NFA Global UCITS Monthly - September 2017

  •  The Fund’s QDUSD Class was down 0.21% in September; up 7.78% year to date
  •  Fed held rates, but more hawkish rhetoric insinuates a further rate hike in December
  •  Russia's long-term debt outlook upgraded to positive by Fitch
  •  Tax reform and subsequent effect on debt ceiling will be monitored closely

A mixed month across asset markets was once again driven by geopolitics and central bank rhetoric. Fed Chair Yellen’s seemingly hawkish tones drove a sell-off in UST yields; this was further compounded by the proposed ‘revolutionary’ US tax plan. What concerns us is the tax-plan’s eventual effect on the debt ceiling; we expect to hear more on this by year-end. Nonetheless, the yield on the 10-year UST was up 22bps and USD gained momentum; the DXY Index closed the month 0.44% higher. 

Meanwhile, the Fed held rates at 1%-1.25%, we heard further mixed messages from Fed members with those in acceptance of lowly inflation calling for further hikes, while others remained concerned of hiking too quickly with lacklustre price pressures. The futures market, however, received a wake-up call after Yellen’s address, where she reiterated that a December hike is clearly a possibility. Gold unsurprisingly nosedived in September; meanwhile Brent rallied 7.48%.

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NFA Global UCITS Monthly - August 2017

  • Fund’s QDUSD class gained 1.34%; +7.96% YTD
  • Geopolitical tensions and benign inflation outlook support a Treasury rally
  • Fed expected to start balance sheet adjustment in September and leave rates unchanged
  • US dollar remains on the back-foot

August was a generally positive month for bond markets as increased geopolitical tensions on the back of North Korea’s missile launch program supported safe haven assets and a still benign US inflation outlook helped Treasuries; the 10-year US Treasury yield fell 17 bps to yield 2.12% at month end.

There have been some strong data points on the US economy, notably US consumer confidence which hit the second highest level since 2000 and the second estimate of US Q2 GDP (quarterly annualised) which was revised up to 3% with a strong upward revision to the consumption data. However, and more importantly, inflation and wage data releases continued to paint a benign picture muting expectations for further rate rises later this year. For example, the July PCE deflator came in at 1.4% for both the headline and core readings. As a result consensus seems to have built for the Fed to start its balance sheet adjustment program in September but take a ‘wait and see’ approach to further interest rate rises.

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NFA Global UCITS July 2017

  • The Fund’s QDUSD class rose 1.12% and +6.54% year to date
  • Fed left rates unchanged but expects balance sheet normalisation to begin ‘relatively soon’
  • US dollar index fell 2.9% over the month
  • Kuwait and the US mediate the Saudi-Qatar spat; GCC bonds perform solidly

July was generally a positive month across asset markets; the VIX index of volatility reached another new low, the S&P another record high and commodities, notably oil and copper, made strong gains. US Treasuries ended the month little changed: the yield on the 10 year compressed 1 basis point to 2.29% at month end.

The Fed left rates unchanged at its July meeting but indicated that it expects to begin its balance sheet normalisation program ‘relatively soon’ assuming ‘the economy evolves broadly as anticipated’. Economic data releases were mixed; the Chicago Fed National Activity Index, a broad based indicator of 85 economic variables, showed a modest improvement to 0.13 in June but missed market expectations. The labour market continued to recover in terms of jobs added but wage data remained benign. Inflation data remained soft (June core PCE inflation came in at 1.5% yoy) which dissipated some of the market’s expectation for future interest rate rises. The IMF downgraded its US GDP forecast to 2.1% for 2017 and 2018 given ‘policy uncertainties’ and a baseline assumption of no change. Against this backdrop, the dollar continued to weaken with the US dollar index falling 2.9% over the month. The euro appreciated as investors continued to anticipate the ECB was getting closer to reducing its stimulus. In the Middle East, the Saudi Arabia et al spat with Qatar continued. Some progress was made when the US stepped in to mediate as Qatar signed a memorandum of understanding with the US on anti-terrorism measures. Middle Eastern credits traded stronger on the back of this although negotiations seem to have reached an impasse for the time being.

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NFA UCITS Monthly - June 2017

• The Fund’s QDUSD class fell 0.53% over the month and is +5.35% YTD
• As expected the Fed raised rates 25 bps;
• More hawkish comments from central banks put bonds under some pressure
• US dollar index weakened over the month
• Saudi‐Qatar spat puts GCC bonds under some pressure; diplomatic resolution expected

June was a mixed month across asset markets with a pickup in volatility into month end. US
Treasuries conceded some ground; the yield on the 10 year Treasury rose 10 bps to yield 2.3% at month end despite inflation data remaining benign. As expected, the Fed raised rates by 25 bps taking the view that the labour market ‘continued to strengthen’. They noted inflation is below the 2 percent objective in the near term but is expected to stabilise around this level over the medium term although they are ‘monitoring inflation developments closely’. The committee left the ‘dot plot’ unchanged until 2018 and moved it slightly lower in 2019 and some more details on ‘caps’ for portfolio runoff were given, although Fed Chair Yellen only went as far as saying the plan could be put ‘into effect relatively soon’ and that the unwind will likely be completed ‘a few years down the road’. The dollar index remained on the back foot falling 1.34% over the month.

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NFA UCITS Monthly - May 2017

• Positive month for bond markets: Fund’s QDUSD class gained 1.21% and +5.92% YTD
• Fed expected to raise rates in June and UST yield curve flattens: Fed ‘ahead of the curve’
• Treasuries and the Russia holdings amongst the portfolio’s top performers
• US dollar retreats back to
pre US election levels

May was generally a positive month for bond markets helped by a solid performance from US Treasuries and the VIX index of volatility making what was then new lows albeit with a temporary spike as yet another Brazilian President, this time Michel Termer, faced investigation over bribery allegations. A combination of some mixed US economic data and President Trump’s political difficulties dampened expectations for meaningful growth boosting policy initiatives. The US Treasury 10 year yield compressed 8 bps to 2.2% at month end and the Treasury yield curve flattened as a benign inflation picture increased confidence that the Fed is ‘ahead of the curve’. The US dollar index retreated 2.15% back to pre US Presidential levels.

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NFA UCITS Monthly - April 2017

• Generally positive month for bond markets; Fund’s QDUSD class gained 1.02%
• US dollar index weakened; Trump’s pro-growth policies are slow to get implemented
• Risk-on bias into month end; French Presidential election result as expected
• Fed still on track to raise rates although recent economic data releases have ‘softened’

Generally positive month for bonds; the 10 year UST yield fell by 11 bps to 2.28% at month end and investment grade credit spreads tightened benefiting from more of a risk-on bias into month end. The swing in sentiment was mirrored in the VIX index of volatility which spiked to a 5 month high mid-month only to reverse this and reach the lows of the past 10 years.

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NFA UCITS Monthly - March 2017

• Positive month for bonds; Fund’s QDUSD class gained 0.79%
• Fed increased rates 25 basis points in a widely expected move
• 10 year Treasury yield unchanged over the month and credit markets well supported
• US dollar retraced some of the previous month’s gains

The 25 basis point Fed rate hike was so clearly flagged to the market that it ended up being a non-event, although the market drew some comfort from a perceived dovish tone to the FOMC minutes and Janet Yellen’s comments which talked of near-term risks as being ‘roughly balanced’. On the back of this, the 10 year US Treasury yield was unchanged at 2.39%. The failure of Donald Trump to get his Health Care Act passed on the first attempt highlighted the gap between campaign rhetoric and what is likely to get approved by Congress. Clearly, tax reform and deregulation were also major election promises and will be keenly watched to see what can actually be implemented.

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NFA UCITS Monthly - February 2017

• Positive month for bonds; Fund’s QD USD class gained 1.60%
• Stronger data and Fed speaker comments shift market expectations to a March rate hike
• Credit markets well supported and new issuance was readily absorbed
• US dollar index strengthens

February was a positive month for asset markets: equity markets such as the S&P 500 reached new highs as data releases buoyed optimism about an improving growth outlook. Accompanying this, market expectations for a US rate rise shifted forward so that by month end the Fed Futures were discounting ~80 percent chance of a rate hike in March having been closer to 30 percent earlier in the month. This reflected a slew of generally strong data releases, Janet Yellen’s testimony to US congress and commentary from Fed officials. Later in the month, William Dudley, a known ‘dove’ and voter on the FOMC, stated ‘the case for monetary policy tightening has become a lot more compelling’. In spite of this, the yield on the 10 year US Treasury compressed 6 basis points to end the month at 2.39% and the yield curve flattened; we see the Fed as acting ahead of the curve and expect the yield curve to continue to flatten. The US dollar index gained 1.62% over the month helped by the stronger data and mounting expectations for a rate rise.

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