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What does the summer have in store for markets?

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By Michael O’Connor

Markets in May

US equities ended in May on a modest note as inflation concerns dominated the headlines. The S&P 500 secured its fourth consecutive month of positive returns with a gain of 0.6%.

Value-oriented strategies led the way with both Growth and Momentum, last year's big winners, declining. Most factors posted positive gains, with financial and industrial leading the way as expected. Surprising to many, the Tech sector has now underperformed the S&P 500 Index for the past year.

Confidence continued to grow as economies reopened. Jobless claims in the US have fallen to a new pandemic low. Travel continues to rebound, with 1.9 million US travellers taking to the skies on Saturday, May 29, marking the busiest weekend of air travel since the pandemic began. Most importantly, successful vaccine rollouts continued in May, with the UK recording its first day of zero daily COVID deaths since the pandemic began.

What lies ahead

Despite multiple reasons for economic optimism, the expected inflation that comes with a global reopening is likely to result in some short-term market fragility over the coming months.

The most recent inflation figures saw YOY consumer prices increase 4.2% in April, the biggest 12-month increase since September 2008, the height of the financial crisis. Core PCE climbed to an annual figure of 3.1% in April, far exceeding the Fed's nominal target of 2%.

Inflation is likely to continue this run higher over the coming months. Rising commodity prices, a falling dollar, and wage growth resulting from severe labour shortages are likely to result in inflation figures of between 3% to 4% over the summer.

While short-term inflation moves suggest a continuation of the rotation into value stocks, it's important to note that the current inflationary environment is unlikely to persist over the longer term. The combination of transient inflation drivers and long-term deflationary factors should see inflation fall back to around 2.5% later this year.

So what does this mean for your portfolio?

Now is an opportune time to recalibrate your portfolios to avoid obvious interest rate risks. In my view it is a time to be underweight with long-duration assets, whether they be 20 Year Treasuries or disruptive tech stocks with no free-cash-flow. High volatility and small-caps and lower quality names should be avoided. Companies with superior cash-flow generation will continue to anchor portfolios as the current gusts of inflation takes hold.

I remain positive towards equities, with a bias to cyclical stocks and "value" names as earnings remain solid and monetary stimulus remains supportive.

With all that said, don't blindly presume that all stocks set to benefit from an economic reopening will be guaranteed "value" winners. Strong free-cash-flow is the focal point here.

Take booking.com as an example. At first glance, nations full of holiday-deprived travel enthusiasts would suggest that the near-term future is bright for the travel conglomerate. However, the market already appears to have jumped the gun on this one. 'Booking's' current valuation is now above its pre-pandemic levels despite the company's 2021 revenue projections being roughly half the revenue earned in 2019. Now I'm not saying that booking.com is a bad long-term investment, but as a forward-looking machine, the stock market has already priced in much of the expected near-term optimism, and then some, for these better-known reopening stocks.

Search for strong free-cash-flow, not just a compelling storyline.

For more investment insights, visit www.theislandinvestor.com.

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Kerry house prices accelerate – IPAV’s residential property price barometer

The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) latest Residential Property Price Barometer shows an acceleration in house price increases over the previous six months including in Kerry. Overall IPAV’s study has found double digit growth for 3-bedroom homes in Waterford and Limerick. And close behind are Tipperary, Meath, Louth and Cavan with nine plus […]

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The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) latest Residential Property Price Barometer shows an acceleration in house price increases over the previous six months including in Kerry.

Overall IPAV’s study has found double digit growth for 3-bedroom homes in Waterford and Limerick. And close behind are Tipperary, Meath, Louth and Cavan with nine plus percent growth, followed in the eight plus percent range by County Dublin, Carlow, Dublin 15, Dublin 7 and Kildare.

In Kerry three-bedroom homes increased by 4.55pc; 4-bedrooms by 9.80pc and two-bedroom apartments by 3.70pc.

Some of the area specific increases are accounted for by new blended working opportunities where people don’t have to operate from formal office settings on a full-time basis, according to IPAV’s Chief Executive Pat Davitt.

“While that is an influential factor, the main driver of increasing prices is the lack of supply of homes to meet current and pent-up demand. And that is why predictions by economists and others of house price drops during the pandemic have not materialised, forecasts IPAV called into question at the time,” he said.

Mr Davitt said his organisation welcomes the Government’s new ‘Housing for All’ plan with a commitment to invest €4 billion per year to build 300,000 homes over the next nine years.

“While the nuts and bolts of how precisely the plan is going to achieve that target remains to be seen, it is in the interest of society as a whole that the plan works because continuing house price increases at the level we are currently seeing would not be sustainable over the longer term but will not abate either until more stock comes on stream to meet supply.

He said the extension of the Government’s Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan scheme from Local Authorities was welcome but it needs to be extended further to enable all purchasers to take advantage of the 4.5 times income under that scheme, not just first-time buyers.

The IPAV Residential Property Price Barometer charts house prices achieved by auctioneers, as opposed to asking prices. Mr Davitt said while that difference is always relevant it is particularly so now given the intensity of activity where, it would appear, asking and achieved prices are diverging, often to a considerable degree.

He thanked members of IPAV for their contribution to the study which he said provides “real market evidence as opposed to speculation on prices”.

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Property & Finance

Work at height regulations

Work at heights is work in any place, including a place at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell. Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at height. The work at height regulations under the h Health and Safety acts place an onus […]

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Work at heights is work in any place, including a place at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell.

Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at height. The work at height regulations under the h
Health and Safety acts place an onus on employers to ensure that the work is properly planned and organised.

In advance of starting work, each situation should be assessed to determine the best method for obtaining access to the elevated position where the work needs to done.

These are the main factors you should take into consideration during this assessment:

* How long do you estimate the activity will take?
* How complex is the task?
* How many component parts need to be handled?
* How big and heavy are they?
* How high above ground level is the work be done?
* How much moving around horizontally will be necessary at an elevated position?
* What kind of access equipment is available?
* Is any additional equipment required for safe and economic working?
* Is it necessary to use a hydraulic platform?
* Are suitably trained and experienced personnel available?
* How much supervision will be required?

The work method must be discussed with all personnel and documented in a method statement.

The equipment to be considered could include:

* Trestles
* Ladders
* Hydraulic working platforms
* Mobile tower scaffolds
* Safety harnesses

All equipment should be inspected prior to use and used only in accordance with the standard operating procedures. Items such as hydraulic working platforms should only be used by trained personnel. All equipment should be included in the risk assessment documents and signed off by all users in the method statement.

The risk assessment should include a careful examination of what harm could be caused from working at height with a view to taking the effective steps to reduce the likelihood of this harm occurring, either through avoiding the activity or, where this is not reasonably practicable, by carrying it out in a safe manner using work equipment that is appropriate to the task and the level of risk.

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