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International market overview - As at the end of June 2021

Global risk assets pushed higher at the start of the month, but came under pressure following the release of surprisingly hawkish comments from the Fed. A push higher following the initial dip saw global equities end the month slightly higher, while global bonds did not fully recover following the post-Fed sell-off. Listed property moved upward, in line with equity markets.

The JSE failed to move higher with global equity markets following the Fed’s comments and remained under pressure into month close. 

Financial markets indicators as at the end of June 2021
*31 May to 28 June 2021

Global outlook

  • We remain constructive on emerging markets outside of China amid potential high growth rates in corporate earnings.
  • Global growth is rebounding. A more material recovery is expected this year as precautionary savings unwind, and as economic activity recovers off a low base.
  • We continue to believe that the dollar will depreciate amid its counter-cyclical nature with the reflationary growth cycle, although this may be nearing the peak.
  • The vaccine roll-out is expected to continue boosting broader equity markets.
  • Monetary policy is expected to remain accommodative in 2021. Central banks will likely continue to add significant liquidity and balance sheet support to their economies.
  • Inflation is expected to rebound in 2021 and remain relatively sticky, particularly in the US. However, we continue to believe that inflation will likely struggle to remain near target levels on a sustainable basis over a prolonged period of time.
  • Commodities will broadly benefit from a pickup in global demand.
  • Yield curves in many developed economies will likely remain flat or gradually rise, diminishing the capital gain return in bonds as economic growth and inflation accelerate. We do, however, acknowledge that this backdrop may well be nearing a peak.
  • Global equities have more investment merit than global bonds for now.

Economic overview

In the US a surprisingly hawkish Fed dominated rhetoric

USA Image 2
On a preliminary basis, the IHS Markit US Composite PMI fell to 63.9 in June. While this was well below expectations (of 68.7), it still signaled expansion in output across the private sector. Both services activity and manufacturing output grew at softer rates, while goods producers were hampered by significant supply-side delays. Retail Sales increased 28.1% y/y in May, below forecasts of 55%, with the large increase due to low base effects from last year. The trade deficit narrowed to $68.9 billion in April, from a record high $75 billion gap in March. This was in line with market expectations. Exports were up 1.1% while imports dropped 1.4%. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 % in May, the lowest since March 2020 and below market expectations of 5.9%, adding to signs that the job market consolidated its recovery as the economy reopened. Annual inflation soared to 5%, above market forecasts of 4.7%. This was the highest print since August 2008. This came amid a surge in demand as the economy reopened, with commodity prices soaring, while supply constraints were exacerbated by the impact of a very weak base. The economy has shown sustained improvement due to widespread vaccination and unprecedented monetary and fiscal policy actions. The Fed left the target range for its federal funds rate unchanged in June, but policymakers turned a little more hawkish – increasing inflation expectations and signaling two possible rate increases by the end of 2023.

Eurozone data was, on balance, better than expected

The euro area economy shrank 0.3% q/q (1.3% y/y) in Q1 21, compared to preliminary estimates of 0.6% q/q (1.8% y/y). Still, the bloc entered a double-dip recession as activity and demand were hit by fresh lockdown measures. Preliminary estimates showed the IHS Markit Eurozone Composite PMI rose to 59.2 in June, slightly above market expectations of 58.8, indicating a third successive month of accelerating output growth. Consumer confidence improved to its highest levels since January 2018, as sentiment remains supported by the reopening of the economy. The trade surplus widened to €10.9 billion in April amid a sharp recovery in global demand as imports and exports jumped 37.4% and 43.2% respectively. The number of employed persons in the euro area decreased 0.3% q/q in Q1 21, down from the 0.4% growth in Q4 20. This was below expectations. Headline inflation accelerated to 2% in May, above market forecasts. The ECB left monetary policy unchanged during its June meeting, stating that it expects net purchases under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme over the coming quarter to continue at a significantly higher pace. 

UK data was mixed but continued to point to an expansion in activity

Preliminary reports showed that Britain’s GDP increased 27.6% y/y in April, in line with expectations. The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Composite PMI flash estimate came in at 61.7 for June, from a forecasted estimate of 62.8, with manufacturing activity expanding in line with expectations, while the expansion in services was slightly softer than expected. The GfK Consumer Confidence remained unchanged at -9 in June, compared to the market consensus of -7. Retail sales rose by 24.6% y/y in May, missing market expectations of a 29% advance. The trade deficit shrank to £0.9 billion in April, comfortably beating forecasted expectations of £3.2 billion as imports and exports rose 0.4% and 2.5% respectively. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in the three months to April, with the number of employed people rising by 113 000. Inflation climbed to 2.1% in May, above market expectations of 1.8%. This was the highest since July 2019. The Bank of England voted to keep its benchmark interest rate on hold at a record low of 0.1% and to leave its bond-buying programme unchanged, as widely expected.

Japan’s economy remained under pressure in June 

Japan image 4

The Japanese economy shrank 3.9% y/y in the first quarter of 2021, compared with market estimates of a 4.8% drop. The contraction came amid a resurgence of Covid-19 cases and slow vaccine rollouts. The Jibun Bank Composite PMI reading was down to 47.8 for June, from 48.8 in May and below expectations of 49. Japan posted a trade deficit of ¥187.1 billion in May from ¥856.7 billion in the same month a year earlier, well below the market consensus of ¥91.2 billion. Exports jumped 49.6% y/y while imports rose at a softer 27.9% y/y. The unemployment rate rose to 2.8% in April against expectations of a 2.7% rate. Consumer prices declined 0.1% y/y in May, marking the eighth consecutive drop, as renewed lockdown restrictions weighed on household spending. The Bank of Japan left its key short-term interest rate unchanged at -0.1% and maintained the target for the 10-year Japanese government bond yield at around 0% during its June meeting, as widely expected. The central bank reiterated that the economy has picked up as a trend; however, it has remained in a severe situation due to the pandemic.

Data from China was mixed but broadly pointed to continued growth

China image 5

China’s composite PMI for May dropped to 53.8, from the four-month high of 54.7 it had reached in April. Despite this, activity in the services sector continued to expand while manufacturing grew moderately. Retail sales slowed to 12.4% y/y in May, missing market consensus of 13.6%. China's trade surplus was $45.5 billion in May, below the market consensus of $50.5 billion. Exports jumped 27.9% while imports soared at a faster 51.1%. The urban unemployment rate eased to 5% in May, a 0.1% improvement from the previous month. The annual inflation rate jumped to 1.3% in May 2021 from 0.9% in April but was still below expectations of 1.6%.

In South Africa most data points were strong and exceeded expectations

Image of South Africa

The economy grew an annualised 4.6% in Q1 21, following a revised 5.8% advance in Q4 20, easily beating market consensus of a 2.5% rise. 8 of the 10 industries measured grew, with mining (18.1%), finance (7.4%) and trade (6.2%) the biggest contributors. Agriculture (-3.2%) and utilities (-2.6%) contracted. The composite leading business cycle indicator rose by 3.7% m/m in April – the strongest since last August. The value of building plans passed jumped at a record 346% y/y off a very weak base, with sharp increases seen in residential, additions and alterations, and non-residential. The current account surplus widened to R267.3 billion in Q1 21, from R197.8 billion in Q4 20. It was the second largest surplus on record and as a ratio of GDP rose to 5.0% from 3.7% in Q4 20. The FNB/BER Business Confidence Index rose to 50 in 2Q21 from 35 in Q1 21. It was the highest reading since Q4 14, as confidence rebounded sharply in manufacturing, retail trade and the motor trade sectors. The FNB/BER Consumer Confidence Index, however, decreased to -13 in 2Q21 from -9 in Q1 21, this may have been due to soaring food and fuel prices, the onset of a third wave and the feeble recovery in low-skilled employment. Retail trade jumped 95.8% y/y in April and mining production jumped 116.5% y/y April – mainly due to a very weak base. The unemployment rate rose to 32.6% in Q1 21 from 32.5% Q4 20. It was the highest jobless rate since comparable data began in 2008. Total employment fell in construction, trade, private households, transportation services and agriculture, while financial services added jobs. The expanded definition of unemployment, including people who have stopped looking for work, came in at 43.2%, up from 42.6% in the prior period. The annual inflation rate rose to 5.2% in May from 4.4% in April, in line with market expectations, on higher prices for transport and food. Core inflation increased to 3.1%. Producer prices jumped 7.4% y/y in May, up from 6.7% in April and slightly above market expectations of 7.3%. The South African Reserve Bank did not have a meeting during the month and the next one is scheduled for 22 July.

We look forward to sharing next month’s market developments. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact your usual Ashburton Investments' representative using the details below.

International client support team at or phone +44 (0)1534 512000. 

South Africa client support team at or phone +27 (0)11 282 1512 or +27 (0)11 282 8644

Market overview by Nico Els Multi Asset Strategist and Fund Manager, Chantal Marx Head of Investment Research and Content and Jarred Sullivan Global Investment Strategist.