Insights

Investment Insights by our experts and thought leaders

Why we should pay special attention to Japan’s Q4 capex surge

One of Japan’s more recent economic releases made us sit up and take notice. Within the very resilient Q4 capital expenditure figures released this week was one important reinforcing indicator of Japan’s structural recovery, or in the Bank of Japan’s language, its “virtuous circle” of reflation. One near-term positive development for Japan is the very real possibility that the “technical recession” in Japan Q4 GDP (down 0.4% quarter-on-quarter) could be, thanks to unexpectedly strong Q4 capex, revised away.
This is the “swan song” of this report, which comes at an appropriate time because it was always meant to prove to readers that corporate governance, and the overall case for investing in Japanese equities, was sound. Now that the market’s performance and global enthusiasm for Japan has swelled, there is less need for the report, although it is useful to note the continuance of its impressive trend.
We explain how reflationary dynamics underpin the foundations of Japan’s incipient structural recovery and illustrate why we believe the country’s equity comeback should not be written off as another flash-in-the-pan cyclical upturn headed for an eventual return to deflationary dynamics.
The seemingly impossible soft landing on the back of one of the most aggressive monetary tightening cycles in history is looking not just possible, but increasingly probable. US data is coming in stronger and global demand is generally steady with increasing channels of potential upside.

Energy security and Future Quality

Our Future Quality investment philosophy revolves around identifying companies that have pricing power, possess management teams that invest will appropriately, boast strong balance sheets and offer opportunities that are not yet priced in by the market. This approach will remain constant in 2024 although we are also acutely aware of the significant impact energy security will have on global decarbonisation efforts.
The Indian market remains attractive. It has the highest earnings growth in the Asian region, valuations that are in the middle of its historic range and an economy that is growing strongly with inflation under control.

New Zealand Fixed Income Monthly – January 2024

Despite continued struggles with inflation in New Zealand and elsewhere, our view is that the RBNZ’s next change to the OCR is likely to be downward, albeit at a later timing than the market has recently been expecting.

New Zealand Equity Monthly –January 2024

We view 2024 with optimism—markets could begin to be driven by company earnings rather than by inflation outcomes and interest rate expectations as they have in the past year, and New Zealand’s market is well placed to shrug off volatility experienced in 2023.
We expect an anticipated decrease in developed market bond yields, coupled with enhanced foreign inflows, to bolster demand for Asian bonds. We see Asia credit remaining well supported with subdued net new supply as issuers continue to access cheaper onshore funding.

Unlocking fixed income biodiversity opportunities: NWB Bank

While bond issuers have embraced the opportunity to help fund the transition toward carbon neutrality, the issuance of nature and biodiversity-related bonds remains more limited. However, biodiversity bond issuance is beginning to move from niche to mainstream.

The Future Quality approach to navigating the AI arms race

The emergence of AI has dramatically shifted the future pathway for the technology sector, and our research has found that this emerging structural trend chimes with our Future Quality principles.

Navigating Japan Equities: Monthly Insights from Tokyo (February 2024)

This month we discuss how emerging growth narratives such as semiconductors may come into focus in 2024; we also assess the slightly hawkish turn the BOJ took at its January policy meeting.

Japan’s reform measures pave the way for an exceptional 2024

Last year, global investors turned their attention firmly towards Japan as a way of increasing their Asia exposure while avoiding perceived geopolitical and regulatory risks linked to China, and amid the high inflation environment dominating western economies. But this year, Japan’s success is more based on its own merits.

The US economy continues to look robust, so we have stayed constructive on growth assets and short maturity global credit where yields are attractive. We still believe that the path to 2% inflation in the US is relatively unclear. If anything, our conviction on this point has increased because easier financial conditions may ultimately pave the way for the return of sticky inflation.

The peaking of interest rates and potentially the US dollar could be a boon for broader markets—particularly those more sensitive to liquidity, countries with more room to ease rates and areas where positive fundamental changes have been overlooked. China’s economy is undergoing a major transition into one that promotes advanced manufacturing, technology, self-sufficiency and higher-end overseas growth. These are areas of our focus.

Home bias might be an understandable trait for investors, but in the current environment a lack of meaningful international diversification—particularly towards the Asia-Pacific region—risks leaving substantial amounts of investment returns on the table.

We expect macro and corporate credit fundamentals across Asia ex-China to stay resilient due to fiscal buffers although slower economic growth seems to loom over the horizon.

Navigating Japan Equities: Monthly Insights from Tokyo (January 2024)

This month we discuss why the equity market is relatively unaffected by the political scandal shaking Japan’s ruling party; we also assess how 2024 could become an inflection point in the country’s “savings to investments” drive.

Although we believe that the prospects for the economy remain mostly unchanged, the outlook is softer at the margins, perhaps reflecting the tightening of financial conditions seen during the recent months. Over the past month, however, financial conditions have eased considerably on the assumption of impending rate cuts.

New Zealand markets outlook 2024: the only certainty is more uncertainty

Given the volume of quality defensive companies with relatively high dividend yields, higher for longer interest rates are a significant headwind for New Zealand’s equity markets. Alongside these, the country’s globally-focused export companies will be looking for the global growth story to play out positively, but for the meantime will at least be enjoying a relatively weak New Zealand dollar.

Corporate governance reform points to opportunities ahead in Japan equities

Japan may not be known for quick, sweeping reforms. However, developments in the country’s corporate governance over the last 10 years suggest that once changes are set in motion, they can have a deep and lasting impact, raising the value of its companies and creating investment opportunities along the way.

Global Investment Committee’s outlook

We expect poor 1Q24 returns for MSCI World after the 4Q23 surge, but a more positive trend for the rest of 2024. Regionally, we much prefer Japan in the year ahead. Our view on global bonds for USD-based investors is that they are preferred during much of the 1H, but only marginally attractive in the 2H.

We expect sentiment toward Asia’s bond markets to turn increasingly positive in 2024. We also expect macro and corporate credit fundamentals across Asia ex-China to stay resilient on the back of fiscal buffers, although slower economic growth appears to loom over the horizon.

Despite short-term negatives, we believe that China continues to offer ample long-term growth opportunities as the country pivots towards advanced manufacturing and technology. Elsewhere, some of the best growth stories globally could be found in India and Indonesia, while Taiwan and South Korea are expected to continue benefitting from a modest upcycle as the semiconductor industry recovers.

Navigating Japan Equities: Monthly Insights from Tokyo (December 2023)

We discuss how a bullish year for Japan equities has brought what was previously out of sight into view and analyse focal points for the market as we head into 2024; we also assess how focusing on efficiency and growth could be the way forward for Japan given its projected drop in the GDP rankings.

Global multi-asset outlook 2024

Our investment themes for 2024 focus on key features of a world in transition. They include higher-for-longer rates, production shortages in natural resources and the search for new sources of productivity. Transitions are never easy, and features of the old world accustomed to low rates may not make it. We believe that some of these old-world features could pose systemic risks as “creative destruction” does not always run smoothly.

New Zealand Equity Monthly – November 2023

November was a stronger month for equities given that central banks around the world began suggesting that interest rates have peaked. While we do not expect to see any rate cuts in the near term, investors appear to believe that the worst is over in terms of rate increases. That view has been beneficial for New Zealand’s equity market, which bounced back by about 4% in November.

New Zealand Fixed Income Monthly – November 2023

Amid significantly negative returns in both the equity and fixed income markets at the end of last year, it was thought that 2023 would be the “year of the bond”. As we near the end of 2023, however, the bond market is still yet to live up to those expectations. Even so, our view is that the upswing for bonds has been deferred but not cancelled. Although cash has been king for the last two to three years, we believe bonds are now poised to take the crown.

Global equity outlook 2024

We are heading into a changing world, where the more recent past can no longer be relied on to guide our path forward. But we are not blindfolded. There are tools we can use to provide a greater degree of certainty. Our Future Quality approach is designed to help us identify franchises that are set to endure.

Global fixed income outlook 2024

We present our 2024 outlook for sustainable fixed income, core markets and credit markets.

Japan equity outlook 2024

We expect 2024 to be a year of domestic consolidation and long-term reform measures, where markets are driven more by Japan-specific events than by global factors. After decades of deflation, we see Japan as finally breaking out of this cycle in 2024, as it enters a virtuous cycle of price increases and wage hikes.

Singapore equity outlook 2024

We believe that our “New Singapore” narrative focusing on sectors and companies that represent the future of the city-state will remain relevant in 2024. Energy transition has risen to prominence within the New Singapore narrative in addition to data, technology, healthcare, logistics, tourism and food solutions.

Asian equity outlook 2024

Considering that major tech companies are profitable, cash rich and cannot afford to lose out in the highly competitive AI race, spending on high-end computing and neural networks looks set to continue in 2024. This will likely create a lasting boon to many component suppliers (the so-called picks and shovels of AI) across Asia.

ASEAN equity outlook 2024

We believe ASEAN will offer good pockets of growth and quality opportunities, as well as earnings resilience and protection amid some of the prevailing global macro headwinds.

Asian credit outlook 2024

We expect fundamentals and technical backdrop for Asian credit to remain supportive in 2024. However, valuation is a challenge with current Asian high-grade spreads near historical lows. The myriad cyclical and structural factors driving the major sub-sectors within Asian high-yield credit makes it is difficult to call the overall spread direction in 2024, although the current spread level remains wide and offers room for compression over the medium term.

Global macro outlook 2024

Much like this report in 2023, global conditions will remain unique and defy a confident overall summary; thus, here are ten predictions on some particularly noteworthy factors.

Asian rates and FX outlook 2024

We expect 2024 to be a year of higher returns and lower volatility for Asian local government bonds as US Treasury yields are seen stabilising. We also see Asian currencies firming against the dollar in 2024 as the Federal Reserve’s rate hike cycle comes to an end.

China equity outlook 2024

For those willing to brave immediate challenges, we believe China will continue to offer long-term opportunities as the country has been working to become technologically self-sufficient and develop high-end technologies on its own in a more challenging regulatory environment.

The just-released 3Q CY23 data on Japan’s aggregate corporate profits was a bit mixed, but the overall corporate recurring pre-tax profit margin surged to a record high on a four-quarter average. The non-financial service sector rose to another record high, but the manufacturing sector fell further from its record high.

We have held on to our view that the “higher for longer” narrative is not necessarily bad for equities, as robust earnings are supported by a US economy that continues to grow at above-trend rates. However, we are also sympathetic to the de-rating process where earnings look simply less attractive compared to higher rates across the yield curve.

Climate change case study: E.ON

In the transition to net zero, the focus is on impact and engagement. We are actively engaged in the global fixed income markets, and support green and sustainable investments in the transition towards overall sustainability in order to meet net zero targets. We are particularly trying to focus on those companies with ambitious targets for net zero and carbon reduction.

We expect macro and corporate credit fundamentals across Asia ex-China to stay resilient with fiscal buffers, although slower economic growth appears to loom over the horizon.

Future Quality Insights -November 2023-New regime, new learning

The last few quarters have been a good reminder that we are in a changing world. As a result, we need to focus always on investing in enduring franchises and we would suggest that our Future Quality approach is soundly placed in that regard. We also need to approach monetary policy with an open mind—sometime soon the central banks could change the game again. In surfing parlance, be ready with your trusted board and make the most of the conditions.

Credit spreads: not as tight as they seem

Recently many fixed income investors have experienced steep price declines in their bond portfolios. We have argued that it is not only duration that explains the interest risk of a portfolio, but that convexity needs to be accounted for as well. In this paper we point out that credit risk measures also have to be adjusted in an environment of declining bond prices.

The emergence of Sustainable Bonds as an asset class has been relatively rapid, and the spectrum of different classifications of investments can naturally be confusing for investors. Here we outline some of the key criteria for investors to look for when investing in Green, Social and Sustainability Bonds (GSS).

New Zealand Equity Monthly – October 2023

In one of the most significant changes surrounding New Zealand’s equity market in recent years, the general election held in October delivered a change of government. Overall business sentiment has been generally positive after the election result. The outcome has been favourable for the aged care sector and building-exposed names. On the other hand, it has thrown up some uncertainties over the future of New Zealand’s environmental policy.

New Zealand Fixed Income Monthly – October 2023

The general election held in October resulted in a change in government for New Zealand. Although it is difficult to gain a full picture at this stage, we can make some key observations on monetary policy: the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s mandate could be pared back to ensure that its sole focus is on managing inflation.

Navigating Japan Equities: Monthly Insights from Tokyo (November 2023)

We analyse the Bank of Japan’s decision to further tweak its yield curve control scheme amid the latest developments hinting at sustained wage growth; we also assess why an acute labour shortage could be a golden opportunity for Japan Inc. to change structurally.

While the risk-off environment stretched into another month, we are still finding plenty of positives in Asia. India’s macro remains favourable; Chinese equity markets are near the cheapest in 20 years; and the semiconductor industry is showing signs of a bottoming. With the US potentially having reached peak interest rates, this could be a welcome backdrop for Asian markets going forward.

Assessing the impact of Green Bonds

The Green Bond market has experienced tremendous growth since 2007, but despite its rapid success, there are still barriers to overcome. In particular, assessing the impact of Green Bonds continues to be a contentious topic.

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Nikko AM works with the UK-based international organisation Carbon Footprint Ltd. to offset carbon emissions through offset programmes, and has been certified as carbon neutral since 2018.