May was a month of decoupling: oil decoupled from the dollar, and global risk decoupled from the once again sharply devaluing Yuan, but most notably May was a month where Fed rate hike expectations repriced midway through the month.
As Deutsche Bank’s Managing Director, Global Head of the Fundamental Credit Strategy Group, and Strategist, Jim Reid points out, markets largely took the move in their stride and reversed a difficult start to the month. Having said that we saw evidence of the repricing with dollar strength and Emerging Markets/Gold weakness a theme.
In fact for equity markets in particular the old adage ‘sell in May and go away’ was looking relatively apt for the first week or so into the month before sentiment turned positive, seemingly supported by a combination of increasing comfort that the market can accommodate Fed tightening, higher oil prices, positive news from Greece and another decent performance for European Banks.
Looking at the winners and losers for the month one thing which stands out is the relative performance between local currency performance and US Dollar hedged performance during the month such was the strength of the Greenback. That was certainly the case with equity markets where in Europe in particular markets were generally up between 1-3% in local terms with banks in the middle of that range. With the Euro weakening 3% during the month however, on a USD return basis we see most European equity markets finish flat to slightly negative. Looking at these in USD terms though results in most European credit indices down 2-3%. Performance was more impressive then for the S&P 500 (+2%) and higher beta US credit indices (+0.5%).
Further afield the top of our May leaderboard is headed by the performance for Greek equities (+11% local, +8% in USD terms) which rallied following the latest positive developments with regards to the bailout. Thereafter its WTI (+7%) and Brent (+5%) which rank second and third, extending what has essentially being an ongoing rally since mid-February now. Corn (+6%) also had a strong month.
Finally the bottom of the leaderboard sees Brazilian equities (-10% local, -15% USD terms) prop up the rest as the political situation came to a head. Elsewhere Gold (-6%), Silver (-10%) and Copper (-8%) all suffered with the Fed repricing. EM equities and bonds (-4% and -5% respectively) also succumbed for the same reason.
Taking a look at year-to-date performance, it’s still commodity markets which are dominating the top of the leaderboard. Indeed in local currency terms the top five has WTI (+33%), Brent (+19%), Silver (+15%), Gold (+15%) and Corn (+13%) hogging the limelight, although if we flip to USD terms then Brazilian equities (+23%) and Russian equities (+19%) jump to second and fourth respectively.
There’s a familiar look to the bottom of the leaderboard with the Shanghai Comp (-17% local, -19% USD terms) the biggest outlier. Italian equities (-14% local, -12% USD terms) and European banks (-14% local, -12% USD terms) are still down double digits although have bounced back from how they ended Q1.