The items of major interest in March were the continued stand-off between Russia and the West over Crimea, with many trying to estimate the impact that sanctions on Russia would have on the European economy.
In addition, poor data continued to come out of the USA as a result of the bad weather experienced at the start of this year, whilst data in China also seems to indicate a slowing economy.
Despite this news, emerging markets were the clear winner in March over developed markets, with the MSCI World Index producing a small negative return of -0.1% (in USD terms). On the other hand, emerging markets performed positively with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index producing a return of 2.9% (USD). This is potentially due to the fact that emerging markets might be oversold, despite the negative news, with valuations looking attractive. Or it could be due to dollar weakness over the month with many emerging market currencies, such as the rand, having depreciated in previous months and are now starting to catch up.
Bond yields benefitted from the negative news and data, with the Barclays Capital Global Aggregate Index returning 1.4% (USD) during March.
The South African market followed a similar pattern to global emerging markets, with the ALSI returning 1.8% (ZAR) for the month. Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus left interest rates on hold for the time being, but intimated that the potential for rates to increase this year is there. The All Bond Index returned a strong 1.8 % (ZAR) while inflation-linked bonds continued to benefit from negative inflation sentiment and returned a positive 2.6% (ZAR). Listed property also gained on the back of the fall in bond yields, returning 4.8% (ZAR). Performance on foreign assets were muted by an appreciation in the Rand during March by 2.1% against the US Dollar.