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Investors have enjoyed pleasing returns over the last two months. Hopes of a soft landing for the economy, rapidly falling rates of inflation, and normalising capital market interest rates have provided a boost to almost all asset classes. The monetary policy stance of central banks confirmed this trend last week.
The third quarter of 2023 was characterised by turbulence of varying kinds. Further rises in key interest rates weighed on bond investments and the likelihood of an economic downturn acted as a drag on equity prices, while at the start of October the terror attacks in Israel dragged geopolitics back to centre stage.
Equity markets consolidated over the summer months. The prospect of an economic downturn gave rise to uncertainty. Capital market interest rates barely declined, despite perceptible concerns over the development of the economy and lower rates of inflation. In the US, interest rates actually rose significantly. This environment opens up investment opportunities.
US technology stocks have soared in recent weeks. By contrast, equity markets as a whole have trended sideways. The focus now is on the increasingly pronounced economic downturn and its impact on companies. Inflation rates are still too high, central banks remain hawkish.
The consequences of the rapid rise in interest rates have become all too apparent over the last few weeks. In Switzerland, turbulence in the banking sector triggered the downfall of Credit Suisse. Measures taken by central banks and government brought the situation under control, and the storm abated. The economic slowdown continues to gather pace, but companies are performing well. Time to adjust the compass.
UBS is acquiring Credit Suisse (CS) by means of a share swap. This takeover was made possible by the combined support of the Swiss government, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) and the Swiss National Bank (SNB). The financial markets have swallowed this sedative pill for now, but are likely to remain jittery over the coming weeks. Investors should nonetheless keep calm and remain invested.
Optimism proved the dominant emotion in the markets during the first few weeks of the 2023 investment year. The threats posed by inflation and risks of a recession disappeared almost entirely from the perception of investors. But a considerable amount of the ground gained was then conceded in February.
The last two months have been characterised by solid company results, a healthy labour market and stable consumer spending. Equity markets have recovered. And now US inflation data for October has supplied a further dose of good news.