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Monday, December 2, 2019

November 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

November was a fairly strong month for global risk assets, as developed market equities rose, emerging market equities were mixed, the US yield curve shifted slightly higher, the US dollar rose, credit spreads tightened, and the oil complex rallied. The US ISM manufacturing activity index rose slightly in October, but remained below 50, signaling continued contraction in the sector, while the non-manufacturing index rose to 54.7. In Congressional testimony, Fed Chairman Powell indicated that another interest rate cut was unlikely this year. US consumer prices rose 0.4% in October, while the US budget deficit for the 12 months ended in October exceeded $1 trillion for the first time since February 2013. Consumer inflation in China rose 3.8% in October from a year earlier, driven by soaring pork prices, though producer prices fell 1.6%, and the People’s Bank of China cut its lending benchmark rate. Japan’s GDP grew at a 0.2% annualized rate in the third quarter, the slowest pace in a year. The US jobs report showed that 128,000 jobs were added in October (the 109th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate ticked higher to 3.6%, the labor force participation rate increased to 63.3%, average hourly earnings rose 3% from a year earlier, and the total labor force hit a record high of 164.4 million, of which 158.5 million were employed.

Developed market equities were mostly higher in November (see page 8), with the biggest gains in the S&P 500 (+3.6%), Canada (+3.5%), and Germany (+3%), and losses in Hong Kong (-1.6%). US small caps outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 4.1% and the Russell 1000 up 3.8% (see page 3). IT (+5.4%), Financials (+5%), and Health Care (+5%) were the best performing sectors in November; Utilities (-1.8%), Real Estate (-1.7%), and Consumer Staples (+1.3%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap growth (+4.4%) outperformed large cap value (+3.1%) in November (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mixed in November (see page 9), with the biggest gains in Argentina (+7.1%), Taiwan (+1.8%), and China (+1.7%), and losses in the Philippines (-3.2%), Indonesia (-2.4%), and Malaysia (-2.1%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.9%) in November (see page 10). The Australian Dollar (-1.9%), Swiss Franc (-1.4%), and Japanese Yen (-1.3%) weakened the most against the USD, while the Swedish Krona (+0.8%), New Zealand Dollar (+0.1%) strengthened. Emerging market currencies were mostly weaker against the USD, with gains in the South African Rand (+3%) and Chinese Yuan (+0.3%), and the largest losses in the Brazilian Real (-5.1%), Mexican Peso (-1.6%), and Korean Won (-1%).

The US interest rate curve shifted higher in November (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 1.78%, up from 1.69% at October month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in November (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was flat in November (see page 11), with gains in Energy (+1%), and losses in Precious Metals (-3.4%), Industrial Metals (-2.7%), Livestock (-2%), and Agriculture (-0.1%). Within individual commodities, Coffee (+13.4%), Cocoa (+7.4%), and Wheat (+5.7%) saw the biggest gains, while Natural Gas (-16.1%), Lean Hogs (-11%), and Silver (-6%) saw the biggest losses.

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Friday, November 1, 2019

October 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

October was a fairly strong month for global risk assets, as developed and emerging market equities mostly rose, the US yield curve steepened, the US dollar weakened, credit spreads tightened, and oil rallied. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by 25bps for the third time since July, and highlighted weak business investment in its statement. Third quarter US GDP grew at 1.9%, supported by strong consumer and government spending. The US ISM manufacturing activity index fell to its lowest level since June 2009, while the nonmanufacturing index fell to the lowest level since August 2016. Australia’s central bank cut interest rates to a record low 0.75%, the third rate cut in five months. China’s exports to the US fell by 22% in September from a year earlier, and total exports fell 3.2%. Chinese GDP grew 6% in the third quarter, the slowest rate of growth since the current measure of GDP was adopted in 1992. The US jobs report showed that 136,000 jobs were added in September (the 108th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, the labor force participation rate held at 63.2%, average hourly earnings rose 2.9% from a year earlier, and the total labor force hit a record high of 164 million.

Developed market equities were mostly higher in October (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Japan (+4.9%), Hong Kong (+4.7%), and Germany (+3.5%), and biggest losses in the UK (-2.1%), Canada (-0.9%), and Australia (-0.4%). US small caps outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 2.6% and the Russell 1000 up 2.1% (see page 3). Healthcare (+5.1%), IT (+3.9%), and Communication Services (+3%) were the best performing sectors in October; Energy (-2.3%), Utilities (-0.8%), and Consumer Staples (-0.1%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+1.4%) underperformed large cap growth (+2.8) in October (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in October (see page 9), with the biggest gains in Russia (+7.4%), Taiwan (+6.1%), and India (+4.4%), and the losses in Argentina (-4.8%) and Thailand (-2.8%).

In currencies, the USD Index was lower (-2%) in October (see page 10), with the biggest gains against the USD seen in the British Pound (+5.3%), New Zealand Dollar (+2.4%), and Euro (+2.3%); the Norwegian Krone (-1%) moved lower against the USD. Emerging market currencies were mostly higher against the USD, with the largest gains in the Brazilian Real (+3.4%), Mexican Peso (+2.6%), and Korean Won (+2.5%), and losses in the Turkish Lira (-1.1%) and Indian Rupee (-0.6%).

The US interest rate curve steepened in October (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 1.69%, up from 1.66% at September month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in October (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 1.2% in October (see page 11), with gains in Precious Metals (+3.3%), Industrial Metals (+1.7%), Livestock (+1.5%), Agriculture (+1.4%), and Energy (+0.9%). Within individual commodities, Palladium (+6.7%), Silver (+6.4%), and Live Cattle (+6.4%) saw the biggest gains, while Lean Hogs (-9%), Cocoa (-1.5%), and Sugar (-1.2%) saw the biggest losses.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

September 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

September was a fairly strong month for global risk assets, as developed and emerging market equities mostly rose, global interest rates moved higher from historic August lows, the US yield curve steepened, but remained inverted, the US dollar strengthened, credit spreads widened, and gold retreated. The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by 25bps, and highlighted strong household spending and weaker business investment and exports. The August reading of the ISM’s manufacturing index fell below 50 for the first time in three years, a sign of contraction in the sector. China’s central bank cut bank reserve requirements for the third time this year in an effort to stimulate the economy; China’s exports unexpectedly fell 1% in August from a year earlier. In Europe, the ECB’s outgoing President Draghi announced a cut to its key interest rate and a new package of bond purchases. The US jobs report showed that 130,000 jobs were added in August (the 107th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate held at 3.7%, the labor force participation rate increased to 63.2%, average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier, and the total labor force hit a record high of 163.9 million.

Developed market equities were mostly higher in September (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Japan (+5.9%), Spain (+5.1%), and Italy (+3.6%), and losses in Hong Kong (-0.6%). US small caps outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 2.1% and the Russell 1000 up 1.7% (see page 3). Financials (+4.6%), Utilities (+4.3%), and Energy (+3.8%) were the best performing sectors in September; Healthcare (-0.2%), Communication Services (+0.4%), and Consumer Discretionary (+0.9%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+3.6%) outperformed large cap growth (flat) in September (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in September (see page 9), with gains in Argentina (+8.5%), Korea (+5.8%), and Brazil (+3.3%), and the largest losses in Indonesia (-2.8%), the Philippines (-2.4%), and Malaysia (-1%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.5%) in September (see page 10), with the biggest losses seen in the Japanese Yen (-1.7%), New Zealand Dollar (-1%), and Swiss Franc (-0.8%); the British Pound (+1.1%) and Canadian Dollar (+0.5%) moved higher against the USD. Emerging market currencies were mostly higher against the USD, with the largest gains in the Turkish Lira (+3.3%), Russian Ruble (+2.9%), and Mexican Peso (+1.7%), and losses in the Brazilian Real (-0.3%).

The US interest rate curve steepened in September, but remained inverted (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 1.66%, up from 1.50% at August month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads widened in September (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 1.7% in September (see page 11), with gains in Livestock (+7.8%), Agriculture (+5.3%), Energy (+0.8%), and Industrial Metals (+0.6%), and losses in Precious Metals (-3.9%). Within individual commodities, Lean Hogs (+10.8%), Cocoa (+10.1%), and Feeder Cattle (+9.2) saw the biggest gains, while Silver (-7.2%), Platinum (-5%), and Gold (-3.5%) saw the biggest losses.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

August 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

August was a difficult month for global risk assets, as developed and emerging market equities retreated (led by Argentina’s -50% move), global interest rates moved sharply lower as yields on the US 30 year bond hit a record low, the US yield curve inverted further, the US dollar strengthened (as the Chinese Yuan hit a 10 year low), the oil complex weakened, and gold rallied. The amount of global debt with negative yields reached a new record in August in excess of $17 trillion, with 30% of global investment grade securities bearing negative yields. At the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium, Fed Chairman Powell kept future interest rate cuts on the table, but highlighted the Fed’s limits in countering economic uncertainty stemming from trade disputes. China’s urban unemployment rose to 5.3% in July, the highest level since reporting began. Amidst Brexit uncertainty, UK and German GDP contracted by 0.2% and 0.1% in the second quarter, respectively. In the Asia Pacific region, central banks in India, New Zealand, and Thailand cut interest rates in August. The US jobs report showed that 164,000 jobs were added in July (the 106th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate held at 3.7%, the labor force participation rate increased to 63%, average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier, and the total labor force hit a record high of 163.4 million.

Developed market equities were mostly lower in August (see page 8), with the biggest losses in Hong Kong (-8.2%), the UK (-4.2%), and Japan (-3.2%). US small caps underperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 down 4.9% and the Russell 1000 down 1.8% (see page 3). Utilities (+5.2%), Real Estate (+4.9%), and Consumer Staples (+1.8%) were the best performing sectors in August; Energy (-8.1%), Financials (-4.8%), and Materials (-2.8%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (-2.9%) underperformed large cap growth (-0.8%) in August (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly lower in August (see page 9), with gains in Mexico (+5.3%) and India (+0.8%), and the largest losses in Argentina (-50.4%), China (-3.9%), and Thailand (-3.1%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.4%) in August (see page 10), with the biggest losses against the USD in the New Zealand Dollar (-3.5%), Norwegian Krone (-2.8%), and Australian Dollar (-1.6%); the Japanese Yen (+2.4%) moved higher against the USD. Emerging market currencies were mostly lower against the USD, with gains in the Thai Baht (+0.9%), and the largest losses in the Brazilian Real (-8.1%), South African Rand (-5.6%), and Mexican Peso (-4.6%).

The US interest rate curve shifted lower and inverted further in August (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 1.50%, down from 2.01% at July month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads widened in August (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was down 5.6% in August (see page 11), with gains in Precious Metals (+7%), and losses in Livestock (-8.7%), Agriculture (-6.8%), Energy (-6.6%), and Industrial Metals (-1.5%). Within individual commodities, Silver (+11.1%), Gold (+6.5%), and Platinum (+6.2) saw the biggest gains, while Lean Hogs (-10.4%), Gasoline (-9.6%), and Corn (-9.5%) saw the biggest losses.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

July 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

Global risk assets were mixed in July, as developed market equities were mostly higher, emerging market equities were mostly lower, credit spreads were little changed, the US dollar strengthened, and the oil complex rose slightly. At its July meeting, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by 25bps, announced an early end to their balance sheet runoff, and while the Chairman did not rule out further reductions, he indicated that it was “not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts”. The ECB held rates at current levels, but indicated that it would continue its asset purchase program for “as long as necessary”, and that it would continue its accommodative stance “for a prolonged period of time”. Congress and the White House reached a deal to suspend the debt ceiling beyond the next election and to increase federal spending. US GDP grew at 2.1% in the second quarter, down from 3.1% in the prior quarter. China, meanwhile, reported 6.2% GDP growth, lower than forecast, and the lowest level since quarterly growth statistics began being published in 1992. The US jobs report showed that 224,000 jobs were added in June (the 105th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate ticked higher to 3.7%, the labor force participation rate increased to 62.9%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.1% from a year earlier.

Developed market equities were mixed in July (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Australia (+2.5%), the UK (+2.1%), and the S&P500 (+1.4%). US small caps underperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 0.6% and the Russell 1000 up 1.6% (see page 3). Communication Services (+3.4%), IT (+3.3%), and Consumer Staples (+2.5%) were the best performing sectors in July; Energy (-1.8%), Healthcare (-1.6%), and Materials (-0.4%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+0.8%) underperformed large cap growth (+2.3%) in July (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly lower in July (see page 9), with the largest gains in Taiwan (+3.4%), Russia (+0.8%), and Brazil (+0.7%), and the largest losses in India (-5.5%), Mexico (-5%), and Korea (-3.9%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+2.5%) in July (see page 10), with the biggest losses against the USD seen in the British Pound (-4.2%), Swedish Krona (-3.9%), and Norwegian Krone (-3.8%). Emerging market currencies were mixed against the USD, with the largest gains in the Turkish Lira (+3.7%), Brazilian Real (+1%), and Mexican Peso (+0.4%), and the largest losses in the Korean Won (-2.7%), South African Rand (-1.8%), and Singapore Dollar (-1.5%).

The US interest rate curve remained inverted in July, shifted lower at the short end, and higher in the belly of the curve (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.01%, unchanged from June month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads were little changed in July (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was down 0.2% in July (see page 11), with gains in Livestock (+3.1%), Precious Metals (+1.5%), Industrial Metals (+0.6%), and Energy (+0.6%), and losses in Agriculture (-5.5%). Within individual commodities, Silver (+7.1%), Platinum (+4.7%), and Lean Hogs (+4) saw the biggest gains, while Coffee (-8.8%), Wheat (-7.4%), and Corn (-5.6%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was up 1% for the month.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Monday, July 1, 2019

June 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

June brought a sharp rebound in global risk assets, with US equities reaching fresh all-time highs as global trade tensions cooled somewhat during the month. Global equities rose sharply, credit spreads tightened, the US dollar weakened, and the oil complex rallied; US Treasury yields moved lower, particularly at the short end of the curve, and gold rallied to six year highs, as several major central banks took a more dovish tone during the month. At its June meeting, the Federal Reserve made no change to interest rates, but indicated that “the case for somewhat more accommodative policy has strengthened”. The Bank of Japan indicated that if economic growth slows, it would “consider expanding stimulus without hesitation”, the European Central Bank indicated that “additional stimulus will be required” in the Eurozone if the outlook doesn’t improve, and the Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates for the first time in three years; the Bank of England held rates and guidance unchanged. Citing global trade tensions, the World Bank lowered its global growth forecast to 2.6% from 2.9%, and cut its forecast for global trade growth to 2.6% from 3.6%. Despite global trade issues, the US service sector expanded, as the June ISM non-manufacturing index rose to 56.9 in May from 55.5 in April. US retail sales rose 0.5% in May, an increase from April’s 0.3%, though consumer confidence declined from 100 in May, to 97.9 in June. China’s imports dropped a sharper than expected 8.5% in May, after rising in April, and exports to the US fell 4.2%. The US jobs report showed that 75,000 jobs were added in May (the 104th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate held at 3.6% (a 50 year low), the labor force participation rate held at 62.8%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.1% from a year earlier.

Developed market equities rose in June (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Italy (+7.2%), the S&P 500 (+7%), and Hong Kong (+6.7%). US small caps slightly outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 7.1% and the Russell 1000 up 7% (see page 3). Materials (+11.7%), Energy (+9.3%), and IT (+9.1%) were the best performing sectors in June; Real Estate (+1.8%), Utilities (+3.3%), and Communication Services (+4.3%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+7.2%) outperformed large cap growth (+6.9%) in June (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in June (see page 9), with the largest gains in Argentina (+26.6%), China (+7.7%), and Thailand (+6.2%), and losses in India (-1.2%).

In currencies, the USD Index was lower (-1.7%) in June (see page 10), with the biggest gains against the USD seen in the Canadian Dollar (+3.2%), New Zealand Dollar (+2.9%), and Norwegian Krone (+2.6%). Emerging market currencies were also stronger against the USD, with the largest gains in the South African Rand (+3.5%), Russian Ruble (+3.4%), and Korean Won (+2.8%).

The US interest rate curve shifted lower, and remained inverted in June (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.01%, down from 2.12% at May month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in June (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 4.4% in June (see page 11), with gains in Precious Metals (+7.7%), Energy (+6.6%), Industrial Metals (+2%), and Agriculture (+0.3%), and losses in Livestock (-2.4%). Within individual commodities, Palladium (+15.7%), Crude Oil (+9%), and Gasoline (+9) saw the biggest gains, while Lean Hogs (-10%), Natural Gas (-5.6%), and Corn (-2.2%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was up 8% for the month.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

May 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary


May was a difficult month for global risk assets as the US/China trade dispute deepened, and the US announced new tariffs on Mexico (to begin to take effect on June 10), in an attempt to force Mexico to slow the flow of migrants. Global equities fell sharply, led by losses in China, credit spreads widened, the US yield curve inverted further, the US dollar strengthened, and the oil complex sold off. The Federal Reserve made no change to interest rates at its May 1 meeting, and indicated that slowing inflation could become a concern. Minutes from the meeting stated that “a patient approach” to adjusting the federal funds rate would “likely remain appropriate for some time”. US retail sales unexpectedly fell in April, and industrial production dropped. In Germany, the latest reading on factory orders showed a below forecast increase of 0.6%, and business sentiment dropped in May; yields on the German 10 year bond fell to a record low of -0.21%. In China, growth in both factory output and retail sales decelerated in April, while the Purchasing Managers’ Index fell below 50 in May, indicating a contraction from the prior month; in an effort to stimulate the slowing economy, the People’s Bank of China reduced the reserve requirement for regional banks. In Japan, meanwhile, first quarter GDP grew at a faster than expected rate of 2.1%, boosted by falling imports and a strong increase in public investment. The US jobs report showed that 263,000 jobs were added in April (the 103d consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate fell to 3.6% (a 50 year low), the labor force participation rate moved lower to 62.8%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier.

Notable corporate transactions announced in April included the $1.2 billion sale of Keebler and other brands by Kellogg to Ferrero, a $38 billion bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum by Chevron and Occidental culminating at month end with a $10 billion investment by Berkshire Hathaway in Occidental, the $4.4 billion purchase of Alliance Data’s Epsilon unit by Publicis, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Paragon Bioservices by Catalent, DSV’s $4.6 billion purchase of Panalpina, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Tranzact by Willis Towers Watson, the $3.6 billion purchase of Oryx by Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, the $2.8 billion acquisition of DenizBank by Emirates NBD, the $750 million sale of Trilogy Education to 2U, the $8.6 billion purchase of a 90% stake in Transportadora Associada de Gas by a group led by Engie, the $850 million acquisition of Axoima by Deutsche Borse, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Wells Fargo’s retirement and trust unit to Principal Financial, the $1.7 billion purchase of Electronics for Imaging by Siris Capital, Waste Management’s $4.9 billion purchase of Advanced Disposal Services, Nippon Paint’s $2.7 billion acquisition of DuluxGroup, the $2.7 billion purchase of ConocoPhillips’ North Sea assets by Chrysaar, Canopy Growth’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Acreage Holdings, the $1.4 billion purchase of CapeOmega by Partners Group, the $1.4 billion purchase of JR Automation by Hitachi, and the $3.7 billion acquisition of Lord by Parker Hannifin.

Developed market equities rose in April (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Germany (+7%), France (+4.8%), and Spain (+4.4%). US small caps underperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 3.4% and the Russell 1000 up 4% (see page 3). Financials (+9%), Communication Services (+6.5%), and IT (+6.4%) were the best performing sectors in April; Healthcare (-2.6%), Real Estate (-0.5%), and Energy (+0.1%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+3.5%) underperformed large cap growth (+4.5%) in April (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in April (see page 9), with the largest gains in Taiwan (+4.2%), Korea (+3.3%), and Mexico (+3.2%), and losses in Argentina (-7.9%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.2%) in April (see page 10), with the biggest gains against the Swiss Franc (-2.3%), New Zealand Dollar (-1.9%), and Swedish Krona (-1.8%). Emerging market currencies were mixed, with the largest gains in the Mexican Peso (+2.6%), Russian Ruble (+1.8%), and South African Rand (+1.4%), and the largest losses in the Turkish Lira (-6.7%), Korean Won (-2.3%), and Malaysian Ringgit (-1.3%).

The US interest rate curve steepened, but remained somewhat inverted in April (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.50%, up from 2.41% at March month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in April (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 2.8% in April (see page 11), with gains in Energy (+6.4%), and losses in Industrial Metals (-3.5%), Agriculture (-3.4%), Livestock (-2.6%), and Precious Metals (-0.8%). Within individual commodities, Gasoline (+11.6%), Brent Crude (+7.5%), and Crude Oil (+6.5) saw the biggest gains, while Wheat (-6.9%), Aluminum (-6.5%), and Soybeans (-4.6%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was down 0.8% for the month.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

April 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

April was a fairly strong month for global risk assets. Global equities rose, with continued outperformance in large caps, growth, and developed markets, credit spreads tightened, the US yield curve remained somewhat inverted, and the oil complex continued its strong YTD rally. Minutes from the March policy meeting of the Federal Reserve showed that a majority of officials expect to leave “the target range unchanged for the remainder of the year”. The Commerce Department reported that first quarter US GDP grew at a better than expected rate of 3.2%, the strongest Q1 rate in four years. The ECB expressed cautiousness with regard to the European economic outlook and indicated that it had “plenty of instruments” available should it need to implement additional stimulus, that it was reviewing the impact of negative rates on European banks, and that, like the Fed, it was unlikely to raise rates for the remainder of 2019; at the end of the month, the EU’s statistics agency reported that first quarter Eurozone GDP grew at 1.5%, ahead of expectations. The Chinese economy grew at a reported rate of 6.4% in the first quarter, below the 6.6% growth in 2018 and at the slowest pace in ten years, but above expectations, as industrial production rose 8.5% in March; later in the month, China’s manufacturing PMI showed a decline in April, raising uncertainty about the resiliency of the March rebound. The US job report showed that 196,000 non-farm jobs were added in March (the 102nd consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate held at 3.8%, the labor force participation rate moved lower to 63%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier.

Notable corporate transactions announced in April included the $1.2 billion sale of Keebler and other brands by Kellogg to Ferrero, a $38 billion bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum by Chevron and Occidental culminating at month end with a $10 billion investment by Berkshire Hathaway in Occidental, the $4.4 billion purchase of Alliance Data’s Epsilon unit by Publicis, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Paragon Bioservices by Catalent, DSV’s $4.6 billion purchase of Panalpina, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Tranzact by Willis Towers Watson, the $3.6 billion purchase of Oryx by Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, the $2.8 billion acquisition of DenizBank by Emirates NBD, the $750 million sale of Trilogy Education to 2U, the $8.6 billion purchase of a 90% stake in Transportadora Associada de Gas by a group led by Engie, the $850 million acquisition of Axoima by Deutsche Borse, the $1.2 billion acquisition of Wells Fargo’s retirement and trust unit to Principal Financial, the $1.7 billion purchase of Electronics for Imaging by Siris Capital, Waste Management’s $4.9 billion purchase of Advanced Disposal Services, Nippon Paint’s $2.7 billion acquisition of DuluxGroup, the $2.7 billion purchase of ConocoPhillips’ North Sea assets by Chrysaar, Canopy Growth’s $3.4 billion acquisition of Acreage Holdings, the $1.4 billion purchase of CapeOmega by Partners Group, the $1.4 billion purchase of JR Automation by Hitachi, and the $3.7 billion acquisition of Lord by Parker Hannifin.

Developed market equities rose in April (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Germany (+7%), France (+4.8%), and Spain (+4.4%). US small caps underperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 3.4% and the Russell 1000 up 4% (see page 3). Financials (+9%), Communication Services (+6.5%), and IT (+6.4%) were the best performing sectors in April; Healthcare (-2.6%), Real Estate (-0.5%), and Energy (+0.1%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+3.5%) underperformed large cap growth (+4.5%) in April (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in April (see page 9), with the largest gains in Taiwan (+4.2%), Korea (+3.3%), and Mexico (+3.2%), and losses in Argentina (-7.9%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.2%) in April (see page 10), with the biggest gains against the Swiss Franc (-2.3%), New Zealand Dollar (-1.9%), and Swedish Krona (-1.8%). Emerging market currencies were mixed, with the largest gains in the Mexican Peso (+2.6%), Russian Ruble (+1.8%), and South African Rand (+1.4%), and the largest losses in the Turkish Lira (-6.7%), Korean Won (-2.3%), and Malaysian Ringgit (-1.3%).

The US interest rate curve steepened, but remained somewhat inverted in April (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.50%, up from 2.41% at March month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in April (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 2.8% in April (see page 11), with gains in Energy (+6.4%), and losses in Industrial Metals (-3.5%), Agriculture (-3.4%), Livestock (-2.6%), and Precious Metals (-0.8%). Within individual commodities, Gasoline (+11.6%), Brent Crude (+7.5%), and Crude Oil (+6.5) saw the biggest gains, while Wheat (-6.9%), Aluminum (-6.5%), and Soybeans (-4.6%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was down 0.8% for the month.

Contact CurAlea Associates for a Daily Market Review.

Monday, April 1, 2019

March 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

March was a mixed month for global risk assets. Global equities were mixed, with outperformance in large caps, growth, and developed markets, investment grade credit spreads widened, the dollar strengthened, the US yield curve moved lower and inverted, and the oil complex continued its recent rally. Just three months ending its bond purchase program, the ECB introduced new stimulus measures, including a pledge not to raise interest rates before December and a new round of cheap long term loans for banks. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, indicated at its March meeting that it was unlikely to raise rates in 2019 and that it would slow its balance sheet runoff in May; ahead of the meeting, Treasury volatility hit a record low. The US job report showed that 20,000 non-farm jobs were added in February (the 101st consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate fell to 3.8%, the labor force participation rate held at 63.2%, and average hourly earnings rose 1.9% from a year earlier.

Notable corporate transactions announced in March included the $2 billion merger of Instant Brands and Corelle Brands, the $6.8 billion purchase of Mellanox by Nvidia, the $1.7 billion acquisition of Brammer Bio by Thermo Fisher, Uber’s $3.1 billion purchase of Careem, the $300 million acquisition of Dynamic Yield by McDonald’s, the $69.1 billion purchase of Sabic by Aramco, the $15.3 billion acquisition of WellCare by Centene, the $585 million sale of DS Smith’s plastics division to Olympus Partners, the $2.5 billion purchase of Direct ChassisLink by Apollo Global, the $405 million acquisition of Mist Systems by Juniper Networks, the $463 million acquisition of HotelTonight by Airbnb, the $3.5 billion purchase of the YES Network from Disney by a consortium including the NY Yankees, Amazon, Blackstone, and Sinclair Broadcast, IMM Private Equity’s $1.1 billion purchase of Linde’s South Korean assets, CCMP’s $1 billion acquisition of BGIS, the $930 million purchase of Goodnight Midstream by TPG, F5 Network’s $670 million acquisition of Nginx, the $660 million purchase of Osiris Therapeutics by Smith & Nephew, the $890 million purchase of Biogen’s Danish subsidiary by Fujifilm, the $1 billion acquisition of Ayumi Pharmaceuticals by Blackstone, OSB’s purchase of Charter Court Financial for $2.3 billion, Envestnet’s acquisition of PIEtech for $500 million, FIS’ $35 billion purchase of Worldpay, the $1.3 billion acquisition of eFront by Blackrock, Bridgepoint’s $1.2 billion purchase of Kyriba, the $3.4 billion acquisition of Inmarsat by a consortium including Apax and Warburg Pincus, Onex’s $332 million purchase of Gluskin Sheff, Blackstone’s acquisition of Servpro for $1 billion, and ZF Friedrichshafen’s $7 billion purchase of Wabco.

Developed market equities mostly rose in March (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Italy (+3.5%), the UK (+3.2%), and the S&P 500 (+1.9%), and losses in Spain (-0.2%) and Germany (-0.1%). US small caps underperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 down 2.1% and the Russell 1000 up 1.7% (see page 3). Real Estate (+4.9%), IT (+4.8%), and Consumer Discretionary (+4.1%) were the best performing sectors in March; Financials (-2.6%), Industrials (-1.1%), and Health Care (+0.5%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+0.6%) underperformed large cap growth (+2.8%) in March (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mixed in March (see page 9), with the largest gains in India (+6.4%), the Philippines (+3.7%), and China (+2.4%), and the largest losses in Argentina (-8.5%), Malaysia (-2.4%), and Korea (-2.2%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+1.2%) in March (see page 10). The Japanese Yen (+0.5%) and Swiss Franc (+0.3%) gained against the USD, while the British Pound (-1.7%), Euro (-1.3%), and Canadian Dollar (-1.3%) had the largest losses. Emerging market currencies were mostly lower against the USD, with the largest gains in the Indian Rupee (+2.1%) and Russian Ruble (+0.3%), and the largest losses in the Brazilian Real (-4.2%), Turkish Lira (-4.1%), and South African Rand (-2.9%).

The US interest rate curve moved lower and inverted in March (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.41%, down from 2.72% at February month end. US investment grade spreads widened and high yield spreads were little changed in March (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 1.6% in March (see page 11), with gains in Livestock (+5.5%) and Energy (+2.5%), and losses in Precious Metals (-1.8%) and Agriculture (-1.6%); Industrial Metals were unchanged. Within individual commodities, Lean Hogs (+23.7%), Gasoline (+7.8%), and Cotton (+6.8) saw the biggest gains, while Palladium (-10.5%), Natural Gas (-5.5%), and Coffee (-3.8%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was down 1.6% for the month.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

February 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

February was a strong month for global risk assets as markets continued their recovery from the late 2018 selloff. Global equities rallied with small caps continuing to outperform, credit spreads tightened, and the oil complex rose. Minutes from the January Federal Reserve meeting indicated that Fed officials were preparing for an end to the balance sheet runoff; Chairman Powell’s Congressional testimony in late February confirmed this. The US GDP report showed that the US economy expanded at a 2.6% annual rate in the fourth quarter, ahead of analyst estimates of 2.2%, but below 3.2% third quarter growth and 4.2% second quarter growth. The US job report showed that 304,000 non-farm jobs were added in January (the 100th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate rose to 4.0%, the labor force participation rate increased to 63.2%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier, the sixth straight month of gains above 3%.

Notable corporate transactions announced in February included the $218 million acquisition of Maxwell Technologies by Tesla, the $28 billion purchase of SunTrust by BB&T, the $900 million acquisition of Solium Capital by Morgan Stanley, the purchase of Precision Flow Systems by Ingersoll Rand for $1.5 billion, the $3.7 billion acquisition of Ellie Mae by Thoma Bravo, the $200 million sale of Luminate to Symantec, the $3.4 billion purchase of Auris Health by J&J, the $700 million acquisition of WorldFirst by Ant Financial, the $340 million acquisition of Gimlet and Anchor by Spotify, the $21 billion purchase of GE’s biotech business by Danaher, Roche’s $4.8 billion purchase of Spark Therapeutics, Symrise’s $900 million acquisition of ADF/IDF, the $11 billion purchase of Ultimate Software by a group led by Hellman & Friedman, Nutrien’s $340 million acquisition of Actagro, the $618 million purchase of Webroot by Carbonite, the $640 million purchase of Nexeo’s plastics distribution business by One Rock Capital, the $385 million acquisition of Endeavor Robotics by FLIR Systems, Amazon’s purchase of Eero for an undisclosed price, KDDI’s acquisition of a 49% interest in Kabu.com for $800 million, Greif’s $1.8 billion purchase of Caraustar, the $6.4 billion acquisition of Scout24 by Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone, Palo Alto’s $560 million purchase of Demisto, DP World’s $420 million acquisition of P&O Ferries, Tilray’s $318 million purchase of Manitoba Harvest, Pepsi’s acquisition of CytoSport, the $300 million sale of Immune Design to Merck, Qlik’s $560 million purchase of Attunity, the $2.5 billion sale of the plastic container business of Brambles to a group led by Triton, Platinum Equity’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Multi-Color, JAB’s $1.2 billion purchase of Compassion First Pet Hospitals, and Thoma Bravo’s $1.5 billion acquisition of ConnectWise.

Developed market equities rose in February (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Australia (+5.9%), Hong Kong (+5.9%), and France (+4.9%). US small caps outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 5.2% and the Russell 1000 up 3.4% (see page 3). IT (+6.9%), Industrials (+6.4%), and Utilities (+4.2%) were the best performing sectors in February; Consumer Discretionary (+0.8%), Communication Services (+0.8%), and Real Estate (+1.1%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+3.2%) underperformed large cap growth (+3.6%) in February (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mixed in February (see page 9), with the largest gains in Taiwan (+4.9%), China (+3.5%), and Malaysia (+1.1%), and the largest losses in Argentina (-10.6%), Indonesia (-3.9%), and the Philippines (-3.5%).

In currencies, the USD Index was higher (+0.6%) in February (see page 10). The British Pound (+1.2%) gained against the USD, while the Australian Dollar (-2.5%), Japanese Yen (-2.3%), and Swedish Krona (-2.1%) had the largest losses. Emerging market currencies were mostly lower against the USD, with the largest gains in the Malaysian Ringgit (+0.8%), Indian Rupee (+0.2%), and Chinese Yuan (+0.1%), and the largest losses in the South African Rand (-5.9%), Turkish Lira (-3.3%), and Brazilian Real (-3%).

The US interest rate curve flattened in February at the short and medium end of the curve (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.72%, up from 2.63% at January month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in February (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 3.8% in February (see page 11), with gains in Energy (+7.2%), Industrial Metals (+3.1%), and Livestock (+0.2%), and losses in Precious Metals (-0.8%) and Agriculture (-5%). Within individual commodities, Palladium (+16.5%), Gasoline (+13%), and Brent Crude (+9.2) saw the biggest gains, while Wheat (-11.3%), Coffee (-9.6%), and Lean Hogs (-7%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was down 0.5% for the month.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

January 2019 - Monthly Market Commentary

January was a strong month for global risk assets as markets rebounded from the December selloff. Global equities rallied, credit spreads tightened, the USD weakened, and the oil complex rose sharply. The Federal Reserve, in a sharp reversal from December, held its benchmark rate steady, and indicated that the “case for raising rates has weakened somewhat”. The Fed also indicated greater flexibility with regard to the runoff of its balance sheet. The EU’s statistics agency indicated that economic growth in the 19 euro countries slowed to 1.8% in 2018 from 2.4% in 2017. China’s economic growth rate slowed to 6.6% in 2018, the weakest pace since 1990. The US job report showed that 312,000 non-farm jobs were added in December (the 99th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate rose to 3.9%, the labor force participation rate increased to 63.1%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier.

Notable corporate transactions announced in January included the $74 billion acquisition of Celgene by Bristol Myers, the $8 billion purchase of Loxo Oncology by Eli Lilly, the $2.5 billion acquisition of Parex by Sika, the purchase of Quick Base by Vista for over $1 billion, the $10 billion acquisition of Goldcorp by Newmont, the $22 billion sale of First Data to Fiserv, the $340 million purchase of Pluto TV by Viacom, the $8 billion merger of Entegris and Versum, the $2 billion acquisition of Luxoft by DXC Technology, the $900 million purchase of ELEMIS by L’Occitane, Advent’s $700 million purchase of a 51% stake in Prisma, Bridgestone’s $1 billion acquisition of TomTom’s telematics division, Apollo’s $4.3 billion purchase of RPC Group, Asahi’s $330 million acquisition of the British beer business of Fuller Smith & Turner, the $1.2 billion purchase of a 29% stake in Avito by OLX, the $230 million purchase of HelloSign by Dropbox, the $700 million acquisition of LGS Innovations by CACI International, Medco’s $512 million purchase of Ophir, and the $3.3 billion sale of a controlling stake in Tallgrass Energy to Blackstone.

Developed market equities rose in January (see page 8), with the biggest gains in Canada (+8.7%), Hong Kong (+8%), and the S&P500 (+8%). US small caps outperformed large caps, with the Russell 2000 up 11.2% and the Russell 1000 up 8.4% (see page 3). Industrials (+11.4%), Energy (+11.1%), and Real Estate (+10.8%) were the best performing sectors in January; Utilities (+3.4%), Health Care (+4.8%), and Consumer Staples (+5.2%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (+7.8%) underperformed large cap growth (+9%) in January (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly higher in January (see page 9), with the largest gains in Argentina (+19.7%), China (+11.2%), and Brazil (+10.7%), and losses in India (-0.1%).

In currencies, the USD Index was lower (-0.6%) in January (see page 10). The Canadian Dollar (+3.9%), Australian Dollar (+3.2%), and New Zealand Dollar (+2.9%) had the largest gain against the USD, while the Swedish Krona (-2.1%) and Swiss Franc (-1.3%) had the largest losses. Emerging market currencies were mostly higher against the USD, with the largest gains in the South African Rand (+8.4%), Brazilian Real (+6.5%), and Russian Ruble (+5.9%), and the largest losses in the Indian Rupee (-1.9%) and Taiwan Dollar (-0.4%).

The US interest rate curve moved slightly lower in January (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.63%, down from 2.68% at December month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads tightened in January (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was up 9% in January (see page 11), with gains in Energy (+13.8%), Industrial Metals (+5.3%), Precious Metals (+3.2%), and Agriculture (+2.2%), and losses in Livestock (-1.7%). Within individual commodities, Crude Oil (+18%), Brent Crude (+13%), and Heating Oil (+12.5%) saw the biggest gains, while Cocoa (-10.1%), Lean Hogs (-7.1%), and Feeder Cattle (-2.7%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was up 3.1% for the month.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

December 2018 - Monthly Market Commentary

December was a difficult month for global risk assets. Developed market equities sold off sharply, emerging market equities outperformed significantly, though were also lower, credit spreads widened, the USD weakened, the oil complex retreated, gold moved higher, and the US interest rate curve flattened and rates declined, except at the very short end. The Federal Reserve increased interest rates for the fourth time in 2018 (and the ninth time since 2015), bringing its benchmark federal funds rate to a range between 2.25% and 2.5%. As forecasted, the ECB’s bond purchase program ended in December, although it will continue to reinvest cash from maturing bonds; the ECB confirmed plans to raise rates in the second half of 2019 and forecasted 2019 euro area GDP growth of 1.7%. The US job report showed that 155,000 non-farm jobs were added in November (the 98th consecutive month of job creation), the unemployment rate held at 3.7% (a 49 year low), the labor force participation rate remained at 62.9%, and average hourly earnings rose 3.1% from a year earlier.

Notable corporate transactions announced in December included the $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media by Nexstar, the $476 million purchase of Jack Wolfskin by Callaway Golf, the $5.1 billion acquisition of Tesaro by GlaxoSmithKine, the $1.8 billion purchase of the remaining components of its IBM’s Lotus business by HCL, the $6.4 billion acquisition of ABB’s power grids business by Hitachi, the $3.7 billion sale of Antelliq to Merck, the $3.2 billion purchase of Belmond by LVMH, the $660 million acquisition of Luxtera by Cisco, the merger of the consumer healthcare units of Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKine, the $275 million acquisition of BuildingConnected by Autodesk, the $1.2 billion purchase of KMD by NEC, Vista Equity’s $1.2 billion purchase of Mindbody, Greif’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Caraustar Industries, Altria’s $12.8 billion purchase of a 35% stake in Juul Labs, Zynga’s $700 million acquisition of a majority stake in Small Giant Games, the $905 million purchase of Pioneer by Baring Private Equity, the $1.8 billion purchase of a 45% stake in Cronos by Altria, the $4.4 billion acquisition of Travelport by Siris Capital and Elliot Management, Tivity Health’s $1.3 billion purchase of Nutrisystem, the $1.9 billion sale of Trade Me to Apax Partners, the $5 billion acquisition of StandardAero by Carlyle, and the $1.4 billion purchase of Civitas Solutions by Centerbridge Partners.
Developed market equities mostly fell in December (see page 8), with gains in Australia (+0.4%) and Hong Kong (+0.1%), and the biggest losses in Japan (-9.8%), the US (S&P 500, -9.1%), and Germany (-6.7%). US large caps outperformed small caps, with the Russell 1000 down 9.1% and the Russell 2000 down 11.9% (see page 3). Utilities (-4%), Materials (-6.9%), and Communication Services (-7.3%) were the best performing sectors in December; Energy (-12.7%), Financials (-11.3%), and Industrials (-10.7%) were the worst performing sectors (see page 2). Large cap value (-9.6%) underperformed large cap growth (-8.6%) in December (see page 3). Emerging market equities were mostly lower in December (see page 9), with the largest gains in the Philippines (+1.8%), Indonesia (+1.4%), and Malaysia (+0.4%), and the largest losses in China (-6%), Argentina (-4.8%), and Thailand (-3.9%).

In currencies, the USD Index was lower (-1.1%) in December (see page 10). The Japanese Yen (+3.5%), Swedish Krona (+2.8%), and Swiss Franc (+1.7%) had the largest gain against the USD, while the Australian Dollar (-3.5%), Canadian Dollar (-2.5%), and New Zealand Dollar (-2.2%) had the largest losses. Emerging market currencies were mixed against the USD, with the largest gains in the Mexican Peso (+3.8%), Thai Baht (+2%), and Chinese Yuan (+1.2%), and the largest losses in the South African Rand (-3.5%), Russian Ruble (-3.1%), and Turkish Lira (-1.4%).

The US interest rate curve flattened in December (see page 12). 10 year rates closed the month at 2.68%, down from 2.99% at November month end. US investment grade and high yield spreads widened in December (see page 13).

In commodities, the GSCI index was down 7.8% in December (see page 11), with losses in Energy (-11.7%), Industrial Metals (-4.2%), Agriculture (-2.4%), and Livestock (-0.6%), and gains in Precious Metals (+5.2%). Within individual commodities, Cocoa (+9.9%), Silver (+9.5%), and Palladium (+4.8%) saw the biggest gains, while Natural Gas (-34.2%), Crude Oil (-11%), and Lean Hogs (-9.5%) saw the biggest losses. Gold was up 4.7% for the month.

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