Stock Take

“Inflation is taxation without legislation,” said US economist Milton Friedman. If so, it’s little wonder the UK is feeling the pinch.

In a big week for UK data, the Office for National Statistics confirmed that consumer price inflation (CPI) fell to an annual rate of 10.1% in March. That was higher than the 9.2% predicted by the Bank of England (BoE), and meant the UK was the only country in Western Europe with double-digit inflation.

The less-than-expected fall was attributable to food prices, which are rising at their fastest rate in 45 years. For example, the price of Cheddar cheese has gone up 49% in the last year.

Markets expect a quarter-point rate rise to 4.50% at the BoE’s meeting on 11 May and predict rates will peak at 5% in September. That would see 1.4 million people with variable mortgages paying £6,670 a year more than they would have done in December 2021.

“We continue to expect UK inflation to overshoot for longer than in other advanced economies, putting pressure on the BoE to keep hiking rates,” said Mark Dowding of BlueBay Asset Management. “But the BoE needs to tread carefully for fear of provoking a collapse in UK house prices. It is a matter of when, not if, consumers are forced to retrench in the wake of rising costs and higher mortgage rates.”

Dowding also notes the psychology around inflation in the UK is very different to that in other economies. “Policymakers in other countries talk about the importance of bringing inflation down to create the conditions for medium-term economic prosperity, but the UK narrative seems to be much more about a ‘cost of living crisis’.”

Prior to the release of the inflation news, it was confirmed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that the UK unemployment rate unexpectedly increased to 3.8% in the previous month, while job vacancies fell for the ninth month in a row. The figures suggested the uncertain economic outlook is hitting employment, although the ONS also reported a rise in the employment rate as more people returned to the jobs market. There was also an increase in the number of people seeking work.

UK wages rose faster than anticipated last month, showing annual growth of 6.6% between December and February. Although regular pay fell by 2.3% taking inflation into account, the pick-up in wage growth appeared to put a spanner in the works of those expecting the BoE to pause its rate hikes.

At the end of the week came news of a bigger-than-expected fall in retail sales in March, as consumers continued to tighten their belts and the wet weather kept shoppers at home.

But it was a raft of economic data from China that took centre stage last week, as investors looked for clues to how the recovery in the world’s second-largest economy is playing out. The economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace in the first quarter, advancing 4.5% year-on-year as the country continued its rapid recovery from zero-COVID.

Retail sales, the main indicator of household consumption, jumped by 10.6% compared to a year earlier, while factory output rose 3.9%, slightly below forecasts.

“China looks well on track to meet S&P Global’s full-year growth forecast of 5.5%,” commented Martin Hennecke, our Asia Investment Director. “That might not sound overly impressive, but given China’s economy now measures $18.3 trillion, that growth alone equals the entire GDP of the Netherlands, or twice that of Thailand. The IMF expects China’s contribution to global growth to be twice that of the US over the next five years.”

Over in the US, attention turned to corporate earnings, given the next 0.25% interest rate rise is already largely priced into markets. Investors are looking for signs that inflation is driving up costs or hurting consumer spending.

It was a mixed bag. There were disappointing results from Tesla, AT&T, Netflix, and some regional banks, but Morgan Stanley and Bank of America joined other US banking behemoths in beating earnings forecasts.

The robust earnings underlined that the banks remain in a fundamentally healthy operating state, helping to further reduce the stress in the financial sector.

Markets generally maintained a holding pattern over the week, ahead of earnings announcements this week from the mega-tech companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet. The pan-European STOXX 600 index did, however, manage to notch its fifth straight week of gains.

Asian stocks posted their worst week for a month and a half as investors digested Thursday’s news that US unemployment benefit claims had risen. When added to the previous week’s signs of slowing retail sales and manufacturing activity, evidence that the labour market is losing momentum heightened fears of recession as soon as the second half of this year.

Wealth Check

Building up a business generally requires very different skills to selling it, and success with the former may well provide only limited help with the latter. Before you even sell your business, you need to be sure that you’ve done all the necessary tax planning. Otherwise, you could lose out unnecessarily.

Once the sale has gone through, the question is what to do with the money. Leaving it in the bank will probably see it grow only very slowly; in fact, it may well cause the real value to go down over time, due to interest rates trailing the currently high levels of inflation.

That means you might want to invest at least some of the money.

“You may have invested every single penny into your business and so don’t have a great deal of experience in making personal investments,” says Steven Lea of St. James’s Place. “Now, almost overnight you might have several million in that account. A financial adviser will be able to help you carefully manage this nest egg.”

You may still need some income, which will mean either staying in work or ensuring you’re able to draw the right income from the sale money. After all, you’ll no longer receive any income the business used to provide for you.

“It is important to consider different types of tax wrappers, so you have the flexibility to draw your income tax-efficiently,” says Steven.

A key consideration is to determine your capacity for loss and how much risk you are comfortable with. Once you know that, you’re in a better position to look across the different asset classes and diversify appropriately. That might mean investing in a portfolio of equities, government and corporate bonds and commercial property.

Another consideration is how much to invest. Ordinarily, it’s wise to keep at least some funds available, in order to cover short-term expenditure and any unforeseen eventualities.

In all these decisions, age is a crucial factor. If you’re still in your 40s when you sell up, you may be starting a new business venture immediately – and not need much of an income. If you’re 60, your plans may look very different. You may not want to start another business, in which case you are more likely to seek to draw an income from the proceeds of the sale. Ideally, that income will enable you to have the lifestyle you have been working towards.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

Investing in real asset classes (equities, bonds and commercial property) does not provide the security of capital which is characteristic of a deposit account with a bank or building society. The value of capital, and income from it, can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the original amount invested.

The levels and bases of taxation and reliefs from taxation can change at any time and are dependent on individual circumstances.

In The Picture

Over the long term, reinvesting dividends can provide a substantial contribution to total returns.

The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise. You may get back less than the amount invested.

Source: Bloomberg as at 28 March 2023. Based on an initial investment of £100. Global market represented by the MSCI World Index. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

The Last Word

Everything I own smells like champagne, beer, and grass. I’m still somewhere between giggling and sobbing. This town and this sport is one of the most romantic things on Earth.

Wrexham football club co-owner, Ryan Reynolds, celebrates his team winning the National League.

BlueBay Asset Management is a fund manager for St. James’s Place.

The information contained is correct as at the date of the article. The information contained does not constitute investment advice and is not intended to state, indicate or imply that current or past results are indicative of future results or expectations. Where the opinions of third parties are offered, these may not necessarily reflect those of St. James’s Place.

Source: London Stock Exchange Group plc and its group undertakings (collectively, the “LSE Group”). ©LSE Group 2023. FTSE Russell is a trading name of certain of the LSE Group companies.

“FTSE Russell®” is a trade mark of the relevant LSE Group companies and is used by any other LSE Group company under license. All rights in the FTSE Russell indexes or data vest in the relevant LSE Group company which owns the index or the data. Neither LSE Group nor its licensors accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the indexes or data and no party may rely on any indexes or data contained in this communication. No further distribution of data from the LSE Group is permitted without the relevant LSE Group company’s express written consent. The LSE Group does not promote, sponsor or endorse the content of this communication.

© S&P Dow Jones LLC 2023; all rights reserved

Source: MSCI. MSCI makes no express or implied warranties or representations and shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to any MSCI data contained herein. The MSCI data may not be further redistributed or used as a basis for other indices or any securities or financial products. This report is not approved, endorsed, reviewed or produced by MSCI. None of the MSCI data is intended to constitute investment advice or a recommendation to make (or refrain from making) any kind of investment decision and may not be relied on as such.

SJP Approved 24/04/2023

Sovereign Wealth Limited is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James’s Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group’s wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group’s website www.sjp.co.uk/products. Sovereign Wealth Limited is a Limited company registered in England and Wales, Number 07115386. The ‘St. James’s Place Partnership’ and the titles ‘Partner’ and ‘Partner Practice’ are marketing terms used to describe St. James’s Place representatives.