July was a positive month for most equity markets as investors remained cautiously optimistic over the prospect of inflation falling further and a potential easing in rate hikes.
In the UK, inflation data for the month of June came in better than expected, with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) falling from 8.7% to 7.9%, its lowest since March 2022, while in the US the CPI fell below 3% for the first time in more than two years. The pound continued to strengthen versus the dollar, at one point climbing above $1.30 for the first time since April last year, before ending the month just above $1.28.
The inflation update in the UK gave local markets a boost. The FTSE 100 index gained 1.8% on the day, while the FTSE 250 and the FTSE Small Cap indices, which measure medium and small companies respectively, each had their best day of the year so far, climbing 3.8% and 2.0% respectively. Real estate was the highest performing sector in the FTSE 100 index, appreciating 9.15% during the month as real estate companies welcomed the prospect of an end to rate rises.
Full round-up of July market performance
In the UK, the FTSE 100 index climbed 2.35% while medium and smaller companies, measured by the FTSE 250 ex IT index and the FTSE Small Cap ex IT index respectively, returned 4.90% and 4.07%. In the US, the S&P 500 USD index rose 3.21% while in Europe the Eurostoxx 50 EUR index picked up 1.77%. Japanese stocks measured by the Topix JPY index gained 1.49%.
Emerging markets returns were also positive, with the MSCI Emerging Markets index rising 5.37% in local currency terms. Chinese stocks measured by the MSCI China CNY index amassed 10.02%. Meanwhile Indian stocks measured by the Nifty 50 INR index rose 2.94% and Latin American equities, measured by the MSCI Latin America local currency index, gained 3.66%.
In the fixed income market, UK government bonds, measured by the FTSE Gilts All Stocks index, gathered 0.76%, although long dated (over 15 years to maturity) gilts slipped 0.09%. Sterling denominated corporate bonds, measured by the Markit iBoxx Sterling Corporates index, increased 2.44%. In the high yield market, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Sterling High Yield index returned 2.21%.
In the commodities market, the S&P GSCI USD index, which consists of a basket of commodities including oil, metals and agricultural items, surged 10.74%. Crude oil futures saw particularly strong gains as they climbed 15.80% during the month. Returns were mixed in the agricultural markets, with corn and wheat futures offering -9.11% and 4.64% in USD respectively. In the precious metals markets, the S&P GSCI Gold and Silver indices advanced 2.58% and 8.97% in USD respectively.
In the currency markets, it was a mixed month for the pound as it appreciated 1.04% versus the US dollar and 0.29% against the euro but slipped 0.31% versus the yen.