We ended November in the UK with the same prime minister that we started with. That makes a change on October and September. Moreover, our chancellor of the exchequer (Finance Minister, in any other country!) remained in place too. A sigh of relief at these green shoots of stability could be felt all over the place – not least the political podcasts and Op Ed columns.
The UK government released its well signposted ‘Autumn Statement’, having successfully previewed almost every key measure in it. Bankers bonuses remain uncapped, but almost all the other moves from Truss/Kwarteng have been reversed. Notional tax rates are unchanged, but thresholds are either fixed or have been reduced, so there is a bit more tax to pay all round.
The main changes for me are the drop in the 45% tax threshold by £25k, and the corporation tax staying ‘high’ at 25%. The reduced 45% tax threshold adds 5% x £25k i.e. £1250 of tax to my annual tax bill, and corporation tax being 6% higher than it might have been will cost me considerably more than that.
Input prices are falling
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the markets there was a distinct sound of air coming out of the inflation balloon. Some key input prices have dropped significantly in recent weeks:
- Oil prices are down below pre-Ukraine levels, and about 25% down from peak.
Avg monthly Brent oil price, Oct 20 to Oct 22
- Freight costs from Asia have dropped 66-85%
- Gas prices have more than halved from the summer peak. The graph below shows the price on 2 Dec for taking gas in Feb ’23 – this price remains about 60% higher than it was in January but it is less than half of the late August peak.
With these input prices falling – suggesting some output prices could potentially drop (which would be negative inflation) – the ‘inflationary spiral’ sentiments have started to dissipate. Interest rates now look likely to rise a bit less (i.e. still increase, but not by as much) than people thought a few weeks ago. And with that, bond prices are increasing – even in the UK – and confidence is increasing.
Markets in November
Equities everywhere continued to bounce off their bottom. Bond prices also rose – as yields softened – everywhere. And the USD weakened. It was this USD drop that was the most striking thing in my portfolio. The pound, having bought $1.03 during those wretched Truss weeks, has now brushed up against $1.23. That is almost a 20% swing, in two months. And most of what I say about the pound has been true about the euro too – the £pound:€euro rate has held pretty stable, apart from a brief Truss blip.
My portfolio’s month
My IB subportfolios’ results are emailed to me at the start of each month. Some of these emails were tantalising. My passive ETF portfolio rose 9%, my Ltd company portfolio rose 10%. However, most of these results are in USD, and once you allow for the USD drop in November, my returns were 3-5% across the board. My overall return on the month was 3.8%, versus a weighted market average (in GBP) of 5.2%. Not the first time, I am lagging the market this year. Hopefully my readers have fared a little better.
As regular readers will know, I am very focused on reducing the size of my margin loan. November saw good progress on this front. The GBP gain helped, because I have a hefty six figure debt in both EUR and USD. So thanks to the drop in the USD, my USD debt is now around 4.9% smaller than it was a month ago. My loan fell over £30k in GBP terms. My loan is now a similar % of my portfolio value to where it was at the start of the year (even though my portfolio has shrunk by around 20%) and, though the monthly interest costs are 50% bigger than they were, they remain manageable.
One KPI I track is the £ imbalance from my target allocation, which is over £100k smaller than it was a few weeks ago. This imbalance is still too far from £0 for my liking but I feel I’m in enough control for now. My delta from target allocation at the end of November is shown below. I am a little bit underweight USA Equities (normally my biggest exposure by a factor of 2).
The other monthly metric I pay attention to is dividend income. November has been annoyingly sparse for dividends, partly because some holdings that paid out in November 2021 have spilt over into December 2022. I will do a fuller analysis of this – and a @weenie chart – when I do a 2022 review, but for now it suffices to say that my trailing 12 month investment income is up about 5% on a year ago, but lower than it has been for much of this year.
We’re now in the final month of the 10th year that I have been tracking my portfolio rigorously. Plenty of funds don’t complete a ten year track record. I’m nearly there. A full review awaits.