The first half of 2017 is over, where did that time go! The last 6-months marked the end of another politically turbulent period in the UK. The view across the six months belies the upheaval that took place: the most widely quoted yardstick of the UK stock market, the FTSE 100, nudged up a little under 2.5%. Elsewhere, there were some sharper movement, as the table below shows
Change in H1 2017
FTSE 350 Higher Yield
FTSE 350 Lower Yield
Euro Stoxx 50 (€)
MSCI Emerg Markets (£)
UK Bank base rate
US Fed funds rate
ECB base rate
2 yr UK Gilt yield
10 yr UK Gilt yield
2 yr US T-bond yield
10 yr US T-bond yield
2 yr German Bund Yield
10 yr German Bund Yield
Brent Crude ($)
Iron Ore ($)
A few points to note from this table are:
The US market performed better than the UK, helped by the continued strength in a small number of big cap technology stocks. However, for UK investors on this occasion the dollar worked against them as it fell 4.9% against sterling over the period. The demise of the dollar can be blamed partly on fading expectations that a Trump bump would lead to a rapid rise in US interest rates
The FTSE 250, regarded as a better yardstick for UK plc (although still with a significant weighting of overseas revenues), was more resilient. The FTSE 250 breached 20,000 for the first time in May. However, it too succumbed after the election. With the FTSE 250 achieving almost 7% growth in the six months, the result has been that the FTSE All-Share (roughly 80/20 FTSE 100/FTSE 250) outperformed the FTSE 100 by almost 1%.
The FTSE 100 has been on a rollercoaster, peaking at 7,377 in mid-January, dropping to 7,099 by the end of the month, then rallying back up to 7,430 by mid-March before diving to 7,114 in mid-April (on the election announcement). Thereafter it rose again to 7,548 in early June on opinion poll optimism, with an inter-day high almost breaching 7,600 before descending in the wake of the voting reality.
Against the backdrop of the Eurozone’s continued monetary stimulus, the euro strengthened and continental stock markets posted a positive return. Some of that was down to political clouds clearing in the Netherlands and France as populists failed to gain power.
Bond yields headed upwards over the first half, except for 10 year US Treasuries. The Federal Reserve put through two rate rises, with a third likely after summer. In the UK, the June vote of the Monetary Policy Committee suggested that a UK interest rate rise may be nearer than had been expected. Statements from Mark Carney and Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, have spread uncertainty. For now, the notion that there will be no move in the UK until 2019 has been largely abandoned.
Commodities had a mixed first half, with gold responding to the dollar’s weakness. The most notable change was in the price of Brent Crude, which sunk back below $50 despite OPEC’s decision to continue production limits.
A look at these six-month figures is a reminder of just how much day-to-day noise can hide what is – or is not – happening to investment returns.
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