Mover and Shakers – the best and worst of August 2023

Posted by Joshua Mahony -
Scope Markets

Table of Content


Best – Ibex 35

Worst – Hang Seng

The Ibex 35 has outperformed over the course of August, gaining over 2%. The strength evident within the Spanish index highlights the heavy weighting of utility and financial stocks. With risk sentiment souring elsewhere in Europe and the US, utility stocks typically hold up well given their role as a relative haven asset. Meanwhile, Spanish efforts to keep inflation low have managed to ensure that the country does continues to enjoy a less troublesome 2023 compared with their European peers. The impact of rising interest rates will obviously take a toll, but there is a greater degree of economic normality thanks to the disinflationary steps taken from the onset (free local public transport, VAT suspension of basic food, and reduced taxes on energy). With Spanish services (52.8) and manufacturing (47.8) PMI surveys well above their peers, there is a clear feeling that the economy is in a better place than most. While inflation moved higher, the figure of 2.6% is still enviable. With that in mind, there is a good chance we see the Spanish index continue to outperform at times of market concern, although perhaps will provide less fireworks when we do see a major risk-on theme emerge.

The Hang Seng suffered sharp losses over the course of the month, with markets growing increasingly concerned over the direction of the Chinese economy. With the Evergrande filing for bankruptcy, and Country Garden warning that they could default on their debt, the real estate sector continues to flash red. Elsewhere, a combination of deflation, record youth unemployment, and exports sharply lower, traders are clearly opting to steer clear of Chinese markets for now. The risk of a credit crisis in China presents the potential for further downside to come, although the government will likely do everything they can to stave off an economic collapse in the country. There will likely be a time when we see those risks lessen, with buyers stepping in. However, that may not be quite yet.


Best – US dollar

Worst – New Zealand dollar

The US dollar has been the clear outperformer throughout  August, with the currency looking attractive once again in the light of Chinese economic concerns. The prospect of a collapse in equity markets does benefit this haven currency, with concerns over a potential impending collapse heightened after Michael Burry announced his fresh big short on the S&P 500. While we are yet to see that sharp contraction in stocks come to fruition, the strength seen in the dollar highlights the growing positioning for a potential equity downturn. September is historically the best month for the dollar, meaning that we could yet see further upside for the greenback to come.

The New Zealand dollar has been heavily hit, losing traction over the course of the month. The economic outlook has soured thanks to the ongoing crisis in China, with the Asian powerhouse seeing imports fall -12.5% over the year to July. That decline in Chinese demand has impacted New Zealand agricultural export volume and value, with the latest global dairy price index highlighting a sharp -7.4% collapse over just two-week. With RBNZ having already raised rates to 5.50%, we are unlikely to see any further tightening from the central bank. All in all, the NZD looks likely to remain under pressure for the time being, although signs of a burgeoning economic crisis in Europe could see the euro and pound under pressure if the ECB and BoE shift towards a less hawkish tone. Any further negative news out of China would likely drive the likes of NZD and AUD weakness, with a risk-off tone for markets bringing the potential for NZDUSD downside.


Best – Natural gas

Worst – Palladium

Natural Gas has shown signs of a resurgence over the course of August, pushing progressively higher in two-waves. However, there will be some concerns that this latest period of strength has a footing in short-term factors that may yet be resolved to calm the market somewhat. In Australia, we have seen the ongoing wage negotiations disrupt operations. Meanwhile, the maintenance work being undertaken at the Norwegian Troll field has led to a significant decrease in gas flows from the major producer. In the US, Hurricane Idalia has seen reduced operations at LNG export facilities, specifically Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass and Corpus Christi. These factor remain a potential tailwind for prices, but a well-stocked European gas picture should help avoid the possibility of another demand squeeze that lifts prices to the lofty heights seen last year.

Palladium has been hit hard throughout August, with the metal losing traction on concerns that we could be set for an economic squeeze that sees demand for automotive and electronic products decline. Many automotive companies are looking overstocked for now, raising the likeliness of a slower production outlook. Meanwhile, the impact of rising interest rates on consumer spending looks to be damaging the demand outlook for tech such as laptops and mobile phones.

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