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Wednesday, January 24, 2024 - 16:24

Navigating markets in 2024

Paul Holba

Hello, I'm Paul Holba, Senior Vice-President and Chief Investment Officer at Empire Life Investments Inc. I want to wish you a very happy and healthy new year and take this opportunity to give you an overview of several key macro market themes we are monitoring. These include Inflation, geopolitics and tech, specifically artificial intelligence. 

First, moderating inflation and the prospect of rate cuts

To tackle inflation, the U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Canada continued applying the brakes on the economy through interest rate hikes in 2023. Although headline inflation has been easing, core inflation, which excludes volatile items such as food and energy, remains above the 2% target set by most G7 economies. 

Equity markets are optimistic, pricing in a “soft landing” as economic growth remains strong, despite higher borrowing costs and stubbornly high inflation.  Yet, there are still signs of a slowdown in some developed economies. Central banks began weighing the risk of causing unnecessary harm to the economy by leaving rates high as inflation falls. 

However, in the last rate decisions of the year, the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of England all held rates steady at high levels. The U.S. Federal Reserve even released projections that the Federal Funds Rate target will be 0.75 percent lower at the end of 2024 than they are today. Time and data will tell. 

Next, navigating Politics & Geopolitical tensions

Politics will play a big role in 2024. We will continue to monitor several geopolitical events this year, particularly between the US and China. There are still many ongoing tensions between them that have yet to be resolved. This includes trade tariffs, a so-called “chip war” between the two countries relating to semiconductors and military confrontations over the South China Sea. Souring relations have shaken up the business community, with many companies, backed by local government grants and loans, considering plans to diversify their supply chains, ultimately shifting risk away from China. 

As we find ourselves in the coldest months of winter, natural gas supplies in Europe also remain a persistent concern.  

2024 also marks the start of Brazil’s membership in the OPEC+ (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) alliance. 

Finally, unpacking Big Tech and Artificial Intelligence

Big Tech mostly drove the S&P 500’s performance in 2023. Dubbed the ‘Magnificent Seven’ - Apple Alphabet, Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Amazon, and Tesla – they collectively contributed about 2/3 of the S&P 500’s return in 2023. Big tech’s growth has largely been the result of the advancement and speculation in artificial intelligence (AI).  We will continue to monitor Generative AI tools and other innovative technologies, as they are rapidly advancing and had generated significant interest in 2023. We will be watching to see whether AI can help companies realize the promised productivity gains. 

We will also continue to monitor ongoing progress towards a clean energy transition, including the rollout of electric vehicles, especially outside of North America, and the increasing popularity of nuclear as an alternative to fossil fuels. 

As the themes of inflation, geopolitics and technology continue, and other unanticipated market events change and add elements of uncertainty, our forward-looking approach and collaborative team environment ensures that market opportunities and challenges are viewed  through multiple lenses. As we enter the new year, I would like to thank you for your continued support and reiterate our commitment to continuously monitoring these themes, and others as they come up, to assist us in making the most informed investment decisions on your behalf. 

Thank you for watching.

This video includes forward-looking information based on the opinions and views of The Empire Life Insurance Company and Empire Life Investments Inc. as of December 31, 2023 and is subject to change without notice. The information contained herein is for general informational purposes only, and should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security, nor should it be relied upon as investment, tax, or legal advice. Empire Life and its affiliates assume no responsibility for any reliance on, misuse of, or omission of any information contained in this video; and do not warrant or make any representations regarding the use or the results of the information contained herein in terms of its correctness, accuracy, timeliness, reliability, or otherwise, and do not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that results from its use. Please seek professional advice before making any investment decisions.

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