We talk about the importance of staying focused on the broader implications of Japan’s corporate governance reforms when misconduct at major companies make the headlines; we also discuss the prospects for real estate and whether the market presents a bargain.
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.
As we roll into the August lull, we cannot help but ask the question: Where has the reflation trade gone? Expectations were for a display of heroism by the Federal Reserve (Fed) with Chair Jerome Powell announcing his grand taper plan at the Jackson Hole symposium, but I guess we will still have to wait for the big reveal.
New Zealand’s bond market was relatively flat in June, although most sectors were on the positive side. Looking ahead, New Zealand appears set to track the US, where interest rate hikes could now happen as early as 2022.
This month, we take a look at the current state and prospects of New Zealand’s five main electricity generators/retail providers. Almost all the electricity in New Zealand is generated by five companies: Genesis Energy, Contact Energy, Meridian Energy, Mercury Energy and Trustpower.
This is the likely phrase one will often hear in a few weeks, especially among equity investors and Japan’s political leadership. Of course, there are currently very few people in Japan who are very enthusiastic about holding the Olympics and virtually everyone would agree that it is a burden, but only the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can cancel an Olympics.
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 and China are likely reaching peak growth as stimulus and the initial burst of pent-up demand begin to wane. In China, while the credit impulse has turned negative—usually an ominous sign—demand continues to normalise, shifting from outsized demand in manufacturing back to normal patterns of consumption with authorities still fine-tuning the extension of credit to the parts of the real economy that need it.
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.
The New Zealand equity market has been blessed by strong upward revisions in corporate earnings and a robust macro framework, with the country further along than its peers in a V-shaped recovery from a COVID-19-induced downturn.
We believe that the recent rise in New Zealand’s interest rates has put the bond market in a good place, as the alternative may have been a negative interest rate regime instead. Without higher interest rates the government would have found it difficult to fund itself, as the country’s bonds may not have otherwise been attractive to offshore investors.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
US Treasury (UST) yields stabilised in April. Yields came off despite domestic data confirming that the US economy had gained momentum, and inflation numbers that were above market expectations. The Federal Open Market Committee statement announced no new changes to the direction of monetary policy but offered a more upbeat tone on the outlook.
"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.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) returned -3.58% over the month. The yield curve steepened dramatically as 3-year government bond yields ended the month 1 basis point (bp) higher at 0.12%, while 10-year government bond yields spiked by 79 basis points (bps) to 1.92%. Short-term bank bill rates were marginally higher.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned 1.5% during the month. Australian equities underperformed key offshore markets as a strong reporting season was offset by a surge in 10-year bond yields late in the month on the back of inflationary expectations. The global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and US fiscal stimulus saw the reflation trade take hold.
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.
Markets have become choppy, particularly toward month-end, and we expect more of the same given the nearly unrelenting strong run in risk assets since late March 2020 that gained fresh momentum early in November following the US elections.
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.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) returned -0.42% over the month. The yield curve steepened as 3-year government bond yields ended the month flat at 0.11%, while 10-year government bond yields rose by 16 basis points (bps) to 1.13%. Short-term bank bill rates were unchanged.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned 0.3% during the month. Australian equities outperformed most key offshore markets during the month as equity markets saw a pull-back late in the month. COVID-19 cases passed the 100 million mark globally and many countries continued to struggle with COVID-19 variant strains and vaccine supply issues.
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.
Worldwide, 2020 was unequivocally dreadful; a year of loss, pain, anxiety and separation that found no worthy adversary in technology or social privilege.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) returned -0.27% over the month. The yield curve steepened as 3-year government bond yields ended the month flat at 0.11%, while 10-year government bond yields rose by 7 basis points (bps) to 0.97%. Short-term bank bill rates were largely unchanged.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned 1.2% during the month. Australian equities lagged key offshore markets during the month. Despite COVID-19 cases rising exponentially in the US and Europe, the start of the vaccine roll-out and further certainty regarding the US election result saw equities move higher.
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.
We expect North Asia to continue to lead the region’s recovery (at least in the first half of the year). But we also expect the growth divergence between North Asia and the rest of the region to narrow. Unprecedented fiscal support from governments have been pivotal to the ongoing recovery. We expect fiscal action to continue in the coming year but anticipate renewed private sector confidence as the vaccine becomes broadly available and provides a powerful tailwind to regional growth.
Asian countries have, by and large, handled the COVID-19 pandemic better than their western counterparts and are now emerging from that nadir. Most of these countries have plenty of fiscal and/or monetary stimulus headroom. And this superior growth and better national finances are available at a significant discount to developed markets. A languid US dollar will enhance local currency returns in these “risk assets”.
We expect Asian credit spreads will tighten gradually over the coming months, supported by a solid rebound in gross domestic product (GDP) growth for most Asian economies in 2021 and stable to slightly better corporate credit fundamentals.
The global markets surged in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While we expect the liquidity-driven rise to continue for a while, we should be prepared for the tide to eventually turn. We identify Japanese industries, notably “Delta ESG” stocks, that could become sources of alpha in the post-pandemic world.
The Nikko Asset Management Global Equity team philosophy is based on the belief that investing in ‘Future Quality’ companies will lead to outperformance over the long term. This paper draws on academic evidence to outline the three fundamental concepts which underpin our definition of ‘Future Quality’ investments.
Wealthy individuals across generations are interested in investing for environmental or social impact, but Millennials are by far the most active in evaluating and indeed, demanding these strategies.
While economic data is likely to remain soft, driven by the more recent lockdowns in the US and Europe, markets are rightly looking through the near-term gloom as impending vaccines for COVID-19 are showing the proverbial light at the end of this nightmarish tunnel. Over 2021, the world, in our view, should gradually return to some sense of normalcy as the pandemic slowly recedes in the rear-view mirror.
Although some on the committee agreed with the market consensus for a moderate continuation of economic growth and equity markets, and a few were even more cautious, especially regarding increased fears of inflation later in 2021, the majority agreed with a more positive scenario in which the global economy outperforms market consensus, while equities, especially those outside of the US, rally sharply.
Asian stocks turned in strong gains in November, boosted by positive COVID-19 vaccine developments, rising hopes for better US-Asia ties under the leadership of US President-elect Joe Biden and stronger-than-expected economic data from several Asian countries. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index rose 8.0% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
The US Treasury (UST) yield curve flattened in November. Risk markets rallied after the US presidential election. Investor confidence was lifted following positive trial results of a COVID-19 vaccine. Yields subsequently retracted part of their earlier rise on news of soaring COVID-19 infection rates in the US and Europe and near-term downside risks to the economy.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) returned -0.11% over the month. The yield curve steepened as 3-year government bond yields ended the month 1 basis point (bp) lower at 0.11%, while 10-year government bond yields rose by 7 bps to 0.90%.
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index returned 10.2% during the month. Australian equities enjoyed a strong month (in fact, the best monthly return since 1992) on positive COVID-19 vaccine news, additional quantitative easing measures locally and increased certainty regarding the US presidential election result.
The Japanese equity market has posted impressive gains as 2020 draws to a close, with the Nikkei Stock Average reaching a near three-decade high, and we assess the rise from a long-term perspective. We also analyse how Japanese equities have managed to defy a stronger yen.
Japan struggles with an aging and shrinking population and it is important for the country, both from an economic and social perspective, to improve its relatively low labour productivity by efficiently utilising its human resources.
For October, on a seasonally adjusted YoY basis, Japan’s October YoY Industrial Production (IP) result was better than both US Manufacturing IP and US Total IP. It likely surpassed Europe’s too.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered changes in Japan that would have taken many years to initiate in less turbulent times. We believe there is significant value to be unlocked under such circumstances.
As we enter the festive season, we suspect we are on both the naughty and nice list. We didn’t ask for more virus and certainly did not ask for a prolonged decision on the US election. Frankly, we would rather be gifted lumps of coal.
US presidential election jitters and an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the US and Europe triggered a downturn in global equities in October. Asian stocks, however, managed to turn in decent gains for the month, owing to a slowing pace of COVID-19 infections in the region and growing optimism over China’s economic recovery. The MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index rose 2.8% in US dollar (USD) terms over the month.
US Treasury (UST) yields rose in October. The US presidential election and the fiscal stimulus deal were the focal points of news headlines and markets in October. Worries about the acceleration of COVID-19 cases in the US and Western Europe, and renewed lockdowns in the latter, partially offset the upward pressure. Overall, 2-year yields ended 2.6 basis points (bps) higher at 0.155%, while 10-year yields rose 19.0 bps to 0.875%.
With the US presidential election now behind us, the two candidates seem to be proceeding in parallel universes. The apparent winner, President-elect Joe Biden, has transition planning and inauguration on his mind while President Donald Trump continues to challenge the election process itself.
We assess the US election outcome from the perspective of the Japanese equity market, focusing on the economic and policy changes that are expected to accompany the change in US leadership.