August is the month in which the third try for a global economic recovery officially snapped, with first China, then Europe and finally Latin America succumbing to pre-recession forces and/or outright contraction. Which, in the New Normal, is great news as it means more hopes for even greater imminent central bank easing and "stimulus" if only for the wealthiest (and also please ignore the fact that 6 years of more of the same has not worked, this time will be different). Which explains why August, otherwise the sleepiest month of the year, proved to be fairly strong with both equities and bonds moving higher in tandem.
In fact, the situation in Europe is so dire, that European government bonds yields reached/retested their record multi-century all time lows. As Deutsche Bank summarizes, the 10yr government bond yields for Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland declined by 27bp, 28bp, 26bp, 28bp and 11bp in August to 0.89%, 1.25%, 2.44%, 2.23% and 0.44% respectively. From a total returns perspective, a 2% gain in August was the best monthly performance for Bunds and OATs since January which brings their YTD gains to around 8-9%. Not bad in the context of a 7% and 4% YTD gains in Stoxx 600 and the FTSE 100. Italian and Spanish government bonds are still ahead though on a YTD basis with total returns to date at around 12-13%. Staying in rates, US Treasuries were somewhat of a laggard relative to its European peers in August with a monthly return of around 1.2%. Nonetheless, it was still the biggest gain for Treasuries since January and the outperformance in long bonds has also driven the 10s/30s curve to its flattest since June 2009. The search for yield has also benefited Credit on both sides of the Atlantic. Total returns were positive across the main European, US and Sterling credit benchmarks although the highlight was a rebound in US HY. The asset class gained +1.8% in August after having lost 1.7% in July as outflows steadied and reversed as the month progressed.
DM equities were generally higher but the highlight goes to the S&P 500 (+4%) after having made its first crossing of the 2,000 mark in August. Performance was more mixed in Europe but generally still moderately positive. EM equities had another decent month with the MSCI EM index enjoying a 2% plus return for the fourth consecutive month. Commodities were the key losers in August. The CRB index (-0.6%) finished lower for its second consecutive month. Copper, WTI, Brent, Sugar, Silver were all between 2%-6% lower. The fact that Oil prices have now gone officially negative for the first time in 2014 despite the ongoing geopolitical tension is perhaps telling us something?
But nowhere is the humor of central planning better exhibited than in Brazil was a clear outperformer with the BOVESPA (+10%) posting its best monthly performance since January 2012. Why? Because Brazil just entered a recession. Perhaps the reason why the joke that global thermonuclear war will send futures limit up is funny, is because it's true...
August return by asset class:
Source: Deutsche Bank