Lonsec Market Commentary – March 2018
The S&P/ASX 200 Accumulation Index fell 3.8% in March, topping off the worst Q1 performance since the GFC despite a mostly positive earnings season in February. Potential inflation is still a concern for investors, and the market is steeling itself for the next rate hike from the RBA, which, when it finally comes, will be the first increase since November 2010.
The MSCI World ex-Australia Index returned -2.3% in both Australian dollar and local currency terms as global equity markets continued to slide through March. While underlying economic data is broadly positive, markets remain concerned about the prospect of inflation as well as the potential for a trade war between the US and China.
The US Fed voted to raise the funds rate in March by 25 basis points to a target range of 1.50–1.75%, but this was not enough to prevent yields from heading down. Australian bonds returned 0.84% over March, with Australian government bonds returning 0.99% and longer-term government bonds (ten years plus) returning 2.60%.
Despite leaving the cash rate on hold at its March meeting, the RBA continues to expect labour markets to tighten globally, and for central banks to get on the front foot by withdrawing stimulus. In its statement, the RBA mentioned the market’s concerns about US trade policy and the contribution it has made to heightened volatility. The expectation is for CPI inflation to be a bit above 2% in 2018, but central banks have already done a great deal of expecting.
(Lonsec March 2018, Issue Date: 09-04-2018)