Browsing public site

Quarterly Market Comment - for the quarter ended August 2020

Market: New Zealand
Sector: -
  • The last quarter has been a stellar one for investors, with positive returns from all asset classes. Equity markets continued to trade higher as central banks confirmed cash rates are likely to remain around zero for years to come, and economic data indicated a V-shape recovery is underway in a number of sectors.
  • Equity markets rose further through August, which included the season that companies report their results to market, continuing a five-month positive return streak and bringing the year-to-date (YTD) return to +3.9%. Markets in New Zealand and the United States have hit new record highs.
  • Fixed income returns were also positive in August and for the last quarter. The NZD appreciated slightly against the USD but fell against the AUD. Over the quarter the NZD was up over 9% against the USD, which moderated unhedged global equity returns for local investors.

Evidence of a V-shaped recovery

The global pandemic is not yet behind us. People in the northern hemisphere have been enjoying their summer holidays at the same time infection rates have been increasing. Yet the overall mortality rate continues to decline, highlighting better overall care and treatment options. At the same time, central banks and government policy makers have continued to support households, businesses, and banks allowing businesses to reopen and encouraging healthy economic activity as lockdowns are eased.

For now, the outcome has been a broad rebound in economic activity around the world. Housing has been particularly strong in many countries due to a combination of historically low interest rates, pent up demand, nesting (people redirecting spending to their home and in-house activities), and, in New Zealand, a shortage of supply. Along with houses, low interest rates have boosted demand for new cars, which has contributed to an upturn in global manufacturing.

Retail sales have also surprised many, with a strong rebound following a weak second quarter of the year. Household savings rates went up during the lockdowns and the use of those savings once economies reopened has contributed to a more robust recovery than many had predicted.

Central banks committed to ultra-low interest rates

In most cases, central bank interest rates are near zero and indications are they will stay there for a long time to come. The United States Federal Reserve has gone one step further by confirming it is focused on reducing unemployment and is now prepared to let inflation run above its official 2% target for some time before even thinking about raising rates. Comments from one of our own RBNZ Deputy Governors suggest our central bank is also prepared to do something similar.

The implication is that interest rates are going to remain at ultra-low levels possibly for years. Those waiting with cash in the bank for higher deposit rates are likely to be disappointed. The long-term trends contributing to the decline in inflation (including ageing populations, high debt, globalisation, and the proliferation of technology) are all still with us. Inflation risks remain benign near-term. That’s not to say all the money printing won’t eventually cause some inflationary pressures if it creates excess demand for goods and services. But that risk appears a fair way out from here.

Earnings optimism

As the equity markets continue to recover strongly, so too does optimism for future company earnings. July and August is when companies report their financial results to markets. Expectations for Q2 2020 earnings were low, and we saw more positive surprises than negative ones. Reflecting more buoyant than expected economic conditions, analysts are now generally lifting earnings expectations for this year and the year ahead.

The ‘working from home’ theme is becoming a permanent theme in many economies, with many people moving out of the cities and into the suburbs. This has been beneficial for industries such as homebuilders, car manufacturers, home furnishing, and anything else related to working or shopping from home.

With positive signs much of the global economy is experiencing a sharp rebound in activity, investors should become increasingly confident that the low in earnings is behind us, and a recovery is underway.

Stock market indices

Source: Thompson Reuters, Forsyth Barr analysis

Uncertainty still ahead, but stick to the plan

The commentary above all sounds pretty positive, and clearly equity markets have responded favourably.

But these remain unprecedented (a word used a lot at the moment) times. We’re still navigating the first global pandemic in over a century. Interest rates are the lowest in history, which may lead to economic imbalances longer-term. And governments are spending money with abandon, funded largely by central banks printing money, but this can’t last forever.  

Given the pace of recovery in equity markets, it is understandable why some investors are nervous. We are not ignorant of these risks. We continue to monitor the implications for markets and businesses, and evaluate where investment opportunities and challenges may arise. But there have been a few reminders over the past few months including: (1) markets are able to remain resilient in the face of bad news, (2) share prices reflect the long-term earnings companies will generate over the years and decades ahead, not just the next six to 12 months, and (3) it’s not possible to consistently time or predict short-term movements in markets. We continue to recommend you stick to your long-term investment plan. Yes, it exposes you to near-term risk. But without bearing this risk, you can’t earn long-term returns.  

Kevin Stirrat
Director/Strategy, Wealth Management Research 

Matt Henry
Head of Wealth Management Research



Not personalised financial advice: The recommendations and opinions in this publication do not take into account your personal financial situation or investment goals. The financial products referred to in this publication may not be suitable for you.  If you wish to receive personalised financial advice, please contact your Forsyth Barr Investment Adviser.  The value of financial products may go up and down and investors may not get back the full (or any) amount invested.  Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance.  Disclosure statements for Forsyth Barr Authorised Financial Advisers are available on request and free of charge. Disclosure: Forsyth Barr Limited and its related companies (and their respective directors, officers, agents and employees) (“Forsyth Barr”) may have long or short positions or otherwise have interests in the financial products referred to in this publication, and may be directors or officers of, and/or provide (or be intending to provide) investment banking or other services to, the issuer of those financial products (and may receive fees for so acting). Forsyth Barr is not a registered bank within the meaning of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989. Forsyth Barr may buy or sell financial products as principal or agent, and in doing so may undertake transactions that are not consistent with any recommendations contained in this publication. Forsyth Barr confirms no inducement has been accepted from the researched entity, whether pecuniary or otherwise, in connection with making any recommendation contained in this publication. Analyst Disclosure Statement: In preparing this publication the analyst(s) may or may not have a threshold interest in the financial products referred to in this publication. For these purposes a threshold interest is defined as being a holder of more than $50,000 in value or 1% of the financial products on issue, whichever is the lesser. In preparing this publication, non-financial assistance (for example, access to staff or information) may have been provided by the entity being researched. Disclaimer: This publication has been prepared in good faith based on information obtained from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, that information has not been independently verified or investigated by Forsyth Barr. Forsyth Barr does not make any representation or warranty (express or implied) that the information in this publication is accurate or complete, and, to the maximum extent permitted by law, excludes and disclaims any liability (including in negligence) for any loss which may be incurred by any person acting or relying upon any information, analysis, opinion or recommendation in this publication.  Forsyth Barr does not undertake to keep current this publication; any opinions or recommendations may change without notice.  Any analyses or valuations will typically be based on numerous assumptions; different assumptions may yield materially different results.  Nothing in this publication should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any financial product, or to engage in or refrain from doing so, or to engage in any other transaction.  Other Forsyth Barr business units may hold views different from those in this publication; any such views will generally not be brought to your attention.  This publication is not intended to be distributed or made available to any person in any jurisdiction where doing so would constitute a breach of any applicable laws or regulations or would subject Forsyth Barr to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction. Terms of use: Copyright Forsyth Barr Limited. You may not redistribute, copy, revise, amend, create a derivative work from, extract data from, or otherwise commercially exploit this publication in any way.  By accessing this publication via an electronic platform, you agree that the platform provider may provide Forsyth Barr with information on your readership of the publications available through that platform.

Access Forsyth Barr research

Explore our research reports, news and analysis by logging into your account.

If you are not yet a client, create an account to read reports and view market announcements and company news.

Quarterly Market Comment - for the quarter ended August 2020