On the Rollercoaster – Yearly Recap

On the Rollercoaster – Yearly Recap

The 2015 has been a very turbulent year for financial markets globally. Greece, the unpredictable oil rout and weak growth perspective in China repeatedly triggered waves of sell-offs during the last year. Here a closer look at the main characters or events that set the trends this year.

S&P 500 Yearly PerformanceSP500

Oil

The oil rout has started in the middle of last year, when it collapsed from the range $110/100 a barrel to levels close to the post Financial Crisis lows, $35/45 a barrel. Since the beginning of 2015, Oil has been very volatile, trading in a range between $35 and $65 a barrel. Its unpredictable trend affected financial markets on a global scale. The high-yield bond market is under strict observation after the low prices of oil have been pushing a large number of shale gas companies on the verge of bankruptcy. On December 10, Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund closed its $800m junk-bond portfolio due to the slump in bond prices. The energy sector has been dramatically hit by the rout, forcing layoffs, firm aggregation e.g. (Royal Dutch Shell and BG) and Capex reconsideration. Weaker demands from top-tier consumers as China and consistent OPEC plans to keep production high pushed prices down, weakening inflation expectations in developed countries and increasing risks of deflation. Emerging Markets heavily relying on oil exports have to cope with more than halved revenues from the primary source of inflow, currency depreciation and inflation. Brazil is reportedly in recession, Saudi Arabia disclosed a Balance Deficit of 15% of its GPD, envisaging austerity periods in public spending. Oil will still play a major role in 2016, when the ban on Iran oil exports will be lifted and new fresh oil will flood into the market.

WTI 5 Year PerformanceOilSource: Bloomberg

China

Being the second largest economy in the world, China has set the trend in many occasions this year. The Stock Market crash sparked fear and volatility all over the world. The Shanghai Composite, after a rapid ascent, it started to fall rapidly between June and August, losing almost 40% of its value. Weaker growth perspectives, decline in industrial production, and weaker demand for commodities, especially copper, dragged down global markets, spilling over other asset classes, especially Emerging Markets local currencies. In order to give China exporters a competitive edge People’s Bank of China devalued the renminbi several times during this year. In August, in the wake of the first devaluation, the Yuan reported the largest daily loss in over 20 years. Kazakhstan’s Central Bank, in order to cope with depreciating rival currencies, decided to shift to a free-floating rate. On August 15, the tenge tumbled 26%. These moves raised the risk of a potential currency war between August and September, which eventually fade away.

CNY/USD Yearly PerformanceYuan RenminbiSource: Bloomberg

In the first days of 2016 a dramatic sell-off in China that triggered the circuit breaker mechanism halting trading if losses greater than 7% materialize, produced a chain effect on the Financial System, resulting in the worst first week of trading in history. The S&P lost almost $1 trillion in market capitalization in the first week.

 Central Banks

The Fed and the ECB adopted divergent strategies in terms of Monetary Policy. Improved economic conditions and a more solid labor market in the US pushed the Federal Open Market Committee to unanimously raise interest rates up to 50 basis points for the first time in nine years. The December hike was broadly expected by all market makers, and paved the way for future hikes in the coming years. The ECB, in the opposite direction, eased the monetary policy in December, lowering the deposit rates at minus 30 basis point and prolonging the quantitative easing up to March 2017, with potential further extension. Draghi’s move disappointed market makers, who foresaw an increase in the monthly purchase of  securities, hammering down European Equities. Despite eased policies, inflation in both region is far from targets and the pressure on oil prices seems to further raise the risk of consistent low prices and deflation. Central Banks will still play a key role in the next year in their effort of improving economic conditions and reaching inflation target.

In the first days of the New Year, negative signals coming from the commodity market and China sparked uncertainty and fear over the stability of the financial system. Will the improved economic conditions in Europe and America be able to offset the downside risks coming from the Chinese transitioning economy?

By

Tancredi Viale, Master Student

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The Chinese Turmoil: Intervention or Resurrection?

The Chinese Turmoil: Intervention or Resurrection?

China, the leading country of the BRICS , seems to be experiencing a slowdown.  Despite many experts claim that China’s GDP will rise by $7 trillion in the next decade (the equivalent of “two more Chinas”), Chinese manufacturing was dragged down by a weaker demand for Chinese exports down to the 12 months lowest level of 49.2 in April 2015. However, the main questions remains: how does this correlate with the recent Chinese stock market crash? Economists say it does not.

Shanghai and Shenzhen, the two Chinese stock markets, strongly differs from their global counterparts in terms of investors. In fact, Individual investors account for the 80% of the stock markets, as there is a weak presence of institutional investors. The rising Chinese middle class preferred to invest its savings into the bullish Chinese stock markets as stocks prices have constantly appreciated in the last years. (CSI 300 Index + 84,12% 5 yr). These peculiarities of the market along with the spread use of margin trades (Borrowing money to invest in the stock exchange), makes it clear that the Bubble had to burst soon.

With the Chinese stock markets losing up to $4 Trillion (15 times Greece’s GDP) and going down by 34% from its peak in June, a strategy was needed. After blaming US Investment Banks for bearish recommendations on Chinese stocks, China’s government, central bank and regulators have closely worked upon measures to prop up the stock prices in a very rapid way. On the first place, an unexpected interest-rate cut took place in order to stimulate the liquidity as well as an order for national brokers to pump up government-backed funds in the markets. These financial measures along with a freeze on new IPOs and a stricter regulation on margin trades, although, had only a marginal effect in the CSI 300 index that caught up only by 3,5% from its lowest peak of July 8, while reporting, last week on July 27, the biggest day drop since 2007, -8.43%.

Shanghai

At the moment, the problem regards the stock market only but there is a huge risk that it might turn into a new financial crisis. In fact, so many investors took out loans with financial brokers using stocks as collateral (margin trading) and this trend could affect their capability to pay off their loans. For this reason, 1400 companies were given permission to suspend trading in their shares in order to preserve their value.

Signals of a weakening momentum in the Chinese real economy came in the weekend from the Purchasing Manager Index, which measures the manufacturing activity. The PMI settled July at 50.0 below the consensus at 50.2 and on top of the benchmark at 50.0 that distinguish expansion from contraction. All those signals are driving down all the major global commodities, Copper and Oil on top of the list, while all the commodity currencies are experiencing a brutal depreciation against the dollar, threatening global growth projections.

Chinese PMI

By:

Ludovico Buffo, Master Student

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Is Japan economy really catching up? – APAC Overview

Is Japan economy really catching up? – APAC Overview

While Europe is still at the center of the financial news as Grexit slowly becomes more probable, many strong positive signals are coming from the third biggest world economy, Japan.  Following the great crisis, Japanese economy did face a period of deflation due to steady prices and shortage of investments.

In order to improve the economic outlook, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, elaborated an economic plan to face deflation. The so-called “Abenomics” is based upon three arrows: fiscal stimulus, monetary easing and structural reforms. An increase in taxation along with a massive monetary QE followed by important reforms are the way in which Japan is trying to comes out from the internal economic crisis. While there is a consensus for the modus operandi chosen for the first two “arrows”, very few information are known about how Abe would like to proceed with the structural reforms.

This piece of information ought to be important for investors who focus on the long term, including but not limited to pension funds. In fact, worldwide analysts from the major banks believes that the recent GDP growth has to be accounted mainly to the monetary policy instead than to a new economics cursus. In fact, at the moment, QE amounts to nearly 60% of Japan GDP and this situation seems not to be sustainable in the long term.

The NIKKEI, last week, touched its 15 years peak as the stock market is absorbing the huge amount of liquidity, but are we in front of a new financial bubble? What are the risks of such a spread use of monetary QE among the major economies? Nobody knows.

Nikkei

By

Ludovico Buffo

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Europe: A Turbulent Snatch? – European Citizen

Europe: A Turbulent Snatch? – European Citizen

In recent days, Europe has been a very dramatic battlefield. Talks between Greece and European officials are still going on, with Greek Ministers firmly stuck on their requests and European Officials unhappy and unsatisfied with Greece’s request. Tsipras does not want to change the pension system, contribution-based, still plenty of “baby retired”. Yesterday, Angela Merkel appeared as a Deus Ex Machina willing of peacefully solving the Greek Crisis. The main goal in Europe by now is to avoid the Euro Area break up, who can lead us into periods of unprecedented uncertainty and volatility, and can wreak havoc the entire Europe. Standard and Poor’s downgraded Greece Debt to triple CCC, following the postponement of the repayment to the IMF and the higher risk of default. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the President of the Eurogroup, warned against the running out of time, and urged Athens and Europe to a peaceful resolution.

Many venerable European banks have been downgraded too because of the uncertainty over Europe’s financial health. Barclays Bank has been downgraded to A-, Deutsche Bank to BBB+ and RBS to A-, Commerzbank to BBB+ and Unicredit to BBB.

The bond market has been under severe attacks. 10-YR German Bund reached high yield of 1% yesterday. From the bottom in May at 0.05%, this means a 2000% increase. Bond traders are adjusting bond prices to looming spikes in inflation in the Eurozone.

EuroStoxx

By

Tancredi Viale

On the verge of a collapse? – Weekly Market Update

On the verge of a collapse? – Weekly Market Update

Today, Greece was supposed to pay back $335m to IMF. Unfortunately, due to apparent impasses in the discussions between Greece and creditors, the repayment had to be postponed to the end of the month. Only Zambia in the 80s postponed an IMF payment. Tsipras said that it will be attached to other three tranches, totaling approximately €1.6bn. The stalemate is caused by disagreement on the reforms to be backed to the financing line. Alexis Tsipras cannot disrupt his political line to seal the deal. Syriza, his political party, is looking grudgingly at its leader, scared that he could accept unfavorable conditions to secure the loan, which would undermine the party’s coherence with electorate. Markets are nervous in this moment, with tornados taking place in the bond market. ECB’s President, Mario Draghi warned about volatility yet to come.

Today, another important data will be the job report in USA. Job Market is a very important metrics for the definition of Monetary policies in US. The data will be published in early afternoon.

By

Tancredi Viale