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CAPITAL MARKETS

Equity market round-up: Market jitters

US inflation fears spooked nervous markets this May, causing the biggest one-day falls in years. In the space of a week, the Nasdaq Composite Index and the FTSE 100 gave up their entire gains for the year. Both indices shed about 7%. Markets took fright at the larger-than-expected 0.6% rise in April’s US consumer prices, which also spilled over into commodities markets. Although many think the sell-off has been exaggerated, May’s Merrill Lynch’s Global Fund Manager Survey shows growing pessimism about inflation and corporate profits. The survey shows a sharp increase in the percentage of fund managers who expect a rise in core inflation, to 64% from 47% a month earlier. A net 9% of fund managers also expect corporate profits to deteriorate while a net 27% except operating margins to deteriorate. Nevertheless, half the sectors in the S&P500 have been posting double-digit earnings growth. Despite the uninspiring outlook for equities, bonds are still looking overvalued to a net 48% of respondents while equities by contrast are still looking underpriced to a net 3% of investors.