October was a difficult month for investors as equity markets slumped across the board. The MSCI World index, which tracks global developed equities, declined 2.63% amidst rising bond yields and further geopolitical uncertainty sparked by the conflict in the Middle East. Emerging markets also suffered with the MSCI Emerging Markets index ending the month down 3.58%. The yield on US 10-year treasuries crept above 5% for the first time since 2007 amidst speculation that interest rates would remain elevated for longer.
After a volatile month for markets, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell offered some encouragement for them this week as he signalled that the Fed may be done with interest rate hikes. Markets have rallied strongly, and as of close on 2nd November the FTSE 250 ex IT index, which measures medium-sized companies in the UK, is up 6% for the week, having rallied more than 3.5% on Thursday alone following Powell’s comments on Wednesday night.
Full round-up of October market performance
In the UK, the FTSE 100 index declined 3.69% while medium and smaller companies, measured by the FTSE 250 ex IT index and the FTSE Small Cap ex IT index respectively, slid 6.90% and 5.88%. In the US, the S&P 500 USD index fell 2.10% while in Europe the Eurostoxx 50 EUR index lost 2.63%. Japanese stocks measured by the Topix JPY index sank 2.99%.
Emerging markets returns were also negative, with the MSCI Emerging Markets index declining 3.58% in local currency terms. Chinese stocks measured by the MSCI China CNY index dropped 4.21% while Latin American equities, measured by the MSCI Latin America local currency index, conceded 3.23%. Indian stocks measured by the Nifty 50 INR index decreased 2.84%.
In the fixed income market, UK government bonds, measured by the FTSE Gilts All Stocks index, slipped 0.36% with long dated (over 15 years to maturity) gilts losing 1.33%. Sterling denominated corporate bonds, measured by the Markit iBoxx Sterling Corporates index, fell 0.13%. In the high yield market, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Sterling High Yield index picked up 0.20%.
In the commodities market, the S&P GSCI USD index, which consists of a basket of commodities including oil, metals and agricultural items, relinquished 4.18%. Brent crude oil futures saw a reversal of fortunes as they tumbled 10.76% during the month. However returns were brighter in the agricultural markets, with corn and wheat futures returning 0.42% and 2.72% in USD respectively. The precious metals markets also saw positive returns with the S&P GSCI Gold and Silver indices rising 7.38% and 2.72% in USD respectively.
In the currency markets, it was a mixed month for the pound as it depreciated 0.38% versus the US dollar and 0.42% against the euro but gained 1.17% versus the yen.