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The virus continues to spread across the world, with more than 25 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and 840, 000 deaths. The United States remains the worst-affected countries followed by the Eastern Mediterranean region and European countries. After successfully containing the virus, a rise in the number of cases in Europe following the easing of lockdown restrictions has forced leaders to reintroduce travel restrictions and other forms of social distancing measures.
Source: Source: World Health Organisation (Weekly Chart)
As the month comes to an end, more countries are slowly easing lockdown measures again and assessing the coronavirus cases. On the vaccine front, New York-based Pfizer, and Germany-based BioNtech reported promising results towards a potential vaccine for COVID-19 which has helped to appease the financial markets.
Global equities have been on a staggering rally in August which allowed the MSCI ASWI Index to recover all its loses made following the sell-off in March. Investors digested a lot of positive and negative news that have caused swings in the stock market but overall, the momentum has been bullish.
Main contributing factors:
Factors negatively affecting the stock market:
Major US equity indices outperformed its peers – European stocks have been rangebound in the recent weeks while S&P500 and Nasdaq Composite recorded consecutive days of record highs towards the end of the month. The Dow Jones also moved closer towards positive territory for 2020 but is yet to reclaim its February highs.
In this pandemic-induced environment, the tech sector is seen as outperforming. Mega-cap tech stocks remain resilient against the coronavirus woes and rose to new highs during the month. Among those stocks, two companies caught investors’ attention this month:
Apple made history this week and retakes the market-cap lead from Microsoft to become the first US company to be valued at US$2 trillion. Its market value has doubled in two years and its shares are currently priced at $499.23.
If immediate attention generally is on the FAANG group, Sea Ltd, the leading internet platform in Southeast Asia and Taiwan drew attention this month. The company outshines Tesla and the FAANG group of companies and emerged as the world’s best performing large-cap stock earlier this month.
Another notable event was the reshuffling of the Dow – Amgen ($AMGN), Salesforce.com ($CRM) and Honeywell International ($HON) will be added to the index while Pfizer ($PFE), Raytheon Technologies ($RTX) and Exxon Mobil ($XOM) will be removed. The moves were spurred by Apple’s decision to split its stock which will reduce the Information Technology index weight.
Clearly, companies had to battle a tough environment this year and market participants were expecting a dire earnings season. However, the support of monetary and fiscal stimulus has cushioned the adverse impact on profits.
In the Australian share market, the index is currently up for the month by 2.7%. Information technology was the best performer led by gains in Afterpay Ltd and Wisetech Global following the release of their corporate results. Afterpay Ltd rose by more than 35% since the start of the month following a series of good news. Consumer Staples, Communication Services and Utilities sectors were in the red.
Looking at the members’ performers of the ASX this month, we note that the energy sector and gold-related stocks were among the worst performers.
The unprecedented intervention by central banks is the main reason behind the rally. At those levels, investors were looking for confirmation that the stimulus will stay in place to further push the rally at the risk of the global economic backdrop and the stimulus-fueled economy. Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium widely eyed by investors brought some reassurance that central banks will likely continue to let the markets-friendly monetary policy settings in place for longer.
In the forex market, all the G10 currencies were stronger than the US dollar throughout the month. The Antipodeans and commodity-linked currencies were among the best performers while safe-haven currencies lagged.
On the economic front, data releases have shown the gradual improvement of the global economy. The Global Economic Surprise Index by Citigroup shows that global economic data is beating analyst expectations like never before.
Overall, investors were pleased with the improvement in the global manufacturing sector. Major countries have seen manufacturing index rising in expansionary levels.
United States: Other areas of improvement have been the housing market and the consumption of durable goods. Labour market data has been a bit disappointing as jobless were seen rising again.
Eurozone: IFO and ZEW Surveys have shown progress in the business climate and economic sentiment. However, Germany dealt with its first budget deficit since 2013 and recorded its biggest deficit in a decade. The recent GDP figures also fell sharply by 9.7% in the 2nd quarter of 2020.
Japan: Its economy suffered the worst quarter on record. With the surprise resignation of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, Shinzo Abe, last Friday due to worsening health issues, we expect to see questions being raised on the Abenomics policies and the Japanese economy in the next couple of weeks.
Gold rallied at the start of the month after fears of a second outbreak and new forms of travel restrictions overshadowed the recovery outlook and elevated geopolitical tensions between the US and China gripped the markets. The precious metal had the best weekly run in the first week of August in more than a decade. Gold reached a new milestone with an intraday high of $2,075 as virus woes, ongoing fiscal support, geopolitical tensions, the uncertainty of the global economic outlook still provide support to the haven asset.
However, the momentum eased dragged by positive vaccine-related news and broad optimism in the stock market. As of writing, the XAUUSD pair was down for the month and is currently trading around $1,970.
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