ALTERNATIVE MARKETS UPDATE – MID DECEMBER 2023 & macro and political outlook december 2023 by macro eagle
The month of November has been quite successful for equities and bonds alike. With the stabilizing macroeconomic landscape, markets have adjusted to the current state with high rates and moderate to high, but decreasing, inflation. In the past month, there were promising signs that no more hikes are necessary to combat inflation. A notable percentage of market participants is even optimistic about rate cuts soon. While US inflation has gone down substantially already in summer, European countries are following and are on their way to similar levels as the US. Unsurprisingly, this led to a more positive view on longer-term rates. This was evident in falling yields for longer-term bonds. US and UK 10-year bonds’ yield decreased by around 10% since October, while German 10-year bonds decreased by almost 25%. Figure 1 summarizes the development of 10-year yields from October in the previously mentioned countries.
ALTERNATIVE MARKETS UPDATE – MID NOVEMBER 2023 & Macro and political outlook november 2023 by marco eagle
The conflict between Israel and the Hamas is in full force and it seems unlikely that the situation will be resolved soon. While the conflict started with an attack from Hamas on civilians in Israel, the focus has fully shifted towards Gaza with group, air, and sea retaliation by the Israel military. Israel is strongly focusing on Gaza, as it is seen as the center of the Hamas. The conflict in Gaza is widely seen as a precarious situation, as Israel is completely blocking entry or exit even for vital goods, such as food, water, and medical supplies. While Israel was supported initially by most Western countries (especially due to the many hostages taken), support is continuing to fade, due to the humanitarian crisis it caused in Gaza. Despite the decreasing support, Israel seems determined to not only free all hostages, but also disabling the military and governmental capabilities of the Hamas. Unsurprisingly, the conflict also affected financial markets significantly. While initial price shocks mostly normalized since early October 2023, oil markets could experience further volatility. Additionally, given the already pressured economies, investors move more capital into safe-haven assets, in particular US-Dollar and gold.
The cryptocurrency markets have been relatively quiet this year. Aside from the surge at the beginning of the year, cryptocurrencies have remained relatively flat since then. The total market capitalization of the industry started slightly below $1tn at the beginning of 2023 and has remained at around $1.2tn since March 2023. The relatively low volatility of the industry also signals a certain level of cautiousness of investors, as the market environment is not great for the industry. In particular recession concerns are holding the industry back, as cryptocurrencies are notorious for sharp declines. Options data on cryptocurrencies also supports a more defensive notion of investors, as implied volatility is close to a record low. The lower degree of risk appetite is also visible in the Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) dominance. This measure quantifies the total market capital of BTC and ETH respective to the total cryptocurrency market capitalization. Their dominance has been on the rise since Q3 2022 and shows fewer investments in riskier and emerging projects. Similarly, during these times stablecoin gained more importance in the space due to their stability compared to other coins. Figure 1 shows the total market capitalization of cryptocurrencies and the dominance of BTC, ETH, and USDT. Historically, these times are the most important ones for the space, as it drives innovation. With no frenzy, emerging companies are not in a rush to cash out which allows them more time to develop their projects.
The current macroeconomic volatility has not changed. Interest rates and inflation remain elevated. At least in most markets, the inflation rate is continuously declining. In the US, inflation reached 3% and is on its way to the upper target of 2% in the short-term. Europe is following this development but still has a substantial way ahead before inflation will eventually reach those levels, as inflation remains at 6.4%. In the UK, the situation is more dire and inflation declined to 7.9% after being above 10% since August 2022. In order to bring inflation levels down, central banks have hiked substantially over the past 1.5 years. In the US, the federal fund rate is now above 5.25% with the most recent hike, which has largely been deemed unnecessary by market participants. The ECB also increased its interest rate by 25bps and is now at 4.25%. The BoE also raised its core interest rate by 25bps in their latest meeting and is now equivalent to the US’s 5.25%. The US also reached the status of positive real interest rates since the hikes started. Europe and the UK are following this trend but have not reached this territory yet. Figure 1 also shows how Europe and the UK are lacking behind the US. In the current environment, a recession is still likely. While projections have changed throughout the year, the consensus opinion remains that there will likely be a short and with a shallow to medium impact on the economy. The most notable change is that the recession expectation has pushed further and further into the future. It started with estimations that it will happen by mid-2023, then towards the end of 2023. Now, most estimates place the recession somewhen in 2024.
From a financial perspective, inflation, interest rates, and a possible recession remain the most vital topics in the short term. While inflation came down substantially in 2023, interest rate hikes have persisted thus far. In the US, the interest rate set by the Fed remains at 5% after they decided that no hike was necessary in June 2023. With the release of job data in early July, talks about further hikes have increased, as data showed that job growth has slowed. Market participants now expect further hikes in 2023. The projection from the beginning of 2023 and possible rate cuts as early as Q3 2023 seem very unlikely at this point. Figure 1 shows the expected interest rate level until 2025. Rates are expected to rise to 5.5% by the end of 2023. Based on a survey from 18 members of the FOMC, rate projections range from 5.1%-6.1% by the end of the year. In 2024 and onwards, gradual rate cuts are expected with rates around 3% by 2025. These projections are highly dependent on a positive development of inflation and job data. Recent inflation data in the US has been very promising, as inflation decreased to “only” 4%. The steep measures taken by the Fed since 2022 managed to combat inflation substantially. Excluding highly impactful developments (e.g., a steep recession or a strong escalation of war), inflation is expected to steadily decrease over the next years. By the end of 2023, inflation is expected to be around 3% ± 1% and slightly above 2% ± 2% in 2024. The expected, slowed decrease in inflation is largely attributed to the tamer measures of the Fed after their initial aggressive hikes. As these take time to become effective, the decrease should slow down. Additionally, a recession or a market correction is highly likely which may cause further issues with inflation and may slow down the effectiveness of the measure so far. Overall, the likelihood of a recession is still significantly high. The most notable differences in the expected recession compared to forecasts in early 2023 and 2022 are the recession is likely a mild one. Additionally, with the recent positive developments, a possible recession is pushed further in the future. At the end of 2022, a recession was anticipated to occur between Q3 and Q4 2023. Current forecasts expect a recession in the US in early 2024. Despite the harsh ecosystem, US equities had a great year in 2023 with a 15% return so far. On an industry level, the picture looks very different. Basically the entire gain of equities came from soaring tech stocks. On the other end of the spectrum are banking stocks, which have suffered this year, especially after the collapse of multiple large banks, such as Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse. Forecasts for the value of the S&P 500 at the end of 2023 deviate substantially. In general, estimates were raised slightly compared to estimates back in 2022. On an aggregate level, investment banks expect the S&P 500 to end the year at roughly above 4,100. The highest estimates are 4,550 for the index. Contributors to these estimates are a less aggressive Fed, resilient economic growth, and the recent interest in artificial intelligence in combination with the soaring tech stocks. Bearish outlooks go as low as 3,400 points and cite a continued slide in stocks as the core reason.
Inflation remains a major concern and continues to exert pressure on markets. At least inflation is declining in most economies. In the US, inflation is declining since July 2022 due to the most aggressive measures taken by the Fed in comparison to other economies. Inflation fell from over 9% to now below 5%. The EU’s inflation kept rising until September 2022 when it surpassed the 11% mark. The more hesitant central bank interventions and higher exposure to the war led to a substantially slower decrease. As of April 2023, inflation still remains slightly above 8%. Toward the end of 2022, the UK behaved similarly to the EU, but could not maintain this trend. As of March, inflation in the UK remained above 10%. The continued struggle of the UK – in comparison to the EU – is largely attributable to a combination of its higher food price inflation, high reliability on gas, and worker shortages as well as wage rises. The latest data revealed that the UK could substantially reduce its inflation in April to below 9%. China and Switzerland were able to keep their inflation below 4% throughout this period and have achieved decreasing inflation similar to the previously discussed economies, albeit for different reasons. Japan followed this development but saw a spike in inflation in April 2023, which stems from a surge in food prices. Figure 1 summarizes the inflation rate development from the beginning of 2022. Figure 2 shows the corresponding interest rate measures the various central banks undertook. The Fed took the most aggressive measures with the current range being between 5% and 5.25%. Market participants widely expected rate hikes to stop earlier in 2023, and it seems now that during the June meeting, there will be a break. However, officials stated that the fight against inflation is not over, and further hikes are still reasonably likely. This dampened the optimism of market participants, especially considering views at the beginning of the year with fewer increases and possible cuts as early as autumn. Such a development seems highly unlikely at this stage. The BoE followed the Fed’s development most closely. Unfortunately, it did not achieve the same results, as the substantial discrepancy in inflation data shows. The ECB took almost half a year longer to implement such measures. As of May 2023, central bank rates in the EU are still 1.25% lower than compared to the US. It is also reasonable to assume that the ECB will continue hiking to offset its currently substantially higher inflation. This can be attributed to the later reaction of the ECB in comparison to the Fed. Switzerland, which had fewer problems with inflation, required less severe interventions. In total, the SNB increased its core interest rate by 2.25% since May 2022. In contrast to other Western economies, its core interest rate sits at a moderate 1.5%. Asian countries, such as China and Japan have struggled little with inflation and needed no or only minor central bank interventions. Nonetheless, the countries still did not go through the aftermath of Covid unscathed.