Courtiers Wealth Management
Courtiers Wealth Management

News & Insights

Quarterly Fund Performance Update

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Key questions asked in this video:

  1. How have Courtiers Funds performed over the first quarter?
  2. Diversification in the funds is essentially the security of clients’ money, so what are we doing to maintain this security? And how does the Quantitative Equity Selection Model (QESM) mentioned in the summary (below) contribute towards this diversification?
  3. With us looking at Germany, as well as Thai banks, does this mean Courtiers global diversification is broadening?
  4. Have there been any surprises this quarter?

Commentary from Jacob Reynolds, Head of Asset Management and James Timpson, Courtiers Fund Manager:

The Courtiers funds generated strong returns in the first three months of 2024 as equity markets rallied amidst declining inflation and slowing interest rate hikes.

The Cautious Risk, Balanced Risk and Growth Funds returned +1.92%, +3.45% and +4.88% respectively, continuing the positive momentum seen in the final quarter of 2023. The UK and Global (ex-UK) Equity Income Funds gained +1.55% and +5.05% respectively, while the Ethical Equity Income Fund gathered +1.42% and the Investment Grade Bond Fund picked up +0.27%.

The Courtiers Multi-Asset Funds maintained diversified exposure to equity markets throughout the quarter and benefitted strongly from the broad market rally. In addition to the robust gains realised from the broad equity index futures, the funds benefitted from their tilt towards banking stocks, with the Stoxx 600 Banks futures climbing 14.8% and individual stocks Barclays and Citigroup gaining 23% and 24% respectively during the quarter.

The German DAX index is currently showing attractive value qualities in our fundamental index analysis, particularly with regards to its forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio which is currently 13.0. By comparison, the leading US equity index, the S&P 500, has a forward P/E of 21.9. Over the last three months we have increased the funds’ exposure to the German equity market. Germany is the third largest economy in the world but has struggled in the last two years. It has an industrial sector twice the size of the UK’s and consumes 33% more energy per capita. This meant that when the price of oil went above $120 and natural gas more than doubled after Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany struggled and was the only G7 economy to shrink in 2023. It has since pivoted away from Russian gas by finding new countries to supply them, increasing efficiency and building liquified natural gas (LNG) ports. Germany is expected to return to growth in 2024 and our fundamental analysis has flagged the DAX as attractively priced for investment. As well as investing in DAX futures, which track the 40 largest companies in the German market, the funds have directly invested in German stocks flagged as good value by the Courtiers Quantitative Equity Selection Model (QESM).

During the quarter the multi-asset funds have expanded their exposure to the emerging market space by investing in a diversified selection of Thai banks, all of which were flagged in the QESM as offering good value.

With market volatility having dropped significantly since the peak of the pandemic, index options have become significantly more affordable. During the last quarter the Courtiers funds have bought call options in place of a portion of futures exposure for both the FTSE 100 index and the S&P 500 index, offering a layer of protection in the event of a significant market downturn.

In the Courtiers UK Equity Income Fund, which is held within the multi-asset funds, there were two stocks which saw huge bumps when overseas firms sought to acquire them. Spirent Communications jumped 63% when they accepted a £1 billion offer from Arizona-based Viavi Solutions, while Wincanton surged nearly 50% in January after receiving an all-cash offer from French shipping firm CMA CGM. Both of these depict the significant under-valuation we are seeing in the UK equity market, which is why we remain confident that the UK represents good value for investors.

The FTSE 100 index, which tracks the largest 100 companies in the UK, rallied +3.98% despite official figures showing that the UK entered a recession in the latter part of 2023. Medium-sized companies measured by the FTSE 250 ex IT index gained 1.89% while small-cap companies measured by the FTSE Small-cap ex IT index slipped 0.99%.

European stocks performed well as the Eurostoxx 50 index, which tracks the largest companies in mainland Europe, gathered 12.94%. The US stock market also continued to thrive, with the S&P 500 index climbing 10.55% during the quarter, although unlike last year the rally was not restricted to the so-called ‘magnificent seven’. Japanese stocks continued their good run with the Topix 100 index gaining 18.14% since the start of the year but returns to UK investors remained stunted with the yen declining a further 6% against the pound.

Emerging market returns have been mostly positive with the MSCI Emerging Market index rising 4.57% in local currency terms since the start of the year, but China with its political instability has been a major laggard with the MSCI China CNY index having declined 1.71%.

UK inflation declined during the quarter, with the latest data from the ONS showing the Consumer Prices Index at 3.8% as of February 2024, down from 4.2% three months ago and 9.2% a year ago. Government bond prices continued to fall, with the ten-year gilt yield rising from 3.54% to 3.93% during the quarter. The Bank of England is forecasting the inflation rate to drop back to its targeted 2% rate later this year, so all eyes will be on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to see if they lower rates at their next meeting in May.

Higher inflation has not affected mortgage rates which continue to decline from the highs seen last year. More than 60,000 mortgages were approved in February 2024, up 40% from February 2023. House prices have risen for the second quarter in a row, up 0.7% in Q4 last year and up 1.2% from Q1 2023. Helping banks to continue their recovery since the turmoil caused by Silicon Valley Bank last year.

Energy, agricultural and industrial metals prices have fallen significantly from their 2022 highs, but they remain very volatile. The S&P GSCI USD index, which consists of a basket of these commodities, rose 10.36% during the quarter. This was partly driven by oil which was up 13.55%. In the precious metals markets, the S&P GSCI Gold and Silver indices rose 7.37% and 3.83% in USD respectively. The price of gold reached an all-time high, defying the opportunity cost of holding gold that comes with higher interest rates.

Important information

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns. The value of investments, and the income from them, can go down as well as up and is not guaranteed and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Any forecast, projection or target where provided is indicate only and is not guaranteed in any way. Certain types of funds might carry a greater investment risk than other investment funds. Further details of the risks are associated with investing in Courtiers funds can be found in the Key Investor Information Document or Prospectus, copies of which are available on request or at www.courtiers.co.uk.

Disclaimer

This communication is for information purposes only and should not be relied upon in making an investment decision. The views expressed by individuals and the business are based on market conditions at the date of issue and are subject to change without notice. The mention of any stocks or shares should not be taken as recommendation to deal and does not take into account the individual investor’s investment objective or risk profile. Where an investment or security is denominated in a different currency to the investor’s currency of reference, changes in rates of exchange may have an adverse effect on the value, price or income of or from that investment to the investor. Any third party sites, or pages which are linked to the document, have not been reviewed by us and therefore we accept no responsibility for the authors or content of external link or pages. If you are interested in any of Courtiers Asset Management Limited’s range of funds, or require any financial advice, please speak to a financial adviser.

Issued by Courtiers Asset Management Limited, CAM0423943. Courtiers Asset Management Limited is Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority – Register No: 616322. Address: 18 Hart Street, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 2AU. Tel: 01491 578368.

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