For a nation that prides itself on punching above its weight in all we do, 2021 has seen New Zealand bobbing and weaving against the ropes somewhat, as we’ve fought the economic impact of an enduring COVID-19 pandemic. We may have been down in some places, but we’re certainly not out as we approach 2022.
The initial discovery of the Omicron variant was met with fairly sensational reporting by some of the world’s media and this fed through quickly into investor sentiment. It is probably true, however, that even if Omicron had not surfaced it was probably about time that investors were again reminded of the volatility that resides in markets, despite the mollifying impact of endless liquidity injections by central banks.
ESG initiatives are expected to become ever more important for companies and investors around the world in 2022. We expect many Japanese companies to come to the fore amid this global shift towards ESG, with enhancements in ESG disclosures shedding light on their value creation opportunities amid the current drive towards decarbonisation.
The Singapore economy is on a road to recovery. Although the economy has already rebounded sharply in 2021, we expect the recovery theme to remain intact and continue supporting the Singapore economy in 2022. We see a broadening of growth within Singapore’s key economic engines in 2022, with a sharper recovery expected in the services sector as the economy reopens.
Amid a flurry of headlines, investors may have largely overlooked the significant number of recent positive developments in China, such as initiatives directed towards ambitious renewables targets, the continued opening up of the financial sectors and support for a significant number of industries including AI and big data. We believe these areas could become the new leaders of China’s capital markets, representing investment themes for the next several decades.
The economic recovery in Asia ex-China is likely to improve significantly in 2022 as regulations are eased, borders are reopened and vaccination rates increase. We anticipate these developments to boost private sector confidence, providing an important tailwind for Asian ex-China growth in 2022.
Asian stocks fell in November on concerns that the spread of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant could derail global reopening plans and delay economic recoveries.
We present our 2022 outlook for core markets, emerging markets and global credit.
The macro backdrop and robust corporate credit fundamentals remain supportive of Asia credit spreads. As such, we expect growth momentum of many Asian economies to gather pace heading into 2022. Overall corporate credit fundamentals are expected to remain robust, with earnings growth staying strong—albeit at a slightly slower pace compared to 2021.
The global economy should match the consensus for strong growth, thanks to vaccinations, continued fiscal stimulus, acceptable global geopolitical conditions, and continued low interest rates despite increasingly hawkish central banks. Such, via increased corporate profits, should allow equity markets to perform very well ahead, with impressive returns in each region, particularly in Japan.
The just released 3Q CY21 data on aggregate corporate profits in Japan was very positive, as although for the single quarter, the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin declined from the 2Q, as it does routinely for this non-seasonally adjusted data.
Just a few weeks ago I attended my first in-person conference since 2019. Over 40,000 people descended upon Lisbon for Web Summit, one of the world’s largest technology conferences. The event brings together CEO’s and founders of established firms together with start-ups and policymakers to discuss and pitch ideas over the course of a week.
As the global economy takes steps to recover from the pandemic, prices have steadily risen around the world. Japan, however, remains an exception among the major economies. The country’s headline CPI did tick up in October, but at a very modest pace, showing that inflation is yet to gain strong traction in a country long stuck in deflation.
Every few years, concerns emerge over whether China is investable. We are currently witnessing the latest round of this cycle amid China’s drive to regulate. However, investing in China during such moments of doubt has reaped substantial returns in the past. The key is not missing the forest for the trees when China is regulating in order to innovate.
Asian stocks rose in October, with investors remaining focused on rising inflationary pressures and the US Federal Reserve’s tapering plans. The markets’ key concern is China’s economic performance and its impact on the energy and commodity complexes.
We expect Indonesian bonds to outperform, as demand is supported by positive supply technicals. Meanwhile, we see bonds of low-yielding countries like Singapore, South Korea and Thailand prone to bear flattening, driven mainly by UST movement.
Japan’s rapidly advancing medical technology is viewed as a way to address the healthcare sector’s inefficiencies while at the same time offering potential value opportunities.
We explain how the recent lower house election win gives Japan’s new prime minister a free hand to pursue policies aimed to help the economy recover from COVID-19. We also analyse why a weaker yen no longer provides as much of a boost to equities.
Our philosophy is centred on the search for “Future Quality” in a company. Future Quality companies are those that we believe will attain and sustain high returns on investment. ESG considerations are integral to Future Quality investing as good companies make for good investment.
US Treasury (UST) yields rose in September, with the US Federal Open Market Committee finally alluding to moderate its asset purchases as soon as November. The rise in rates was further supported by an escalating power crunch across Europe and China amid surging energy prices prompting concerns about inflation.
Volatility has arisen as we expected it eventually would, and September is often an apt month to rediscover risk given market participants’ return from summer vacations noting that record high equity markets do not quite square with a number of significant risk events on the near-term horizon.
Asian stocks fell in September, with concerns about China’s growth outlook and the US Federal Reserve (Fed)’s taper plan being the key drivers of sentiment. For the month, the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index declined by 4.2% in US dollar (USD) terms.
We provide an update of Japan’s political calendar as the new Prime Minister Kishida leads the ruling party into a 31 October general election, which could have a significant market impact. We also discuss what the recent China-related volatility could mean for the Japanese market.
Out of the six scenarios presented, a narrow majority of our committee agreed again on a positive scenario in which the global economy matches the market consensus for solid growth, while equities continue to rally.
Inflation is on everyone’s mind. From central bankers to bakers, it is one of the biggest topics of discussion. The prices of many commodities are rising sharply. The reasons vary. Supply constraints, sharp rise in demand or bad weather—take your pick.
As we contemplate a post-pandemic world, it is becoming more likely that things will not return to “normal” as we once knew it. While vaccines have been highly successful in preventing serious illness in those who are still contracting the virus, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is also proving to be harder to contain.
US Treasury (UST) yields rose in August, prompted by data showing stronger-than-expected US employment growth. The rise in rates was supported by hawkish comments from some US Federal Reserve (Fed) officials.
The world is settling into a new normal that is likely to look quite different from pre-COVID-19 norms. This includes different patterns of demand shaped by learning to live with the virus and an ongoing fiscal thrust with firm policy objectives.
Asian stocks gained in August. While concerns about the spread of the Delta variant weighed on markets at the beginning of the month, the US Federal Reserve (Fed)’s dovish commentary and a rebound in the battered Chinese technology (tech) sector lifted sentiment towards the month-end
The news of Prime Minister Suga’s impending resignation triggered a rally in Japanese equities this week, with the market hoping that a new administration will bring the COVID-19 outbreak under control and hasten the normalisation of the economy. We explain what the market expects from the new administration and assess the implications of Japan’s upcoming general election.
Japan’s drive to embrace hydrogen as an alternative energy source is an opportunity to identify hidden value in firms that are willing to tackle and resolve social issues.
The just released 2Q CY21 data on aggregate corporate profits in Japan was surprisingly positive, as the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin surged relatively near its record high in the 3Q CY18.
The three Japan-related news topics that have overwhelmingly dominated the attention of Western media so far this year are COVID-19 (by far), the Tokyo Olympics and the showdown at Toshiba.
The Tokyo summer Olympics have been a welcome distraction over the last few weeks and well done to Japan for hosting the games so successfully in the current environment. In particular it is inspiring to see the years of preparation and planning being showcased by the top competitors in their respective sports.
Asian stocks suffered losses in July, weighed down by the selloff in Chinese equities following Beijing’s regulatory crackdown on the private tutoring and technology-related sectors.
Cross-asset pricing has recently been challenging our reflationary outlook. When we first discussed the prospects for reflation about a year ago, we identified a number of key factors.
The US Treasury (UST) curve bull flattened in July. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting was largely uneventful, although the forward guidance on asset purchases was tweaked slightly to indicate that progress had been made towards the Committee’s goals although still shy of the “substantial further progress” needed for the start of tapering.
Our philosophy is centred on the search for “Future Quality” in a company. Future Quality companies are those that we believe will attain and sustain high returns on investment. ESG considerations are integral to Future Quality investing as good companies make for good investment
Japan’s economy should boom after the Olympics burden passes. Its stock market will likely rebound sharply too, but one item that has limited Japan’s equity culture, and thus, its wealth, especially for wary pensioners, is overly conservative guidance by corporations for upcoming fiscal year earnings.
Asian stocks edged lower in June, partly weighed down by a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the region. Lingering worries about rising inflation and fears of a faster-than-expected tapering of the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programme also dampened sentiment.
The US Treasury (UST) yield curve flattened in June, with short-dated bonds underperforming. The Federal Reserve’s (Fed) hawkish pivot caused the UST curve to flatten aggressively mid-month.
We discuss what global inflation could mean for Japan, with the country having struggled extensively with deflation; we also assess the BOJ‘s plan to boost funding for mitigating climate change and what that could mean in the longer run from a corporate governance perspective.
The momentum gained by the global credit market in 2020 has continued into 2021 and we appear to be on track for another strong year of performance. Low government bond yields, ample liquidity and improving credit quality have supported a market that now trades with spreads at all-time lows in some pockets.
Japan’s stock market does not deserve many of the ages-old worries and criticisms. Indeed, while not every company or circumstance is perfect, its performance, though lower than that of the US, has steadily outperformed, in constant currency terms, its other main global market rival, Europe, since late 2012 when Shinzo Abe was elected to lead the LDP.
Out of the six scenarios presented, a solid majority of our committee agreed again on a positive scenario, in which the global economy matches the market consensus for very strong growth, while equities continue to rally.
After many years of trying to stimulate inflation, central banks are now facing inflation levels that are far exceeding recent trends. In May, eurozone inflation rose to 2% and in the US core inflation reached 3.8% (almost a 30-year high).
The 2007-2008 global financial crisis had a lasting impact on public and private pension funds, as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and massive fraud committed by Wall Street money manager Bernie Madoff placed greater emphasis on fiduciary obligations and manager due diligence.
Grace Yan, a Senior Portfolio Manager and a member of the Nikko AM Asian Equity Team, talks about the underlying reasons behind her recent success in winning Citywire Asia’s Best Fund Manager award and her passion about uncovering hidden gems in the Asian small-cap equity arena.
Despite very bumpy economic data—particularly on inflation—rates have compressed, implying most of the “surprises” have already been priced in. This is positive for growth assets that respond better to yield curve stability than the sudden steepening that defined the first quarter.
Supported by optimism about the region’s ongoing economic recovery, Asian stocks delivered decent gains in May, shrugging off concerns about a spike in COVID-19 cases in several Asian countries and persistent worries about inflation.
US Treasury (UST) yields traded in a relatively narrow range in May. Inflation fears resurfaced, prompted by rising commodity prices and a marked increase in headline consumer and producer price indices in the US.
We explain why corporate earnings in FY21 are expected to begin reflecting recovering confidence among Japanese companies as vaccine rollouts gain momentum. We also look into the BOJ’s trial run for a digital yen and the impact such a currency could have on the economy and markets.
With the recent rise of nationalism in China, many foreign brands operating in the world’s second largest economy are now treading very carefully in their marketing campaigns and public communiqué.
We believe that Asian REITs will continue to perform well while the economic recovery in Asia and the rest of the world remains strong and as long as the rise in bond yields do not become excessive.
Who hasn’t sat at home, shouting at the TV as a contestant on a quiz show offers up a hopelessly wrong answer? Incredulity, frustration and a sense of helplessness are all common emotions in that situation. At least you normally get a good laugh at the end of it.
While the Japanese equity market managed to strongly rebound in 2020 after a sharp fall at the start of the pandemic, it has lagged its peers in 2021 amid the country’s struggle to contain COVID-19 and its slow rollout of vaccinations.
Until recently, Japan was lauded as one of the few countries that successfully limited the COVID-19 outbreak. However, more than a year into the pandemic, Japan’s slow vaccine rollout is coming under increased scrutiny with the country lagging far behind its G7 peers in vaccinations.
The US Treasury (UST) market has been an important barometer of the reflation trade for markets this year. Most asset classes have performed in line with movements in UST yields as correlations, whether positive or negative, remain strong.
Asian stocks turned in decent gains in April on optimism about the region’s economic recovery, especially after China and several other Asian countries reported better-than-expected 1Q21 GDP growth. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index gained 2.5% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing", quipped Oscar Wilde.
We gauge Japan’s slow vaccine rollout from an economic perspective and assess the shift in work styles that occurred during the pandemic and its potential impact on real estate prices.
Exhibiting an extensive track record of outperformance versus big caps and offering good diversification from traditional equities, we believe that Asian small-cap stocks provide numerous investment merits for long-term investors.
The striking 52% year-on-year surge in prices of second-hand US vehicles has, as expected, caught market attention, with global chip shortages often blamed for the disruption in the market for used cars. Behind the scenes, however, stands Joe Biden, the US incumbent president, whose first 100 days in the office was marked by several milestones, some of which could quite convincingly add more “meat” to the story.
Emerging Markets (EM) debt began 2021 by consolidating after an exceptional performance at the end of 2020. The negative performance was mostly driven by a widening of US Treasury yields while spreads remained broadly unchanged.
Our philosophy is centred on the search for “Future Quality” in a company. Future Quality companies are those that we believe will attain and sustain high returns on investment. ESG considerations are integral to Future Quality investing as good companies make for good investment.
The global credit market saw a positive start into the year in Q12021 as spreads continued to tighten. However, total returns were negatively impacted by the global move toward higher rates. At the beginning of 2021, cyclical sectors came back to the forefront and outperformed. Energy and automotive sectors were among the winners, while utilities lagged the rally.
As reflationary dynamics gain support from refreshed stimulus in the US and a largely successful vaccine rollout with returning growth already to show for it, the reflation trade appears a bit exhausted as measured by market action. However, we see the current dynamic more as a pause than a conclusion.
The UST yield curve steepened further in March as stronger-than-expected domestic economic data prints, passage of the US dollar (USD) 1.9 trillion stimulus package and a ramp-up in the rate of US vaccinations amid slowing daily infection rates prompted investors to increasingly price in accelerating growth in the coming quarters.
Asian stocks succumbed to profit-taking in March as hopes over a vaccine-led regional economic recovery were overshadowed by persistent reflationary concerns and rising global bond yields. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index fell by 2.5% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
Does investing in palm oil companies pose a controversy or present an opportunity? Here is a deep-dive analysis of the palm oil sector and the material ESG issues facing it. All in all, we believe that positive ESG changes represent a strong opportunity for palm oil companies, and we look for candidates that strive towards sustainability goals and exceed their ESG targets.
Following a tumultuous 2020 marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, global growth in 2021 is expected to improve on the back of positive vaccine developments and continued government measures. However, the pace of recovery is likely to be uneven among economies and fears of a resurgence of COVID-19 linger. It would be presumptuous to say that we are finally out of the woods.
We provide our view on the Bank of Japan’s latest policy review, under which the central bank decided to allow long-term rates to fluctuate in a wider band and removed its annual target for ETF purchases. We also assess the barring of foreign spectators from the Olympic games.
A large majority of our members agreed on a positive scenario in which the global economy mildly outperforms market consensus, while equities continue to rally.
In February 2021, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average reached JPY 30,000 for the first time in over three decades. We believe that equities will keep rising, and that amid this shift in the broader market Japanese value stocks are on the cusp of a long-awaited turnaround.
The strong start to the year for global equity markets hit its first bump in the road in February. While most countries are still delivering a positive return for the year, markets have retreated from their highs to varying degrees.
Asian stocks gained in February as investors upheld optimism about a vaccine-led regional economic recovery. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index rose 1.2% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
The potential return of long-muted inflation sparked a meaningful jump in US Treasury (UST) yields in February. Fears of rising price pressures were prompted by the combination of robust domestic data, positive development on the COVID-19 vaccine front and an anticipated increase in US federal spending. Overall, 2-year and 10-year yields ended the month at 0.13% and 1.41%, respectively, about 1.9 basis points (bps) and 34 bps higher compared to end-January.
For corporate bond investors one of the most important points of discussion is spreads. Spreads are the industry term for the risk premium an investor aims to earn in the corporate bond market. It is the difference between the yield a bond is promising and the risk-free rate. If spreads are narrowing it is positive for investors as the price of the corporate bond will increase; likewise, a widening leads to a lower bond price.
We assess the factors that enabled the Nikkei to rise above the 30,000 threshold for the first time since 1990; we also view the recent Robinhood frenzy from a Japanese market perspective.
The introduction of the EU’s Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation in March 2021 will see significant changes to the way asset management is conducted. It includes new disclosure requirements for investment firms to address environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns and we welcome it with open arms.
The investment industry is constantly searching for ways to improve its decision-making processes. Some firms increase their research teams while others move into quantitative fields such as machine learning. Amid this constant search, we focus on an alternative way to enhance the quality of our decisions; mindfulness can make the difference between a rushed, emotional decision and a thoughtful, rational conclusion.
Asian stocks brushed aside uncertainties posed by new COVID-19 variants and climbed higher in January. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index rose 4.1% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
The US Treasury (UST) yield curve steepened in January. The prospect of increased federal spending in the US prompted a sharp upward move in UST yields at the start of the year.
In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected a wide variety of Japanese assets, including the real estate investment trust (J-REIT) market. J-REITs have bounced back since, but their recovery has been sluggish compared to the Japanese equity market’s rebound. Despite the slower recovery, we believe J-REITs have ample upside room once the rise gathers pace.
We discuss Japan’s robust manufacturing sector and why it is not about reclaiming the past; we also take a look at the BOJ’s ETF purchases amid the current rally by equities.
Our philosophy is centred on the search for “Future Quality” in a company. Future Quality companies are those that we believe will attain and sustain high returns on investment.
2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as the year of the pandemic. While in financial market terms it is now tempting to think of COVID-19 as old news, the virus still presents substantial risks to the economic outlook.
Asian stocks turned in solid gains in December, buoyed by optimism about a vaccine-led global economic rebound, fresh US fiscal stimulus and robust economic data from China. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index rose 6.8% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
The US Treasury (UST) yield curve steepened slightly in December. The UST 10-year bond yield rose 7.5 basis points (bps) to 0.915%, while the 2-year bond yield fell by 2.7 bps to 0.122%. Concerns in the month revolved around rising COVID-19 cases in Europe, particularly in the UK, and over the uncertainty of fiscal stimulus in the US.
We look into the potential economic impact of Japan’s attempt to become carbon neutral. We also analyse why Japan’s fiscal condition draws little attention although the country is on course to spend a record amount in its upcoming budget.
US capitalism was built on large societal divisions, but sometimes such becomes intolerable and the majority of the population revolts. In this case, the virus accentuated the income divide and engendered even greater angst. However, during the past four years, the majority fought back in different ways and ended up fighting each other, while the wealthy prospered more than ever, with high-skill workers reaping gains while lower-skill workers struggled and were often displaced, especially after the virus.
As European Commission President Ursla von der Leyen announced the free trade agreement with the UK and the EU, she quoted T.S. Eliot: “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” Well, with the end of 2020 we certainly have a new year to look forward to, but it feels we are more like in the middle of this unsettled time than at an end.
Despite the devastating human and economic toll caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, and in many emerging economies in particular, emerging market debt investors were rewarded with positive returns in 2020, with local currency, external sovereign and corporate bond indices posting returns in excess of 2.5%, 5% and 7%, respectively.
The last 12 months have seen a significant rotation of topics discussed at investment meetings worldwide. The agenda has moved from macroeconomic data to infection rates, hospitalization rates, vaccinations and other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We can head into 2021 with New Zealand the envy of many. But it remains to be seen how long this euphoria will last. Agriculture and horticulture are both promising, and the technology sector has been touted as the next big thing, but without a new major driver of growth, there’s no guarantee that our economic reality will match our ambition. Leveraging New Zealand’s exposure to fast growing economies such as China remains an important economic recovery strategy. But our greatest hope for emerging successfully from this period of wider “confidence slump” is that the low and plentiful cash stimulates risk taking and stimulates the economy, propelling New Zealand into its next phase of prosperity.
We continue to spend the vast majority of our time on company research and there are doubtless other observers better placed to predict which path that the market will go down, but it seems more likely to us that the future will look much like the pre-COVID-19 recent past. For instance, central banks have become increasingly politicised in recent years. At the same time, many national governments are more indebted than ever, having rushed through huge wage support programmes—designed to postpone a severe economic reckoning as a result of the lockdowns that they imposed.
We believe 2021 will be remembered as a year that marked the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 crisis as the world develops vaccines to counter the pandemic. In Japan, we expect a gradual recovery of its economy in 2021, as the pandemic’s impact lessens, and economic activity normalises.
The year 2020 is one most would like to forget, but for markets, performance was particularly strong despite the substantial COVID-19-related economic fallout. Certainly, ample liquidity in the form of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus was a key driver of performance, but near-term optimism may also be warranted. The vaccine rollout could return demand to more normal levels in 2021 and potentially beyond, given the pent-up demand on the back of still-massive amounts of liquidity sloshing through the system.
Following the negative performance of 2020, we believe 2021 could see better returns and a recovery for Singapore equities. We believe equity returns will remain supported by the re-opening of the Singapore economy and expect an improved market performance in 2021. With the backdrop of fewer global trade conflicts, accelerating exports, accommodative policy, higher return on equity and low foreign ownership, we expect the outlook for 2021 earnings to improve and that should support better market returns.
Despite the pandemic, markets in China were resilient and we believe that they will continue to reach new highs in 2021. Structural factors that drove the Chinese markets in 2019 and 2020 remain intact and strong leadership enabled the Chinese markets to be among the best performing (if not the best performing) markets in the world. In addition to the structural factors that we have highlighted repeatedly over the past few years, such as import substitution trends, high value-added manufacturing and deep penetration and consumption of e-commerce, new structural factors have started to emerge that stoke our optimism towards the Chinese markets.