As we start a new week, let's take a look at the significant events in the global economy over the past week with our weekly financial update, presented by Bas Kooijman, the CEO and Asset Manager of DHF Capital SA.
Last week, the busiest week of the season's quarterly earnings reports, saw mixed returns in the stock market. The S&P 500 had a strong gain thanks to Microsoft, Apple, Amazon.com, and Facebook parent Meta Platforms, but cyclical sectors performed poorly due to several signs of economic slowdown, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Despite a 3.2% rise in March orders, durable goods data excluding aircraft and defense fell 0.4%, indicating weak business spending plans. Retail inventories rose more than expected, suggesting the need for further cutbacks in production and spending. Renewed turmoil in the banking industry also heightened fears of a slowdown and possible recession. Investment-grade corporate bonds weakened through much of the week but rallied later following encouraging corporate earnings reports and an uptick in secondary trading volumes. European shares fell slightly due to concerns that interest rate hikes could lead to a recession.
In the UK, the budget deficit reached a record level of GBP 139 billion in the year to March, but this was smaller than the forecast made by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Business confidence rose to its highest level in almost a year in April. Sweden's central bank raised its key interest rate by a half percentage point to 3.5% as expected and signaled that a quarter-point increase could be forthcoming in June or September.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index and the broader TOPIX Index both rose, and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) left monetary policy, including its yield curve control framework, unchanged. The BoJ signaled a continued commitment to its ultra-loose stance, and the government's easing of border controls contributed to market gains ahead of an anticipated increase in arrivals. The BoJ also upgraded its forecasts for Japan's core inflation slightly and announced that it would conduct a review of monetary policy.
Chinese stocks ended mixed as policymakers remain cautious on headwinds ranging from high youth unemployment and slowing global growth. The People's Bank of China extended its short-term cash injections into the banking system to ensure ample liquidity at month-end. Profits at industrial firms in China fell 21.4% from January to March from a year earlier, slightly better than the 22.9% drop recorded in the first two months of 2023.
Overall, the global financial markets showed a mix of gains and losses, with various factors influencing the performance of different sectors and regions.