Join Fund Library now and get free access to personalized features to help you manage your investments.

What’s driving global markets higher?

Published on 06-10-2024

Share This Article

Rate-cut expectations boost sentiment


The current leg higher in global equity markets is being fueled mostly by the belief that the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) is finally done hiking rates and slowly inching towards a rate cut later this year. Granted, investors should know by now that’s hardly a guarantee. Nor does it sound like much of a catalyst given what expectations used to be just a short few months ago.

In fact, if you recall, many forecasters – but not us – had assumed the Fed was getting set to cut six or seven times this year and was well past the point of needing to raise rates again. Yet, that expectation has not become reality – not even close. And while global equity markets continued to rally early on as investors adjusted to the fact of the Fed taking a less accommodative stance than anticipated, there was a limit to how much they were willing to accept.

More specifically, the pullback in April was precipitated by fresh fears the Fed would end up not cutting rates this year and would even be forced to raise rates in another attempt to quell the country’s stubborn inflation rate, which had ticked up two months in a row (February and March) to a level higher than it was at the end of last year.

In response, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell downplayed the possibility of more rate hikes, saying in his press conference following the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) latest decision in early May that such an outcome was “highly unlikely.” In turn, that eased some of the fears being felt by investors and helped reignite the rally in global equity markets, which, by then, was already beginning to gain renewed steam.

Global inflation rate edges down

Still, the icing on the cake, so to speak, was the release earlier this month of April’s global inflation rate dropping to 3.4% from 3.5% previously. This was followed by much weaker retail sales data, which implies a consumer slowdown that could stem a further push higher in prices. Combined, this not only gave more credence to Powell’s statement about rate hikes being unlikely at this juncture in the cycle but has also reignited the chance of at least one potential rate cut – if not more – before 2024 draws to a close.

So, while investors aren’t getting what they originally expected of the Fed – and have struggled at times reconciling this reality – we believe they now seem largely content with what’s more realistically ahead of them. Indeed, even the recent release of the FOMC’s minutes from May, which show some Fed participants are willing “to tighten policy should further risks to inflation materialize” hasn’t stopped benchmarks like the S&P 500 Index from continuing their upward trajectory.

Are there other factors that are allowing investors to still view Fed policy as a “glass half full” proposition for equity markets? It’s not like investors have just stayed the course. As mentioned, there was the pullback in April and the breadth of market returns since then has diminished, much like it did during long stretches of last year when market-cap weighted indexes performed significantly better than equal-weighted ones. And we believe this crowding effect may continue until there’s greater assurance about rate cuts and the economy at large. After all, in this environment, investors generally feel more comfortable investing in names that are more resilient to swings in economic activity than they are in sectors or stocks that tend to benefit more in periods of economic strength and certainty.

Earnings fortify rally

Of course, having said that, there’s no question that another season of solid earnings results has helped fortify the new leg in the rally. As of late May, 78% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings per share above estimates, which is higher than both the five-year average of 77% and the 10-year average of 74%, according to Factset data. In addition, companies have reported earnings that are 7.5% above estimates, which is below the five-year average, but above the 10-year average of 6.7%.

Beyond that, it shouldn’t be understated how powerful rallying markets are in and of themselves in terms of creating upward momentum in stock prices. Retail investor participation, in particular, has increased dramatically in recent weeks, suggesting these types of investors are feeling more confident about the prospects of global equities – especially given how auspicious returns have been since the end of October and “the fear of missing out” feeling that may be creating.

Investment implications

Ultimately, there may not be as clear a path forward for investors as the current rally suggests. All it might take for the market to start wobbling again is for inflation to tick up or not fall fast enough. Or for there to be a release of another economic data point that puts in question the idea that the Fed is done hiking rates and ready to cut some time this year. And that’s true not just in the United States, but in other countries like Canada as well, where the Bank of Canada announced a 25 basis point rate cut on June 5, the first in over two years. More cuts may be closer at hand, but still largely dependent on inflation continuing to move lower.

Moreover, investors can’t lose sight of some of the ongoing geopolitical risks that are at play or the U.S. election in November, which has the potential to roil markets and impact Fed policy all on its own.

At best, then, we believe global equity markets still have the potential to move higher from here, but not likely without interruption or at the same torrid pace as the past six months.

Kevin McCreadie is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer at AGF Management Ltd.

Notes and Disclaimer

© 2024 by AGF Ltd. This article first appeared in AGF Insights and Market Perspectives and has been updated. Reprinted with permission.

Commentary and data sourced Bloomberg, Reuters and company reports unless otherwise noted. The commentaries contained herein are provided as a general source of information based on information available as of May 24, 2024, and should not be considered as investment advice or an offer or solicitations to buy and/or sell securities. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy in these commentaries at the time of publication, however, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Market conditions may change investment decisions arising from the use or reliance on the information contained herein. Investors are expected to obtain professional investment advice.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of AGF, its subsidiaries or any of its affiliated companies, funds or investment strategies.

AGF Investments is a group of wholly owned subsidiaries of AGF Management Limited, a Canadian reporting issuer. The subsidiaries included in AGF Investments are AGF Investments Inc. (AGFI), AGF Investments America Inc. (AGFA), AGF Investments LLC (AGFUS) and AGF International Advisors Company Limited (AGFIA). AGFA and AGFUS are registered advisors in the U.S. AGFI is registered as a portfolio manager across Canadian securities commissions. AGFIA is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and registered with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission. The subsidiaries that form AGF Investments manage a variety of mandates comprised of equity, fixed income and balanced assets.

®The “AGF” logo is a registered trademark of AGF Management Limited and used under licence.


Join Fund Library now and get free access to personalized features to help you manage your investments.