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Equities Recap: November 2023


Co-Head: Rhea Bhasin

Analysts: Amit Asraf, Noah Braovac, Srujan Jayakeerthi, Ujjawal Jain


European Equities:


In November, European stocks appreciated but continued to lag behind the U.S. market as investors believe the U.S. has better chances of achieving a softer landing. While it varies across European countries, inflation dropped to 2.4% in Europe. Moreover, business activity shrunk despite low unemployment.


Germany's Natural Gas Dependency:


Germany's heavy reliance on Russian natural gas became challenging with the Russian supply shrinking. This impacts energy-intensive industries and consumers. Expectations indicate that high gas prices could persist until 2027, which creates supply side challenges to the German economy.


UK Equities and Economic Indicators:


UK equities did not do as well as expected. GDP nearly reached pre-pandemic levels, and unemployment decreased.


China's Economic Challenges:


China experienced a contracting industry. Challenges include property market crises, local debt risks, and geopolitical tensions. Despite efforts to promote growth, concerns over capital outflows persist.


India's Economic Performance:


India's economy surpassed expectations with 7.6% growth. Yet, concerns over inflation for consumer goods persisted despite good corporate performance. November saw an increase in Indian IPOs, indicating strong economic conditions.


Singapore's Cost of Living:


Singapore remained the world's most expensive city in 2023. This is influenced by high housing prices, transportation, and food costs.


US 


Momentum in Labour Market is Cooling


The October jobs report showed a clear softening in labour market trends with a markedly slower 150,000 pace of job creation, wage growth cooling to 4.1%, and an uptick in the unemployment rate to 3.9% (Deloitte, 2023). Job gains have also become significantly less broad based and jobless claims are trending higher in a sign that labour market conditions are turning less favourable. There is likely to be a continuation in this slowing of hiring.


Inflation is slowing but should remain well-above the Fed’s target


Looking at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation in October, we see a surprising, but welcome, downturn. Headline CPI inflation fell 0.5 percentage point (ppt) to 3.2% year over year (y/y) while core CPI inflation fell 0.1ppt to 4.0% y/y — its slowest pace since September 2021 (EY, 2023). There may still be a reason to be on alert as ‘last mile’ inflation pressures can persist into the next year.


The Fed indicated the hiking cycle has likely ended


The Fed maintained the federal funds rate unchanged at 5.25%–5.50% at the November Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting but kept the door open to additional tightening if needed (EY, 2023). The Fed’s tightening cycle is likely complete and whilst ‘policy recalibration’ will likely be on their New Year’s agenda it is expected to be stable in the short term. Rising Bond prices, leading to falling yields, also signal that the Fed has halted its rate increases. Furthermore, observing the Fed’s favoured inflation gauge — core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) inflation — we see that it is likely falling below 2.5% in the spring, making it likely the Fed will deliver its first rate cut in H2 2024 (EY, 2023).



The Automobile industry has hit the brakes


The automobile sector was the worst performing in the S&P 500, trailing behind at -11.6% (Wellington Management, 2023). Sales have been at or near recessionary levels due to parts and supply chain issues, plus demand has piled up from consumers and businesses after years of tight vehicle inventories during the pandemic.


Automakers have largely passed rising commodity costs to build vehicles onto consumers, making the vehicles more expensive. That, combined with higher gas prices, exacerbated by the Israel-Palestine conflict has dampened new vehicle demand.


This story is seen in the EV market as well. The U.S. electric vehicle market is growing, but not fast enough during the latest quarter to prevent unsold EVs from stacking up at some automakers' dealerships or to allow Tesla to avoid new price cuts, according to analysts and industry data. Adding onto Tesla’s current woes with the failure to deliver Cybertrucks on time and actually make a profit on them causing Tesla shares to drop 3.4% last Friday (Investopedia, 2023).


Rising inventories and price-cutting could represent only a short-term pause in EV market growth. But they could be signals that boosting U.S. EV sales above the current 7% market share level will be more costly and difficult than expected, even with federal and state subsidies (Reuters, 2023). However, this is already unlikely with the US government cutting tax credit and subsidies to EVS using Chinese batteries, when a large proportion are already from China.


The US can’t rely on the magnificent 7


If we weight the index components' returns by their market values at the end of 2022, it turns out that 67% of this year's return for the index have been provided by the ‘Magnificent Seven’ group of stocks, which includes Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Nvidia Corp., Alphabet Inc., Tesla Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. (Wellington Management, 2023).


Currently the magnificent seven make up 30% of the S&P 500 by market cap (Blackrock, 2023), and their importance have risen greatly over the past decade. This has only increased I recent times with the advent of the AI revolution. All of these companies are expected to see huge increases in the implementation of AI into their services and processes. Investors are eyeing the long-term potential of AI, which, depending on the Wall Street estimate you rely upon, could add anywhere from $7 trillion to $200 trillion to the global economy by 2030.


However, the implementation of this has been brought up into question with Alphabet shares closing down 9.5% to end at $125.61 on October 25th (CNBC, 2023). This was after Google missed the mark on its cloud services failing revenue estimates. Amazon is under fire for its cloud platform ‘Amazon Web Services’, having missed such expectations.



APAC


China's Manufacturing Contraction Sparks Calls for Bold Economic Measures


China's manufacturing sector faced another challenging month in November, with official data revealing a second consecutive contraction, indicating a need for additional policy support to bolster economic growth. The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) dipped to 49.4, down from October's 49.5, remaining below the critical 50-point threshold that distinguishes expansion from contraction (CNBC, 2023). Analysts, expecting a reading of 49.7, highlighted the ongoing struggles in China's economy as it grapples with a deepening property market crisis, local government debt risks, sluggish global growth, and geopolitical tensions (Reuters, 2023). 


Despite a series of support measures having only modest effects, the central bank governor expressed confidence in China's future growth but emphasised the necessity of structural reforms to reduce dependence on infrastructure and property. Analysts warned of a potential decline into Japanese-style stagnation without a shift toward household consumption and market-oriented resource allocation. Policymakers face increasing pressure to implement further stimulus to achieve the targeted annual economic growth of around 5% (Reuters, 2023). However, concerns over a widening interest rate differential with the West limit the central bank's ability to employ monetary stimulus without risking currency depreciation and capital outflows. 


In October, China unveiled a plan to issue 1 trillion yuan ($138.68 billion) in sovereign bonds, adjusting the 2023 budget deficit target to 3.8% of GDP (ZeeBusiness, 2023). While the third quarter witnessed faster-than-expected economic growth, the lingering property crisis and global economic slowdown pose ongoing challenges. The non-manufacturing sector's PMI also weakened, dropping to 50.2 from October's 50.6 (ZeeBusiness, 2023). As China grapples with economic challenges, President Xi Jinping visited Shanghai for the first time in three years, focusing on efforts to boost the economy and stabilise financial markets. Xi's visit emphasised the importance of finance serving the real economy, with particular attention to building China into a financial powerhouse. The president's exploration of a tech exhibition underscored the core role of scientific and technological innovation in the country's overall development. 


Xi's government has intensified efforts to promote growth, including relaxing capital controls, approving additional sovereign debt for infrastructure spending, and outlining guidelines for the development of the Yangtze River Economic Belt (CNN, 2023). Despite these measures, foreign businesses have been withdrawing money from China at a faster rate than reinvesting, reflecting concerns about the country's economic potential amid geopolitical risks and slower growth. The government's response to these challenges remains a topic of uncertainty, with potential interest rate adjustments and ongoing China-US diplomatic engagement influencing the future trajectory of foreign investment (BBC, 2023).


India's Economic Triumph: Surging at 7.6%, Defying Projections and Global Headwinds


India's economy exceeded expectations with a robust growth rate of 7.6% in the July-September quarter, surpassing the 6.8% forecast in a Reuters poll and the Reserve Bank of India's estimate of 6.5% (Reuters, 2023). The manufacturing sector played a pivotal role in this expansion, registering a significant 13.9% year-on-year growth during the same period, compared to a revised 4.7% in the previous quarter. Government spending also contributed to the positive momentum, rising by 12.4% year-on-year (Reuters, 2023). Despite concerns about a slowdown in global economies, high-interest rates, and escalating energy prices, India continues to stand out as one of the fastest-growing major economies. Some analysts anticipate that India may surpass the government's growth projection of 6.5% for the fiscal year, citing strong corporate profits and a robust financial sector as contributing factors (Economic Times, 2023). However, a slight dip in private consumption growth, attributed to weakness in rural demand and low agricultural sector growth, poses a challenge. Despite the impressive growth, the Reserve Bank of India may proceed cautiously with monetary policy, given the persistent threat of food inflation. The positive economic outlook has led to increased attention on India's banking sector, with investors focusing on banks that maintained low funding costs while expanding loans, particularly in the context of a global peak in interest rates.


on-year growth during the same period, compared to a revised 4.7% in the previous quarter. Government spending also contributed to the positive momentum, rising by 12.4% year-on-year (Reuters, 2023). Despite concerns about a slowdown in global economies, high-interest rates, and escalating energy prices, India continues to stand out as one of the fastest-growing major economies. Some analysts anticipate that India may surpass the government's growth projection of 6.5% for the fiscal year, citing strong corporate profits and a robust financial sector as contributing factors (Economic Times, 2023). However, a slight dip in private consumption growth, attributed to weakness in rural demand and low agricultural sector growth, poses a challenge. Despite the impressive growth, the Reserve Bank of India may proceed cautiously with monetary policy, given the persistent threat of food inflation. The positive economic outlook has led to increased attention on India's banking sector, with investors focusing on banks that maintained low funding costs while expanding loans, particularly in the context of a global peak in interest rates.


Source: Times of India, 2023


India's IPO Frenzy: November 2023 Sees Skyrocketing Gains


In November 2023, the Indian stock market witnessed a surge in Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), with a total of ten mainboard IPOs making their debut. Notably, eight out of these ten IPOs were listed with premiums, indicating a positive response from investors. The Tata Technologies IPO emerged as the frontrunner, recording an impressive gain of 140%, followed by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency IPO with an 87.5% listing gain and the Gandhar Oil Refinery IPO with a 76.3% listing gain (Livemint, 2023).


According to trendlyne data, these IPOs contributed to a busy primary market, fueled by a favourable secondary market environment and ample liquidity. Analysts, including Prashanth Tapse, Senior Vice President of Research at Mehta Equities, attributed the success to optimistic market conditions, leading to companies raising substantial capital. In total, around ₹13,000 crore was raised by ten Indian firms through mainboard IPOs in November 2023, reflecting a robust demand for new listings. The trend is expected to continue in the second half of FY24, with a potential influx of IPOs from emerging companies in various sectors (Nagasundaram, 2023).


Singapore Tops the Charts: World's Most Expensive City in 2023


Singapore retains its title as the world's most expensive city in 2023, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. The ranking considers housing, transportation, food, clothing, and recreation costs, revealing Singapore's high living expenses attributed to steep housing prices (median S$1.3 million), costly transportation (monthly pass S$120), and 14% higher grocery prices than the United States (CNBC, 2023). Despite the expense, Singapore remains popular for its cleanliness, safety, efficient public transport, cultural diversity, and status as a major financial and innovation hub.


Navigating Japan's Economic Crossroads: BOJ's Caution Amid Global Uncertainties and Government's Outlook Adjustment


In November, Bank of Japan (BOJ) policymaker Toyoaki Nakamura underscored the importance of caution in phasing out the central bank's massive stimulus, downplaying the likelihood of an imminent end to its negative interest rate policy. Nakamura, speaking in Kobe, emphasised the need to assess whether Japan's companies and economic structure were evolving after decades of subdued inflation and wage growth. He cautioned against changing policy prematurely, advocating for the retention of both yield curve control (YCC) and negative interest rates (Reuters, 2023). Nakamura's dovish stance aligned with fellow policymaker Seiji Adachi's uncertainties regarding the potential timeline for policy shifts. Despite positive economic indicators such as Japan's ongoing recovery and a tight labour market, Nakamura urged against assuming sustained achievement of the 2% inflation target with wage growth (Reuters, 2023). He refrained from specifying when the BOJ might phase out stimulus, citing the need for additional time and vigilance amid global economic uncertainties. Nakamura also expressed concerns about the global outlook, warning of potential stagflation in the U.S. and recession risks in Europe.


Concurrently, Japan's government downgraded its economic outlook for November, attributing the shift to weak demand affecting capital spending and consumer expenditure. The Cabinet Office's report acknowledged a pause in the pace of recovery, marking the first overall economic downgrade in ten months. Despite improvements in business conditions and corporate earnings, the report highlighted challenges in translating corporate strength into increased wages and investment. The government recognized inflation's impact on consumer goods spending and introduced measures to mitigate its effects. Anticipating a moderate economic recovery, the government underscored the need to monitor rising prices, the Middle East situation, and financial market fluctuations. Risks from global monetary tightening and the Chinese economy were also emphasised (Forex Live, 2023).


China's Caution and South Korea's Semiconductor Surge


China Warns South Korea Over Economic Issues as Semiconductor Exports Show Signs of

Recovery


In a trilateral meeting on November 26, 2023, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi cautioned South Korea against politicising economic and technological matters, emphasising the interconnected interests between the two nations. Amidst U.S.-China tensions over semiconductors, South Korea, and China sought to avoid being drawn into the dispute, with the U.S. granting Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix permission for chip equipment supply to China. Wang Yi expressed China's willingness to restart trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan, while concerns lingered over the strengthening partnership between the U.S. and its regional allies (Euractiv, 2023).


In response to U.S. controls on AI chip exports, China implemented restrictions on graphite exports, a critical mineral for electric vehicles and semiconductors. This move reflects the broader U.S.-China tech war extending into minerals crucial for clean energy technologies. The strategic use of export controls signals an expansion of the competition beyond traditional geopolitical concerns, impacting global supply chains and economic security  (Reuters, 2023).


On a positive note for South Korea, recent data indicates a rebound in semiconductor exports, marking the first year-on-year growth since September 2022. The trade deficit for the first 10 days of November significantly narrowed to $1.7 billion compared to $5.4 billion last year, with expectations of breaking the 15-month semiconductor export slump (Kedglobal, 2023). Samsung's optimism about the memory chip market's recovery, driven by demand for chips in generative AI and normalised inventory levels, adds to the positive outlook. Despite global challenges, South Korea's economy demonstrates resilience and adaptability, reflected in the reduction of the trade deficit to $19.9 billion as of November 10, compared to the previous year's $47.2 billion, the largest shortfall since 2008 (Kedglobal, 2023).

 

EUROPE

                                                   

European equities rebounded in November as they reached their highest levels since mid- September. The EuroSTOXX 600 rose by a little over 6%, putting it on course for its best monthly performance since January. Despite this positive outlook, European shares continue to underperform against their U.S. counterparts, driven by the market's expectation that the robust U.S. has a greater chance of achieving a soft landing. This was supported by the expectations among European responders to a survey issued by Reuters, and is implied by the STOXX600 trading at a forward P/E ratio which indicates a 35.6% discount to the S&P 500 (Indyk & Masoni, 2023).


              

The Euro STOXX 600 (blue) plotted against the S&P 500 (orange) throughout November (STXE 600 PR INDEX, SXXP:STX Summary - FT.com, n.d.)   


Annual inflation in the Eurozone fell from 2.9% in October to 2.4% in November, the lowest its been since July 2021. This was 0.3% lower than the 2.7% expected by various economists polled by Reuters. (Eurozone Inflation Falls More than Expected to 2.4%, 2023). Inflation within the Eurozone continues to vary significantly between countries, exemplified by Slovakia’s rate of 6.9% compared to Belgium’s of -0.7%. Five of the twenty Eurozone countries had inflation come in under the ECB’s target of 2%, including Italy and the Netherlands. (Eurozone Inflation Falls More than Expected to 2.4%, 2023). Falling energy prices, down by 11.5% in the bloc since November last year, and slowing growth in the prices of food, alcohol, and tobacco were driving factors in the falling level of headline inflation. Core inflation, which excludes these factors, also slowed to 3.6% in November from 4.2% in October (Eurozone Inflation Falls More than Expected to 2.4%, 2023).


Recently published figures have confirmed that unemployment remained at a record low of 6.5% across the Eurozone in October (Eurozone Inflation Falls More than Expected to 2.4%, 2023). This included increases in both Germany and Italy. Furthermore, the Eurozone PMI index increased from 46.5 in October to 47.1 in November, indicating a contraction in business activity within the manufacturing and services sectors. However, new orders fell by less than they did in October, meaning the downturn is not worsening (Colijn, 2023). This is compelling evidence that eurozone GDP growth will not become positive in the fourth quarter. However, robust wage growth persists within the Eurozone. S&P Global predicts wages to grow at around 4% in 2024, compared to 5% in 2023 (Lahiri, 2023). If this occurs alongside disinflation, consumers will be more inclined to spend their higher real incomes, potentially driving a soft landing.                        


Eurozone annual Inflation since Q1 2020 (Eurozone Inflation Falls More than Expected to 2.4%, 2023):


Current and future levels of Inflation, GDP, and unemployment are the major factors the ECB will consider when setting interest rates, as they aim to control inflation without entering a recession. The chosen interest rate will certainly affect the price of European equities through a number of channels. Investors may be less incentivized to hold fixed income assets if rates were to drop due to the lower return they yield. This may result in capital being redirected towards equities, hence raising their prices. Secondly, it may result in stronger performance for European growth stocks, who rely on the debt market to fund any losses they make. As the cost of capital becomes cheaper, their stock becomes more attractive.


Germany Natural Gas Border Price (Germany Natural Gas Border Price, n.d.):

  

Germany, the eurozone’s industrial powerhouse, relies heavily upon natural gas for its energy-intensive heavy industries (Indyk & Masoni, 2023). The price for natural gas has risen due to contracted Russian supply. This forced Germany to nationalise Upiner, their energy giant, in September last year. Germany expects natural gas prices to remain high until at least 2027 (Paraskova, 2023), which could have particularly detrimental effects for the profitability and stock price of German companies who rely heavily upon it.        


The FTSE100 (blue) plotted against the S&P 500 (orange) throughout November (FTSE 100 Index, FTSE:FSI Summary - FT.com, n.d.)


UK equities lagged behind the rest of Europe and the U.S. this month, registering gains of just over 2%. Despite this, inflation in the UK is falling sharply. Inflation came in at 4.6% in October, down from 6.7% in September. GDP in the UK is almost 2% above its pre- pandemic level, on par with France and Spain, and above Germany (Beck-Friis, 2023). Furthermore, a new ONS survey suggests the UK unemployment rate fell to 3.5% in the spring, contrasting the initial estimate of 4.2% for Q2 and Q3 (ONS “Experimental” Data Lowers UK Unemployment Rate to 3.5%, 2023). The BofE has kept interest rates on hold for a second consecutive meeting this month, as they aim to target an inflation rate of 2% without hurting economic activity by too much (“BoE’s Bailey Vows to Do ‘What It Takes’ to Cut Inflation to 2%,” 2023). If the UK macroeconomy continues to stabilise, UK equities will become a more attractive investment.


References 


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