Depending on how you look at it, August may not have been as bad a month for stocks as advertised. For the month as a whole, the MSCI all-country world stock index lost more than 7.5 percent. This was the worst performance since May last year, and the worst August since 1998.
Poor Russia. After spending six months as the world’s best performing emerging market, the Moscow bourse has been the big loser of this month’s rout — year-to-date returns of over 10 percent until mid-July have since dissolved in a sea of red, with a plunge of over 20 percent since the start of August. As oil prices fell and the outlook for U.S. and European growth darkened, overweight positions in Russia halved versus July, a survey by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch showed this week.
So it’s not just investors who are guilty of moving in a herd-like fashion.
Financial journalists use the same verbs and nouns with greater frequency as stock markets overheat but display more variety in their phraseology after the bubble bursts, a study by Irish computer scientists has shown.
Last week snapped a three-week winning streak for Indian stocks — the first since last September for this year’s emerging markets laggard. India, an oil importer and a domestic demand play with high inflation, has languished this year in comparison with fellow-BRIC Russia which has returned 14 percent so far, thanks to the $125/barrel oil price. But could the market be turning? Indian stocks, down 20 percent at one point in February, have cut their losses to 6 percent so far this year. And there are signs fund managers are piling back in.
The headline news from our Reuters asset allocation polls this month was that not much has changed from December in terms of overall investment positioning, but that there was a decided shift from emerging markets and European stocks to North America.
For all the doom and gloom associated with the broader economy—historic unemployment in the United States, debt woes and mandated austerity in Europe—it’s been a remarkably positive year for the stock market. As we enter the last week of 2010, the S&P 500 index is up nearly 13 percent for the year. That’s far from a record (1954 witnessed a breakneck 45 percent rise), but at least the index this year climbed above the level hit before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in September, 2008. The stock comeback story is not unique to America, either; this week, Korea’s stocks hit their highest level in more than three years.
Can nature’s cycles enrich our finance and market theories?
Market predictions based on the alignment of the sun, moon and the earth and other cycles could help investors stay disciplined and profit in economic storms, says Daniel Shaffer, CEO of Shaffer Asset Management.