Thanksgiving was held in person again this year but celebrations around the country were dampened by the news of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant. It’s the news no one wanted to receive leading into the holiday period and consumer sentiment is reflecting how everyone is feeling about its arrival. Having started the month well, developed market equities ended the month down 2.2%*.
Despite the fear of the new variant, over 180 million Americans either braved the crowds or scoured the internet looking for the best deals over the Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. Whilst 180 million is a staggering number, according to Adobe Analytics, the number of shoppers is down from the previous year, likewise with total sales volume, which was down 1.4% from 2020*. It is believed that bottlenecks in the global supply chain could be contributing to the lower numbers as many shoppers were not able to purchase what they were looking for due to the emptiness of shelves.
Hawkish comments from the Fed at the end of the month also contributed to the nerves seen in the market. Comments from Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, on the last day of the month caught investors off guard as he suggested that inflation is no longer transitory in nature after its large increase in October. Investors now wait until the middle of December to hear more about the Fed’s plan on tapering and whether they intend to speed it up based on previous commentary. A speedier tapering plan could see the Fed raise rates earlier than expected, which will be impactful on markets.
November also included the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Leaders from 200 countries met in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss how they plan to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius in comparison to pre-industrial levels. Some ground was covered at the conference; however, climate change experts still feel that not enough specificity was provided on how each country intends to remain accountable.
Credit markets also declined from their month highs in November after the emergence of Omicron also caused government bond yields to fall sharply. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury saw a decrease, after starting the month near 1.41%, peaking at 1.69% and declining in the final week to end at 1.48%. High-yield bonds were also down 1.02%, their second monthly decline and worst performance since March 2020.
Asset Class Commentary
Sales at Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips fall auctions totaled $2.65 billion over the course of the two weeks in November, beating the all-time record for fall sales of $2.59 billion in 2014, according to Pi-eX, an art data and analytics firm. Not only was the record for fall sales beaten, the auctions also saw a record 32 works sell for more than $20M each, and another 54 works sell for more than $10M. It is believed that the surge in global wealth, increased inflation fears and the continued craze for collectibles and one-of-a-kind pieces boosted demand and prices.
Real estate – multi-family
Apartment rent growth and occupancy set new records in November, suggesting that the housing market isn’t following seasonal patterns as rent growth and occupancy usually cool during winter. Rental demand is soaring due to the very high prices of homes, which are up nearly 20% year-over-year. This coupled with fewer people opting to live with roommates is pushing rental demand for apartments higher.
According to Real Page, apartment occupancy reached a new high of 97.5% in November. The rate is up roughly 250 basis points from the 30-year long-term norm of about 95%. In addition, the annual increase in asking rents for new move-in leases hit 13.9% in November, and renewal lease rent growth tells a similar story. Renewal lease rent growth usually climbs more slowly than new move-in leases, but it has still been growing at 8% even during the latter part of the year which is uncommon.
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