February 2019: skinny update

For those of you clamouring for my February portfolio update (not), I’m not doing a full monthly report in my usual style.

I am still tracking my portfolio monthly, and I am posting the monthly figures here. February was pretty cool, and 2019 has definitely got off to a fine start.

I am continuing to do my ‘market performance, by asset class’ analysis and posting it on Twitter.

I intend to move to a quarterly rhythm for my more discursive approach. I don’t think monthly detailed posts were really adding much value. If you disagree please let me know in the comments as I will reconsider.


January 2019: many happy returns

I had a decent break over the New Year period, and whiled away far too much time reading blogs/etc. I felt very up to date, at the time.  Now of course I can’t remember what actually happened in January – proving the point of Nassim Taleb/others.

Overall I don’t think January was that notable for world politics/markets.  Davos saw the usual flurry of policy-making headlines, but nothing stood out for me.  

Closer to home Brexit dominated the news media, with as expected the UK government’s EU deal being rejected by a thumping majority in parliament.  For some reason markets have reacted fairly favourably to these developments, I think because they appear to suggest ‘no deal’ looks very unlikely.  I can’t say I am as sanguine, but in any case the pound rose to $1.33 at some point and ended the month over 2% up against the USD.

Equities recovered over half of their Q4 falls.  Everywhere.  Especially some tech stocks (Amazon up 13%, Facebook up 25% (!)).  Even bonds rose gently.  Sentiment has changed dramatically, without any particular data or hard facts to point to.  Sigh.

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December returns and 2018 review

Well, what a month.

The October bloodbath resumed in December, and then some, after a brief November hiatus. US stock markets fell by over 9%, just in the single month. Even Donald Trump has subsequently conceded that stock markets “hit a glitch”.

Given the reality TV show that is the Trump presidency it is hard to say exactly which news story drove such a drop, but you can take your pick from:

  • Trump attacking the Fed – which calls into question American economic governance.
  • The ongoing ‘trade war’ between the USA and China.
  • The government shutdown in the USA, due to the standoff between Trump and Congress over the $5bn border wall. This has resulted in hundreds of thousands of American workers not being paid/not working; I am never clear whether, if the shutdown stops, they then get backpay, so I’m not quite clear how severe this actually is but it clearly can’t be good.

On top of the Trump nonsense, I think that we saw the first rumours in December of a more significant slowdown in China. As 2019 started Apple shocked markets with (slightly Polyanna-ish) tales of Chinese woe.

While UK news was feverish about the inability of the Tory government to pass its EU Brexit deal through parliament, this had very little discernible impact on UK markets; I tend to agree with the commentators who say that this outcome was ‘priced in’ (i.e. expected) by the market already.

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