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January 2022 Astute Investment Commentary

In December, concerns about the Omicron variant faded as the data from South Africa and the UK indicated a lower severity than previous variants but with an increased transmissibility. The Omicron variant remains a source of volatility and the rapid increase in infections has begun to take its toll on global growth with falls in PMI data in the US, Eurozone and the UK. In December, three of the four major developed market central banks indicated that they have greater concerns about inflation heading into 2022 than about the Omicron variant. With regards to monetary policy, China is heading the opposite way. The PBOC showed more easing bias in its operations, while staying cautious on the aggregate level of leverage in the economy. Government bond markets have been mixed over the quarter, the short end of the curve moved higher in the US and the UK as markets priced in a faster pace of rate hikes and for the same reason, December saw value outperforming growth in equity markets. Due to the spread of Omicron, the first quarter of 2022 could be challenging for the global economy. So far, the market has largely been willing to look through the near-term risks but any further disappointment on the virus front could lead to increased market volatility. We will continue to keep a close eye on Omicron developments, inflation threats and policy normalization.

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