Global Investing

Revisiting March lows

No, not in the way you think. Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of world stocks hitting what appears to be their post-financial crisis low. The index was the MSCI all-country world index. The low was hit on March 9, 2009.

At the time, many investors reckoned their world was collapsing. Stocks had fallen close to 60 percent in a little more than 16 months. But the low proved to be the start of a remarkable rally that brought the index back up 80 percent until January this year.

All is not well on equity markets at the moment, given worries about European debt, the end of special central bank liquidity programmes and questions about the sustainability of the U.S. economic recovery.  The MSCI index seems to be having a hard time staying in positive territory this year.

And there are also investors such as Crispin Odey of hedge fund Odey Asset Management who have started worrying about whether the market will regress to its  lows. He recently told his clients in a note:

“Having hoped that March of last year might have proved to be the long term bottom for the developed markets, I am now much less sure.”

RIP 2008-2009

It was down, down, down in 2008 and up, up , up in 2009. So what will 2010 bring?

Year

Not quite 99 emerging market beers on the wall

Should emerging market investors set aside their spreadsheets and crack open a cold one?

Their markets have zoomed higher from the March lows, with MSCI’s emerging markets stock index up 81 percent. Are they heading for a fall? Will investors soon be crying in their beer? And if so what kind?

Broker Auerbach Grayson held a rooftop fete this week showcasing emerging market versus developed market beers, with nary a Yankee brew in sight.

Fool me three times, shame on me

World stocks are up 22 percent since March 9 and a sell-off earlier this week was unable to break the trend.

“Like the old saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me three times, shame on me’, we think it’s OK to investors to be cautious, but not dismissive… We believe there is a good chance that we saw the low for this bear market in early March,” says Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist from the S&P Equity Research, in the Investment Policy Committee note.

The Comittee’s end-2009 targets are: 850 for the S&P 500 index and 675 for MSCI emerging market index.

Bear market rally/Bull market beginning?

Another month and another Reuters asset allocation poll. This time saw investors in United States, Europe and Japan lifting their equity holdings and cutting back slightly on bonds.  Fits with what has been happening on global financial markets, where MSCI’s main world stock index is heading for its best month in at least six years.

So the big question is what happens now. Is this a bear market bounce that will soon dissipate?  Or is it the start of something bullish that will last?

Zeitgeist check

Some more bits and bobs to capture the current mood among investors.

–  So far, 2009 is worse than 2008 for stock investors. MSCI‘s main world index is down around 17 percent in January and February.  A year ago, it had lost around 8 percent.

– Eastern and central Europe are the new worries because of bank exposure to troubled economies.  ”The travails in the east, like the vampires of folklore, are sucking the lifeblood from European markets and investor sentiment,” State Street suggests.

– Cross-border flows into the euro zone hit record lows in February,  the same firm says.

Dead cat bounce?

New year can get in the way of understanding what is happening on financial markets. Just because humans measure the year in 12 month tranches, it does not necessarily follow that markets do. Consider world stocks, for example. MSCI’s all-country world stock index is often cited as having fallen 43.5 percent in 2008. In fact, long-term investors’ losses were a lot worse. From an all-time high on November 1, 2007, to a low on November 28, 2008, the index fell 56.2 percent.

Something similar is happening at the moment. Investors might be focusing on year-to-date losses of around 5.7 percent for the index, but they are doing better than that. The index has gained 14.5 percent from that November 28 low last year.

What is your interpretation? 1) The credit crunch crash lasted for 12 months, hit bottom on November 28 and stocks are now recovering or 2) We have just had a dead cat bounce.

Some shock, horror numbers from global stocks

Some mind-boggling numbers from the MSCI all-country world stock index, which is one of the broadest measures of how equity markets are doing and is a benchmark for many institutional investors. The index has some 2,500 companies in it from 48 developed and emerging economies.

First off, it has lost around $15 trillion in value since the end of October last year (graph below). That is more than 21 times the $700 billion U.S. bank rescue plan. It also more than graph.jpgthe annual gross domestic product of the United States. It is more than three time Japan’s annual output and more than four times that of Germany.

Secondly, the speed with which this fall has taken place has been breathtaking by investment standards. It took companies that make up the index about four years to gain the $15 trillion in share value before hitting an all-time peak last November. About a third of the losses since hitting that peak came in a free fall from mid-September to mid-October this year.