Markets rebounded last week with better economic data from the US, and an easing in concerns over the European debt crisis. The Hang Seng index was up 1.94%, the KOSPI index was up 2.92%, Nikkei was up 1.38%, the S&P 500 index was up 2.2%. Only the STI index was marginally down 0.8%. Oil prices also rose to a 25 month high of 91.42 USD per barrel. Pending sales of U.S. existing houses unexpectedly jumped a 10 percent in October, according to the National Association of Realtors. It was widely expected to fall. Also, retail sales rose the most in 8 months in November, going up 6% year on year.(based on a survey of close to 30 retailers by Thomson Reuters.) Adjusting for shifts in when holidays occurred, it was the biggest increase since September 2006. The conference board also reported that its main US consumer confidence index rose to a 5 month high of 54.1, up from a revised 49.9 in October. This was a big jump in US consumer confidence.
Overall, the various indicators were showing that the US economy was doing better than what many economists were expecting. The only negative indicator was jobless rate, which rose to hit 9.8% in November, despite the US economy continuing to add jobs. However, as we mentioned before, unemployment numbers tend to be a lagging indicator rather than a forward one, so we don’t see this as an indicator that the US economy is about to slump. Ben Bernanke, the US Federal Reserve Chairman said that the economy was barely expanding at a sustainable pace and that it’s possible that the Fed may expand bond purchases beyond the 600 billion USD announced last month to spur growth. This was seen as positive amongst equity markets in Asia, as the additional liquidity was likely to find its way into emerging markets, including Asia. His comments also caused the US dollar to weaken and commodity prices accordingly strengthened, especially oil prices.
Oil prices have continued their upward trend, as we anticipated, and this is likely to continue as the dollar weakens. This is because the global economy is recovering, and demand for oil is likely to rise gradually. However, as oil is usually denominated in US dollars, then as the US dollar weakens, it will then cause oil prices to move up.
There was some easing of concerns in Europe over the ongoing debt crisis. Spain finance minister Elena Salgado said that Spain would not need international aid. The ECB president Jean‐ Claude Trichet also challenged the region’s political leaders to do more to get their budget deficits under control.
Overall, we expect to see many of these years concerns start to subside next year, and when they do, investors will refocus on corporate earnings, which are forecast to be very strong. So, we continue to expect equities to outperform bonds going forward, well into next year, with attractive valuations further underpinning a strong potential for a bull run next year.