How investments are reacting to 'surprising' US events

How investments are reacting to 'surprising' US events
PHOTO: AFP

Many people were expecting the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this month.

But what caught them and stock markets around the world by surprise was the Fed saying it would likely raise the interest rates another three times next year.

Considering that the Fed had raised them twice since 2006, the announcement was indeed a surprise.

But surprises seem to be the new norm.

Tycoon Donald Trump's stunning win in the US presidential election last month initially drew jitters of a possible stock market crash.

Instead, his conciliatory victory speech, which sparked expectations of him increasing fiscal spending to spur economic growth, was the catalyst for a global stock market rally.

The Straits Times Index (STI) has gained around 4 per cent since the election on Nov 8.

In light of these two "surprising" events, here are how three common investment products have reacted so far.

EXCHANGE-TRADED FUND (ETF)

ETFs are investment funds listed and traded intraday on a stock exchange that provides exposure to international markets and asset classes that may be inaccessible to individual investors.

Most Asian equity markets slumped after the Fed's announcement, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) noted in a market update last week.

India was particularly badly hit - foreign investors have been trimming their holdings of Indian stocks since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's move last month to demonetise the country's high-denomination currency notes - 500 and 1,000 rupees.

Gold prices, which tend to move inversely against the US dollar, were also affected by the greenback's recent strength. They are heading for a sixth weekly decline and hovering at a 10-month low.

As a result, some of the most active ETFs on SGX in the December month-to-date were iShares MSCI India Index ETF and SPDR Gold Shares ETF.

US ETFs were previously in the spotlight in anticipation of the Fed's interest rates hikes, according to an SGX report on Dec 10.

Earlier this month, the db x-trackers S&P 500 Inverse Daily UCITS ETF was the most active, registering a 33-fold surge in turnover from the year-ago period.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUST (REIT)

In theory, Singapore Reits are sensitive - like any other real estate investments - to rising interest rates as they leverage on debt to generate rental income.

The sector is also facing headwind as the Singapore economy is not doing well, and there is an oversupply in commercial office and industrial property, explained financial blogger and investment coach Kenny Loh, who specialises in Reits.

Due to mounting expectations of an interest rate hike, the SGX S-REIT Index has corrected by 5 per cent since its year-to-date peak in early September, SGX said in a market update last week.

After the Fed's announcement, the sector did not see any knee-jerk reaction because the expectation had already been priced in, said Mr Loh.

He pointed out that not all sectors and Reits are facing challenges because some portfolios in the healthcare or industrial sectors are more defensive in nature.

OCBC analyst Deborah Ong recommended hospitality Reits because the current price levels are looking attractive for some of the Reits under coverage.

on SPH Brightcove

Her picks included Ascott Residence Trust and CDL Hospitality Trusts.

"In particular, OUE Hospitality Trust looks attractive to us, with anchor tenants Michael Kors and Victoria's Secret finally open at Mandarin Gallery, and the potential for increased contributions from Crowne Plaza Changi Airport following the opening of Terminal 4 in the second half of 2017," she said.

Mr Loh urged retail investors to understand their investment objective and do a risk profile first before deciding which Reit to invest in.

"Without understanding themselves, retail investors tend to be emotionally influenced by news and market volatility, and thus panic sell at the wrong time, which results in losing money in Reits."

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Three currencies - the Malaysian ringgit, South Korean won and Singapore dollar - have led the decline against the US dollar when compared with levels prior to Mr Trump's victory, noted a report by IG Markets this week.

The Fed's rate signal triggered a renewed rise in US bond yields, boosting the dollar and stoking worries about the risk of capital outflows from emerging markets in Asia, reported Reuters on Monday.

The ringgit fell to its weakest level since the 1998 financial crisis, while the South Korean won hit a nearly six-month low on Monday.

The Singapore dollar sank to a near one-year low against the US dollar last week - right after the Fed raised interest rates.

Yesterday, it tumbled to its weakest in seven years - at about 5pm, the greenback was fetching 1.4444 Singapore dollars.

linheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 22, 2016.
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