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as of 03/31/23
U.S. equities posted gains to start the year, but the path higher remained turbulent as investors grappled with tightening financial conditions and concerns of a recession. Stocks rose in January as moderating inflation and weakening economic indicators raised investor hopes that the current cycle of interest rate hikes might be ending. The rally was supported by easing supply chain constraints, falling energy prices, and the reopening of the Chinese economy from pandemic lockdowns. The rebound stalled in February as resilient economic data and persistently high inflation left investors concerned that the Federal Reserve would keep rates higher for longer. The sudden failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank exacerbated the market sell-off in early March, but federal regulators quickly intervened to prevent contagion from spreading throughout the banking sector. The episode ignited a market rebound in late March given investor expectations that the banking turmoil would cause the Fed to potentially pivot on rate hikes and resume its balance sheet expansion.
Baron FinTech Fund increased in the quarter. Investments within the Financials, Information Technology (IT), and Consumer Discretionary sectors contributed the most. No sector detracted. Second largest contributor MSCI Inc. led advances within the Financials sector. Tradeweb Markets, Inc. was another noteworthy contributor after shares of this operator of electronic marketplaces for trading bonds, derivatives, and other financial instruments rose on robust trading activity and market share gains. Top contributor MercadoLibre, Inc. drove appreciation within Consumer Discretionary. Guidewire Software, Inc. led gains within IT. Shares of this P&C insurance software vendor contributed on more consistent recurring revenue growth and durable gross margin expansion after the company crossed the midpoint of its cloud transition.
While we are certainly aware of the macroeconomic environment, we don’t invest based on predictions of GDP growth, inflation, interest rates, or foreign currencies. We take an agnostic approach to short-term market and economic forecasts because nobody really knows. We do know economies tend to grow and equity markets tend to appreciate over time. We also know fintech includes a plethora of companies with long runways for growth and sustainable competitive advantages that we expect will outperform the broader equity market over the long run.
We have curated a diversified portfolio of fintech businesses to reduce the exposure to any single economic outcome. The portfolio is balanced across seven themes, each of which is influenced by idiosyncratic factors. We include a mix of Leaders and Challengers, with the relative mix driven by top-down risk considerations and bottom-up opportunities. We believe fintech remains in the early innings of growth as incumbent financial institutions still have a long digitization journey ahead and younger consumers continue favoring digital solutions.
as of 03/31/23