July saw continuing signs of slowing inflation in developed markets. Inflation is one of the core metrics that central banks seek to control. With slower inflation market expectations shifted to suggest that we are now at or close to peak interest rates. In other words the outlook for quantitative tightening is lower and hence risk assets performed relatively well. The month saw earnings from a large number of fund holdings which pleasingly were generally positive.
The FTSE All World index increased 3.7% and the Ashburton Global Equity Growth Fund (I Class USD) by 6.6%. A number of smaller companies held performed well, led by Autolus Therapeutics +35.7%, Patterson +32.3% and L’Occitane International +27.5%. Autolus named industry veteran Robert Dolski as their new CFO. Rob had been CFO of Checkpoint pharmaceuticals which was recently acquired by Regeneron. Patterson shares, along with other oil services companies responded positively to a rising oil price due to production cuts by OPEC. L’Occitane International reported impressive volume growth and set out plans for launch of a number of brands in different geographies. The firm’s founder and Chairman was reported to be considering taking the firm private given his assessment of fair value in comparison to the current share price. On the negative side Luxfer slightly lowered their full year guidance and saw shares decline 10.2%. The firm is suffering from shortages in US magnesium. Management remains committed to a target of $2 of earnings per share by 2025, 400% higher than the current run rate, driven by a return to normal supply and from anticipated demand for cylinders to be used for hydrogen storage. Despite a very positive earnings release, Enphase lowered guidance and their shares fell 9.3%.
Financial conditions remain fairly loose, market multiples are somewhat elevated and as we wrote last month there is beginning to be widespread interest in companies with exposure to artificial intelligence. Interestingly the VIX indictor of market risk is very depressed, suggesting perhaps that too much money has sat on the side-lines during the equity rally seen so far in 2023. The historic pattern of seasonality, as well as some areas of exuberance suggests more volatile times are ahead.