It was a rather lively week in financial markets, from the perspective of a UK-based investor. Sterling strengthened considerably against all major currencies, as markets anticipated a break-through in the long march to a Brexit deal. As Sterling strengthened, Global Equities as measured by MSCI ACWI were down -2.7% in GBP terms and the FTSE All Share index of UK Equities rose +1.61%. On the Fixed Income side of our portfolios, Global Bonds hedged to GBP returned -0.9% – but this considerably outperformed Sterling Bonds which returned -1.75% for the week.
Market developments were primarily driven by tentative advances in negotiations surrounding two prospective deals. Of major global importance, is the ongoing trade dispute between China and the US. Markets reacted favourably to news on Friday that the US had agreed a limited “phase one” trade deal with China which would delay tariff increases scheduled for this week. The agreement was positive, but light on detail and is widely seen as a truce in the ongoing trade war.
Closer to home, an outburst of optimism regarding the possibilities of a Brexit deal shot through financial markets towards the end of the week. The Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, met with Boris Johnson in 11th hour talks. Much was made of the reaffirmation of the possibility of a Brexit deal, even at this late stage. Sterling and UK assets rallied strongly on the news, and we expect volatility to persist into next week following the Queen’s speech on Monday.