With a week to go in January, global stock markets are up 3.8 percent – gently nudging higher after the new year burst and with a continued evaporation of volatility gauges toward new 5-year lows. That’s all warranted by a reappraisal of the global economy as well as murmurs about longer-term strategic shifts back to under-owned and cheaper equities. But, as ever, you can never draw a straight line. If we were to get this sort of move every month this year, then total returns for the year on the MCSI global index would be 50 percent – not impossible I guess, but highly unlikely. So, at some stage the market will pause, hestitate or even take a step back. Is now the time just three weeks into the year?
Israeli markets cheered election results today, with stocks rising 1 percent and the shekel edging up towards recent nine-month highs. Right-wing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory, but his Likud party and ultra-nationalist allies Yisrael Beitenu lost ground to a new centrist party. Final results are expected tomorrow.
By Dasha Afanasieva
Markets got a fright today when luxury goods maker Richemont reported stagnant Asian sales in the last three months of 2012. Richemont shares as well as those in its rivals such as LVMH (maker of Louis Vuitton handbags and Hennessy cognac) tanked after the news.
What a varied bunch emerging markets have become. At last week’s monetary policy meetings, we saw one rate rise (Serbia) and differing messages from the rest. Mexico turned dovish while hitherto dovish Brazilian central bank finally mentioned the inflation problem. Russia meanwhile kept markets guessing, signalling it could either raise rates next month or cut them.
Global markets have found themselves at an interesting juncture of underlying new year bullishness stalled by trepidation over several short-term headwinds (US debt debate, Q4 earnings, Italian elections etc etc) – the net result has been stalemate, something which has sunk volatility gauges even further. Not only did this week’s Merrill funds survey show investors overweight bank stocks for the first time since 2007, it also showed demand for protection against a sharp equity market drops over the next 3 months at lowest since at least 2008. The latter certainly tallies with the ever-ebbing VIX at its lowest since June 2007. Though some will of course now argue this is “cheap” – it’s a bit like comparing the cost of umbrellas even though you don’t think it’s going to rain.
(corrects name of hedge fund in para 3 to Symphony Financial Partners)
Any doubt about the importance of a weaker yen in thawing the frozen Japanese economy will have been dispelled by the Nikkei’s surge to 32-month highs this week. Since early December, when it became clear an incoming Shinzo Abe administration would do its best to weaken the yen, the equity index has surged as the yen has fallen.
The international focus is on gold-producing country Mali after days of French air strikes on al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel strongholds in the north of the West African country. France expects Gulf Arab states will help an African campaign against the rebels, and a meeting of donors for the Mali operation is due at the end of the month. West African defence chiefs are meeting today to approve plans to speed up the deployment of 3,300 regional troops.