Global Market Overview – October 2021
October was a far more tranquil month than many had been expecting – and a good reminder that most of the time, once economic problems hit the headlines, they’re already well on the way to being solved.
In the UK, petrol stations are back to normal – although anecdotally, electric car inquiries went through the roof during the two weeks of chaos. And the problem of higher energy prices is being resolved by government support, and by a flattening of prices. In fact, wider global supply chain concerns are slowly disappearing, as manufacturers ramp up production and as ships continue to make their way into ports across the world. Of course, once Christmas shopping gets going in earnest, we might well hear some more noise about specific goods – but for now, public attention is elsewhere.
Much of October served as the prelude to the UN Climate Change Conference being held in Glasgow. Whether it was the Insulate Britain protests on the M25, or by the seemingly daily statements from Downing Street, or the endless analysis of those statements in the press, it’s been clear that something important is happening.
Of course, the other domestic event in October was the UK Budget. Ultimately, there wasn’t much to learn, with the UK government still dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic, rather than really looking to the future.
In fact, most key policy decisions globally are still waiting for more clarity as the COVID-19 effects diminish. Central banks are looking for signs one way or the other on the extent to which inflationary impacts are temporary, while government treasury departments are trying to establish how much growth can be relied on to fund future spending.
A new wave of economic growth… For the past decade or so, the virtuous circle of consumption and investment has just not been able to get going. The scars of the financial crisis were too deep – people bought less while governments reined in spending. As a result, companies kept putting off investing in longer-term projects.
The 2020 recession hit the reset button... People are willing to spend again, while governments have ditched austerity. And so, companies are starting to invest for the future. We are now at the start of a sustained period of growth, fueled by confidence and expansion across all sectors of the global economy.
And a little inflation won’t hurt… Economists tend to dislike thinking about the psychology of inflation, but in a lot of ways, someone’s inflation expectations are a good proxy for their confidence levels. With the right amount of price and wage growth, people are encouraged to make life decisions which are positive for the economy. We haven’t heard the word “Goldilocks” for some years now, but there really is an amount of inflation which is just right to keep things humming.
Investors should try to focus on the fact that investing in the stock market over the long term, is a powerful tool to preserve the purchasing power of their wealth and on ensuring that they have an appropriate asset allocation for the level of risk with which they feel comfortable. A disciplined approach to asset allocation and identifying good active managers who can navigate these conditions successfully remains of the utmost importance.
With thanks to Seven Investment Management LLP for their views and market thoughts. RiverPeak Wealth Limited