So far in 2019 the sharemarket has rallied impressively, recovering most of the losses suffered in December last year.
For this rally to continue we need to see fundamental improvement in the various factors that could boost companies’ earnings (probably the most important issue in determining shares’ value).
We aren’t yet seeing that. Instead, the sharemarket rally of the past couple of months is based on three key developments:
- US interest rates, based on the US Federal Reserve cash rate, are on hold, with the Fed signalling it will be patient with further increases.
- China will continue to stimulate its economy in a targeted manner.
- It’s looking more likely the US-China trade war will calm down.
It’s because of these three factors that investors have looked past sliding economic growth and the sharemarket has rallied across January and so far in February.
While US rates are definitely on hold, we are less confident in the final outcome of the US-China trade war or the outlook for the Chinese economy. As a result we remain conscious of the risks these pose to companies’ earnings.
Clear risk to the world economy
We are also cognisant of further downside risks to the growth outlook for company earnings. And this can be seen principally in the European and Chinese economies.
China’s industrial sector is slowing and manufacturing output is suffering. The good news is that the service sector is holding up, suggesting the Sino economy is becoming more balanced and domestic demand is strengthening.
Europe’s economic slowdown is continuing into 2019. This makes it less likely that interest rates will rise there. In our view, rates will likely stay below zero for the time being. The slowing in China, as well as US trade tensions and political uncertainty, add further pressure on the European economy.
ANZ investment strategy positions
To be clear, while we see domestic and international growth slowing, our base case for the Australian and global economy still has a solid outlook, returning to a ‘trend’ level after a number of years of above-trend growth.
And so for now ANZ’s chief investment office will maintain its ‘neutral’ position on growth assets such as shares, and ‘underweight’ to international fixed-interest assets.