In the US, household consumption continues to grow at a moderate pace, supported by a robust labour market that still shows no signs of slowing. “Nevertheless, most leading indicators point to a slowdown, and the housing sector, which usually reacts first to monetary tightening, is showing a decline in both building permits and house prices”, says Guy Wagner, Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of the asset management company BLI – Banque de Luxembourg Investments. “In the eurozone, governments are aiming to mitigate the economic slowdown with further public support measures, with Germany having just announced a support package totalling EUR 200 billion.” In China, the public authorities are trying to counterbalance the weakness of activity resulting from the persistent difficulties in the real estate sector and the general climate of uncertainty following the zero Covid policy by boosting investment in infrastructure. Japan remains one of the few countries to support activity through a monetary policy that is still very accommodating, its inflation rate being much lower than in Western countries.
Eurozone inflation reaches new highs
Although US inflation fell for the second consecutive month in August, it is too early to call the easing sustainable. “However, the high basis of comparison, the reversal in commodity prices and the weakening global economy point to a gradual but slow deceleration in inflation in the coming months”, believes the Luxembourgish economist. In the eurozone, the pressure on energy prices has pushed inflation to new highs.
Central banks tighten monetary policy aggressively
In September, central banks continued to tighten monetary policy aggressively as expected. The US Federal Reserve’s Monetary Committee raised the target range for the federal funds rate by 75 basis points to 3% – 3.25%, marking the third consecutive 0.75% rate increase. Fed-Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the Committee’s determination to stay the course of tightening as inflation remains stubbornly high and the labour market very tight. In the Eurozone, the European Central Bank also raised its main policy rate by 75 basis points to 1.25%. Guy Wagner: “This was the first time since the introduction of the single currency that a move of this magnitude had been made.” Like her American counterpart, the
president of the Governing Council, Christine Lagarde, also insisted on the continuing need to combat excessive inflationary pressures with significantly higher interest rates.
Further surge in bond yields
The restrictive stance of central bankers regarding the future path of policy rates triggered a further surge in bond yields. The benchmark 10-year rate rose in the US, briefly touching the 4% mark during the month. In the euro area, the yield to maturity on the 10-year government bond rose in Germany, in France, in Italy and in Spain.
Equity markets continue to correct
In September, equity markets continued the correction started in August. “Interest rate hikes and fears of recession weighed on stock prices, with most indices down by at least 15% since the beginning of the year,” specifies Guy Wagner. At the regional level, the S&P 500 in the US, the Stoxx 600 in Europe, the Topix in Japan and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell over the month. “At the sector level, healthcare proved particularly resilient, while real estate and technology corrected the most.”