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Nobody knows anything about anything

William Goldman, the famous author and screen writer, was once asked to explain the secret of his success.

He is reported to have remarked: “Nobody knows anything about anything”. Apocryphal as that tale might be, investment markets in August certainly reflect that sentiment. 

One of the points on which there is near consensus among market participants is that emerging markets perform poorly when the dollar is weak.

And yet, data from the latest Wilshire market drivers report shows that, despite the greenback crushing all before it this year, emerging markets actually beat developed equity markets in August. 

While some of that is explained by the gas price rising 10 per cent, oil fell by almost the same amount, while China’s gentle decline into being just another country stuck in the middle income trap, rather than the next engine of global growth, means emerging markets are certainly validating Goldman's dictum. 

The only equity asset class to deliver a positive return during the month was Asia ex Japan, which grew by 1.1 per cent. 

And, if we are in a world where the outlook for growth in developed markets is weak, the temptation for equity investors may be to embrace the growth stocks that are designed to perform best when the world is in a fugue.

But one slug of the stocks that would be categorised as growth, US tech, was actually the worst performer of the lot in terms of global equities during the month, according to Wilshire, as fears about the impact of an ever-more hawkish Fed on the performance of long duration assets. 

Over the month, value beat growth by 2.6 per cent and small cap beat large cap.

Nor were bonds much of a shelter from the storm, with the US 10-year yield rising by 0.5 per cent in August.  

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