The third quarter of 2021 was a tale of two halves. Healthy gains from growth assets were partly erased in the last few weeks of the quarter as concerns over the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19, and the prospect of higher interest rates, weighed on sentiment.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic remained in the spotlight in the three months to end-September. Global Covid-19 case numbers surged to 230 million, from 85 million at the start of 2021, as the faster-spreading Delta variant took hold.

At the same time, wealthy nations continued to make steady progress in their vaccination programmes while emerging markets fell further behind. In South Africa, case numbers rose to 2.9 million, up from 1 million at the start of the year, as the vaccination drive stuttered.

Alongside renewed concerns linked to the pandemic, markets also started to price in expectations that the US Federal Reserve would soon begin scaling back its bond purchase programme, and that interest rates may be hiked sooner than expected. Moreover, some uncertainty about Jerome Powell’s re-election as Fed chair in February 2022 began to set in.

A shift to risk-off sentiment in the second half of the quarter led to a sell-off of equities, particularly in developing markets.

In South Africa, interest rates remained unchanged through the quarter. The prime lending rate was held at 7% as inflation was kept in check.

Investor and business confidence remained subdued in the wake of the violent riots that swept through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July.

Amid the risk-off mood, the rand weakened 5% against the US dollar through the quarter as South African bonds became less attractive relative to their US counterparts.

In corporate news, Prosus issued shares and bought 49.5% of Naspers. This led to one of the biggest trading days in the JSE’s recent history. The move essentially halved Naspers’ weighting in local indices while pushing up Prosus’ weighting.

Against this backdrop, the high-equity CoreShares Wealth Accumulation fund had a solid quarter notwithstanding the sell-off of risk assets in September, with total returns of 3.28%.

Gains were driven by multi-factor local equity positions, and by offshore equity returns, which were boosted by the weaker rand. Property delivered positive returns as well.

The portfolio has delivered year-to-date returns of 13.84%, above the peer average of 12.17%.

On the other hand, the more conservative CoreShares Stable Income Fund did not perform as well in the third quarter.

While still positive, the lacklustre performance was underpinned by a lower offshore allocation and  a sell-off of dividend-focused stocks and local equities in September.

The fund returned 0.43% in the quarter, taking year-to-date returns to 7.55%.

Join Chris Rule, Head of Product & Client Solutions at CoreShares Asset Management, as we discuss the events of Q3 2021 and unpack the performance of the CoreShares Wealth Accumulation and the CoreShares Stable Income funds.

Rule also explains CoreShares’ decision to increase allocations to global equities and property. The move was aimed at enhancing the geographic diversification of the portfolios and had no bearing on overall strategic asset allocations, he says.

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