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Portfolio Manager Update

To the latest Market Commentary


Key points at a glance

  • The Ethna-DEFENSIV’s positioning is very conservative
  • Equity allocation of 0%
  • Distinct overweight in secure investment-grade bonds
  • Negative duration of -1.6, so no interest rate risk if interest rates rise

30 April 2022 - We have previously commented in detail about the current problems in the global economy, most notably supply-chain bottlenecks, rising commodity prices, inflation, the Ukraine crisis and fresh lockdowns in China. The mood in capital markets is therefore subdued, with sentiment indicators hitting a multi-year low in April. The ongoing nervousness is reflected in equity markets as well, particularly at single stock level. Companies that haven fallen short of earnings expectations in this quarter’s reporting season - in particular technology stocks with high valuations - are being severely punished; at the same time, investors are not giving companies full credit for any positive surprises. Notable examples include Netflix (-49% since the beginning of April) and Amazon (-23%) Down 9.3%, the NASDAQ-100 had its worst month since the 2008 financial crisis.

Consequently, investors offloaded risk assets and fled to supposedly safe havens such as sovereign bonds and the U.S. dollar. After the strong sell-off that has been taking place in U.S. Treasuries for some weeks now following the shift under way in U.S. central bank (Fed) monetary policy and the consequent, sharp rise in 10-year bond yields, there was a slight deceleration in the pace of yield increases right along the curve last month. Yields on 10-year Treasuries closed April 54 basis points higher at 2.87%, while 10-year Bunds were up 33 basis points at 0.93%. At the same time, the partial sell-off in the equity market and high volatility led to a widening of risk premia for corporate bonds, and this after they had slightly recovered only in the prior month. The premia for the highest-risk CCC-rated bonds (which, incidentally, we do not hold in the fund) were the most affected and currently stand at 707 basis points above Treasuries in the U.S. (+82 basis points in April). Credit spreads on U.S. investment grade bonds, on the other hand, were less affected and are now 1.35% above Treasuries (+20 basis points).

Despite the poor sentiment, there could soon be light at the end of the tunnel. Commodity prices seem to have levelled off at a high level (WTI oil +6.44% in April, European gas -21.21% in April). At the same time, the first cautious indications are coming out of China that the restrictive Covid-19 measures could be relaxed. Either way, in the short to medium term the Covid-19 pandemic and all its effects will come to an end in China, too, and the supply-chain issues will resolve bit by bit. Inflation figures reached a new high in April (7.5% vs 7.4% in March) but here too the pace of increase seems to be losing significant momentum. If the inflation rate falls in the future, this should have a positive impact on consumer behaviour and thereby support the economy.

On the whole, April was another difficult month for stock markets. The Ethna-DEFENSIV stayed its course and, with an equity allocation of 0%, a distinct overweight in secure investment-grade bonds and even a negative duration of -1.6 of late, maintains its extremely conservative positioning. The Ethna-DEFENSIV gained 0.05% in April and thus stands at -2.93% year-to-date.

Fund positioning

Figure 1: Portfolio structure* of the Ethna-DEFENSIV

Figure 2: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DEFENSIV by currency

Figure 3: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DEFENSIV by country

Figure 4: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DEFENSIV by issuer sector


Key points at a glance

  • The Ethna-AKTIV’s positioning remains consistently defensive
  • Duration shortened into the negative
  • Equity allocation close to zero
  • U.S. dollar allocation reduced to 15%

30 April 2022 - Historically one of the seasonally strongest months in equity markets, April failed to live up to its reputation this year. As speculated in last month’s commentary, the positive turnaround in March was merely technical. With inflation still high, ongoing supply shortages and monetary policy becoming more restrictive, it came as no surprise to us that investor confidence fell further alongside dwindling consumer confidence. In addition to weaker share prices, the upward trend in the interest rate market continued with record-high volatility. In this environment of high uncertainty and growing divergence in central bank policy – especially between Western and Far Eastern central banks – the increase in the value of the U.S. dollar even gathered pace. While the Fed is almost stoically sticking with its plan to combat record-high inflation by raising interest rates and cutting the size of its balance sheet, the Japanese central bank is increasing its bond-buying programmes; the Chinese monetary authorities, meanwhile, are reducing minimum liquidity requirements for their local banks. Looking ahead, the key question for us is whether the US economy, being the global engine in the current environment, pulls off a soft landing. On that front it was not possible to get a clear picture from the guidance for the current reporting season, at least from a bottom-up perspective. Top-down, however, we see a risk that the combination of monetary headwind and lack of fiscal tailwind will at least increase the probability of a recession in the U.S. as well. With the Republicans expected to win the midterms, making a retake of the Senate and/or House of Representatives probable, we expect there to be a lack of fiscal support and even potentially an incapacity to act in this regard on the part of the US government. Even though the latest purchasing managers’ indices in Europe paint a slightly better picture, we think a recession there is highly likely.

Within the Ethna-AKTIV, there has been no change in terms of our caution regarding risk assets and our fundamentally defensive positioning. Only the duration was shortened further, and indeed into negative territory. Despite equities being fully hedged by futures, we managed to generate positive alpha of more than 0.5% by means of selection. The current bias towards defensive consumer securities definitely helped here. Record-poor investor sentiment is highly likely to lead to countermovements that are conducive to trading. However, any positioning that we take in this regard will merely be tactical in nature for the time being, as our current priority remains capital preservation. Later in the year there will no doubt be opportunities, including for strategic positions, with a better risk/return ratio than today. Unfortunately we must be patient. We took advantage of the almost parabolic rise in the U.S. dollar of late to reduce our position to 15% and take profit.

A not inconsiderable, positive result for the month in this difficult environment once again confirms how important a role the Ethna-AKTIV plays in a diversified portfolio. Precisely because the once infinite support from central banks is being withdrawn, active portfolio management and risk management is paying off all the more.

Fund positioning

Figure 5: Portfolio structure* of the Ethna-AKTIV

Figure 6: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-AKTIV by currency

Figure 7: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-AKTIV by country

Figure 8: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-AKTIV by issuer sector


Key points at a glance

  • Some global equity markets came under strong pressure in April.
  • With its low equity and high cash allocation, the Ethna-DYNAMISCH is well equipped for this environment.
  • We are sticking with this quite defensive positioning for the time being.

30 April 2022 - The equity-market rally in the second half of March, which we described as fragile in our last commentary, did turn out to be a temporary recovery. Some global equity markets came under strong pressure in April.

While the stress factors – including inflation, monetary countermeasures and pressure on company margins – did not change significantly, it appears as though many market participants have only just realised the extent of these stressors. At any rate, sentiment deteriorated much further in April - as shown not only by current sentiment indicators but also by increasingly subdued commentaries from financial analysts.

The fact that we are now more than halfway through the first-quarter reporting season is contributing to this realisation. While the majority of companies are beating analysts’ expectations for revenues and earnings in the first quarter, the outlook - particularly in terms of earnings - tends to be disappointing and reflects the troublesome macroeconomic situation.

The positioning of the Ethna-DYNAMISCH was essentially unchanged in April – in line with our assessment of the market as a whole. Considering hedging components, our net equity allocation remains low (around 28%). We do not hold any bonds with credit or interest-rate risks, and the focus is temporarily on cash or cash-equivalent (short-dated AAA bonds, as well as synthetic cash via the extensive equity hedges) positions (around 69%).

Despite that, we acknowledge that the latest equity market correction means that more and more quality companies, which are characterised by structural, profitable growth and healthy balance sheets, among other factors, are slowly reaching valuation levels that make a long-term positioning attractive. As soon as the overriding stress factors abate or are sufficiently priced into markets, we will once again build up and expand successive positions in these quality companies and reduce the hedges currently in place. Until then, however, we will retain our elevated cash position as a stabiliser in a difficult market environment.

Fund positioning

Figure 9: Portfolio structure* of the Ethna-DYNAMISCH

Figure 10: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DYNAMISCH by currency

Figure 11: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DYNAMISCH by country

Figure 12: Portfolio composition of the Ethna-DYNAMISCH by issuer sector

* “Cash” comprises term deposits, call money and current accounts/other accounts. “Equities net” comprises direct investments and exposure resulting from equity derivatives.

HESPER FUND - Global Solutions (*)

Das wichtigste auf einen Blick

  • Politische Divergenz ist kurzfristig ein wichtiger Treiber für Währungen.
  • Das ohnehin schwache Wirtschaftswachstum in Europa wird von einer Rezession bedroht.
  • Die britische Wirtschaft steht vor einem dreifachen Dilemma: hohe Inflation, nachlassendes Wachstum und steigende Steuern.
  • Das Aktienengagement des HESPER FUND – Global Solutions wurde deutlich reduziert und die Qualität des Anleihenportfolios erhöht.
  • Das Währungsengagement in US-Dollar, Kanadischem Dollar (CAD) und Mexikanischem Peso (MXN) wurde erhöht.

30.04.22 - Infolge des Krieges in der Ukraine und der anschließenden Sanktionen kam es weltweit zu einem deutlichen Anstieg der Inflation, da die Kosten für Energie, Lebensmittel und Rohstoffe in die Höhe schnellten. Die Invasion Russlands und die damit verbundenen Handelsunterbrechungen sowie die durch die Null-Covid-19-Politik in China verhängten strengen Abriegelungen verengen nicht nur die ohnehin schon stark belasteten Lieferketten, sondern treiben auch die Inflation auf Rekordhöhen. Sowohl die Stimmung der Verbraucher als auch die der Unternehmen ist seit mehreren Monaten gesunken, insbesondere auf dem schwer getroffenen europäischen Kontinent. Da ein Ende des Krieges nicht absehbar ist, herrscht ein sehr unsicheres makroökonomisches Umfeld, und die Weltmärkte leiden unter extremer Volatilität. Vor diesem Hintergrund ist die einzige Gewissheit zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt, dass das globale Wachstum schwächer und die Inflation höher ausfallen wird als bisher erwartet.

Vor dem Hintergrund einer anhaltend höheren Inflation haben die Zentralbanken keine andere Wahl als ihre Politik zu straffen, um die Kontrolle über die Inflationserwartungen nicht zu verlieren. Im April haben steigende Renditen und geringere Wachstumsaussichten die Aktien- und Anleihenmärkte stark belastet. Das Gespenst der Stagflation treibt die Risikoanlagen in einen Abwärtstrend. In den USA, wo die Federal Reserve (Fed) gerade ihren Straffungszyklus eingeleitet und heikle Signale bezüglich der künftigen Zinsentwicklung ausgesandt hat, stiegen die Renditen 10-jähriger Staatsanleihen weiter von 2,33 % auf 2,90 %, da sich die Inflationserwartungen weiter erhöhen. An der Währungsfront erreichte der US-Dollar den höchsten Stand seit mehr als zwei Jahren und profitierte von den Erwartungen einer Straffung der Politik und einer risikoarmen Stimmung.

Die wirtschaftliche Expansion in der Eurozone begann im Jahr 2022 auf einer schwachen Basis und litt zunächst unter den durch die Omikron-Variante verursachten Beeinträchtigungen, später unter den steigenden Energiepreisen und den eskalierenden Engpässen in den Lieferketten nach der russischen Invasion in der Ukraine. In den drei Monaten bis März stieg das Brutto-Inlandsprodukt der Eurozone um 0,2 % gegenüber dem Vorquartal. Diese Zahl spiegelt eine Verringerung in Italien, eine Stagnation in Frankreich und ein schwächer als erwartetes Wachstum in Spanien wider. Deutschland, die größte Volkswirtschaft der Eurozone, konnte eine Rezession nur knapp vermeiden. Für Europa ist die Gefahr einer Stagflation nun real und stellt die EZB vor die schwierige Aufgabe, die Inflation einzudämmen und gleichzeitig dafür zu sorgen, dass die Wirtschaft der Eurozone nicht in eine neue Rezession gestürzt wird.
In Großbritannien muss die Zentralbank sehr vorsichtig vorgehen. Nach Ansicht vieler Experten steht das Vereinigte Königreich vor der "schlimmsten aller Welten", was die steigenden Preise angeht. Die Inflationsprobleme des Vereinigten Königreichs ergeben sich aus der Kombination der Auswirkungen des Brexits, da die Zahl der Arbeitsmigranten stark zurückgegangen ist, und der steigenden Energiepreise. Darüber hinaus gibt es ein weiteres Element, das Großbritannien von den anderen großen Volkswirtschaften unterscheidet. Das Finanzministerium scheint entschlossen zu sein, die Finanzpolitik zu straffen, während die Zentralbank des Landes gerade begonnen hat, ihre Geldpolitik zu straffen. Daher könnte die Bank of England ihren geldpolitischen Kurs bald aufweichen, wenn die Wirtschaftsdaten schwächer als erwartet ausfallen.

Aufgrund des Anstiegs der Renditen und der enttäuschenden Gewinne einiger Aktienschwergewichte gaben die US-Aktienmärkte im April stark nach. Im Laufe des Monats fiel der S&P 500 um 8,8 % und erlebte damit den schlechtesten Monat seit März 2020. Der Dow Jones sank um 4,9 %. Der Nasdaq Composite setzte seinen Bärenmarkt fort, fiel um 13,3 % und verzeichnete den schlechtesten Monat seit Oktober 2008. Der Small-Cap-Index Russell 2000 verlor im Berichtsmonat 10 %. In Kanada fiel der S&P Toronto Stock Exchange um 5,2 % (-7,6 % in US-Dollar).

In Europa hielten sich die Kurse der Aktien in der jeweiligen Landeswährung gut. Der Large-Cap-Index Euro Stoxx 50 verlor 2,6 % (ein Rückgang von 7,4 % in US-Dollar), während im Vereinigten Königreich der FTSE 100 leicht um 0,4 % (-4 % in US-Dollar) zulegte. Der defensive Swiss Market Index sank im Monatsverlauf um 0,3 % (-5,5 % in US-Dollar).

Die asiatischen Aktienmärkte haben im April eine schlechte Performance gezeigt. Trotz einer deutlichen Erholung zum Monatsende, die durch das Versprechen der chinesischen Regierung, das Wachstum zu fördern, begünstigt wurde, setzten die chinesischen Aktien ihren Ausverkauf im Laufe des Monats fort. Der Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 Index fiel um 4,9 % (-8,6 % in US-Dollar) und der Hang Seng Index verlor 4,1 %. In Japan fiel der Blue-Chip-Index Nikkei 225 um 3,5 % (-10,3 % in US-Dollar, bedingt durch die starke Schwäche des Yen). In Südkorea sank der KOSPI-Index um 2,3 % (-5,7 % in Dollar). Der indische Aktienmarkt BSE Sensex gab um 2,6 % nach (-3,2 % in US-Dollar). Der australische Aktienmarkt hielt sich in Landeswährung besser (-0,9 %), verlor aber in US-Dollar gerechnet 5,5 %.

Der HESPER FUND - Global Solutions war bisher in der Lage, dieses sehr schwierige Umfeld zu meistern. Der ausgedehnte Konflikt in der Ukraine in Verbindung mit der Zunahme der Covid-19-Fälle und den daraus resultierenden harten Lockdowns, die in China wieder eingeführt wurden, haben jedoch unser Makroszenario für 2022 verändert. Das Wirtschaftswachstum wird langsamer sein als bisher erwartet, und die Zentralbanken werden wahrscheinlich stärker auf die geldpolitische Bremse treten, um die Inflation einzudämmen. Während das Wirtschaftsszenario in den einzelnen Regionen sehr unterschiedlich ist, ist das Risiko politischer Fehlentscheidungen jetzt besonders hoch. Da sich die Länder in unterschiedlichen Stadien des Wirtschaftszyklus befinden und in unterschiedlichem Maße vom Krieg in der Ukraine betroffen sind, ist mit zunehmenden politischen Divergenzen zu rechnen, die sich auf die relative Performance von Ländern und Regionen auswirken und Handelsmöglichkeiten für den HESPER Fund - Global Solutions bieten werden.
Obwohl ein Soft Landing für die großen fortgeschrittenen Volkswirtschaften im Jahr 2023 immer noch möglich ist, steht es vor wachsenden Herausforderungen. Eine rasche Beilegung des Krieges in der Ukraine scheint ein entscheidender Faktor zu sein, um die Stagflationsrisiken zu verringern. Um eine Soft Landing zu erreichen, ist ein geeigneter wirtschaftspolitischer Mix erforderlich, einschließlich einer allmählichen Normalisierung der Geldpolitik und einer weitgehend unterstützenden Finanzpolitik, um die negativen Auswirkungen der Inflation und einer strafferen Geldpolitik abzufedern. Die Vermeidung politischer Fehlentscheidungen ist von entscheidender Bedeutung, wird aber im derzeitigen Umfeld immer schwieriger. Und schließlich ist eine globale Lösung der Pandemiekrise nach wie vor der Schlüssel zur Überwindung von Engpässen in den Versorgungsketten, zur Eindämmung des Inflationsdrucks und zur Unterstützung der globalen Erholung.

Im April konnte der Fonds sein Kapital unter sehr schwierigen Bedingungen erhalten, da er eine geringe Korrelation mit den wichtigsten Anlageklassen (Aktien und Anleihen) aufwies. Das Aktienengagement wurde deutlich reduziert und war den größten Teil des Monats über vernachlässigbar. Wir haben die Qualität des Anleihenportfolios erhöht, indem wir Investment-Grade-Anleihen im Fonds stärker gewichtet haben. Was die Duration anbelangt, so lag sie den größten Teil des Monats bei 0 oder sogar leicht im negativen Bereich. Wir handelten hauptsächlich gegen den Euro und erhöhten das Engagement des Fonds in US-Dollar, Schweizer Franken und Kanadischem Dollar (CAD) und eröffneten eine neue Position auf den Mexikanischen Peso (MXN).

Mit Blick auf den Mai bleibt der Fonds sehr zurückhaltend positioniert. An der Währungsfront ist der HESPER FUND - Global Solutions wie folgt engagiert: 36,1% gegenüber dem US-Dollar, 21,1% gegenüber dem Schweizer Franken, 5,2% gegenüber dem kanadischen Dollar und 1,7% gegenüber dem mexikanischen Peso. Darüber hinaus ist er gegenüber dem britischen Pfund mit 13,7% short.

Wie immer überwachen und kalibrieren wir fortlaufend das Engagement des Fonds in den verschiedenen Anlageklassen, um uns der Marktstimmung und den Veränderungen des makroökonomischen Basisszenarios anzupassen. In den letzten drei Monaten spielten auch geopolitische Ereignisse eine entscheidende Rolle bei unserer Vermögensallokation.
Im April legte der HESPER FUND - Global Solutions EUR T-6 um 0,19 % zu. Im Jahresvergleich liegt der Fonds bei +0,69 %. Die Volatilität der letzten 250 Tage ist mit 6,7 % stabil geblieben und bietet weiterhin ein interessantes Risiko-Rendite-Profil. Die annualisierte Rendite seit Auflage liegt bei 7,90 %.

*Der HESPER FUND - Global Solutions ist aktuell nur zum Vertrieb in Deutschland, Luxemburg, Italien, Frankreich und der Schweiz zugelassen.

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