and divorced later in life, you could be missing out on unclaimed State Pension. When you think about how long you might be retired for, it could add up to a significant sum over the longer term.

The problem relates to the ‘old’ state pension system. The old system assumed that wives were financially dependent on their husbands, so it allowed women to pay a reduced rate of NI contributions. This means they may have generated little or no State Pension in their own right. Under the ‘old rules’, you could register your ex-husbands’ NI contribution as your own, up to the date of divorce. This often provided a welcome uplift to State Pension income especially since many women had gaps in their own NI contributions, due to raising a family or providing care for others.

In April 2016, the ‘new State Pension’ was introduced, to provide a simpler and fairer State-backed pension in old age.

In The Picture

The global top ten companies often underperform the S&P 500 average when looking over a ten-year period. If your investments are too concentrated, you could miss out on opportunities elsewhere. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

Source: Bloomberg

Returns for Industrial Bank of Japan, Fuji Bank and Dai-ichiKangyo Bank is 12/31/1990 to 9/21/2000 (on 9/21/2000, these three banks merged to create Mizuho Financial Group).

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.

The Last Word

“I don’t expect that France will become unstable, even if the images of course are very distressing.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the current French riots.

Bluebay is a fund manager for St. James’s Place.

The information contained is correct as at the date of the article. The information contained does not constitute investment advice and is not intended to state, indicate or imply that current or past results are indicative of future results or expectations. Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.

Source: London Stock Exchange Group plc and its group undertakings (collectively, the “LSE Group”). ©LSE Group 2023. FTSE Russell is a trading name of certain of the LSE Group companies.

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© S&P Dow Jones LLC 2023; all rights reserved

Source: MSCI. MSCI makes no express or implied warranties or representations and shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to any MSCI data contained herein. The MSCI data may not be further redistributed or used as a basis for other indices or any securities or financial products. This report is not approved, endorsed, reviewed or produced by MSCI. None of the MSCI data is intended to constitute investment advice or a recommendation to make (or refrain from making) any kind of investment decision and may not be relied on as such.

SJP Approved 03/07/2023

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The ‘St. James’s Place Partnership’ and the titles ‘Partner’ and ‘Partner Practice’ are marketing terms used to describe St. James’s Place representatives.

Members of the St. James’s Place Partnership in Hong Kong represent St. James’s Place (Hong Kong) Limited, which is an insurance broker company licensed with the Insurance Authority (Licence No. FB1075), a licensed corporation with the Securities and Futures Commission (CE No. AAV439) and registered as an MPF Intermediary (Registration No. IC000852).