Markets view: Year in review 2015
Equities struggled, oil plunged and central banks ensured anything but a quiet start to 2015.
The European Central Bank (ECB) implemented historic quantitative easing measures.
Then the Swiss National Bank stunned investors when it dropped the franc’s peg to the euro.
Developed market equities rallied and oil stabilised following a shaky start to the year.
Russia’s ceasefire agreement in Ukraine and perceived progress in Greece/euro bloc negotiations, underpinned positive returns.
Longer term macro risks remained, which unsettled currency and bond markets.
The US dollar’s strength, due to growing expectations of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve (Fed), hampered the progress of stocks globally (in dollar terms).
Diverging central bank policy exacerbated matters.
The ECB and Bank of Japan (BoJ) loosened their purse strings, but the Bank of England (BoE) contemplated tightening theirs.
Weak GDP data in the UK, US and China heightened worries over global growth which saw the prospects of a rate hike in the US recede, helping some equities enjoy a bullish month.
The major themes remained the same: rising bond yields, falling oil prices, and a strong US dollar.
Uncertainty over Greece’s ability to service debt commitments unsettled investors.
The potential for Britain to exit the European Union also entered investors’ radar after a surprisingly convincing Conservative Party victory in the UK general election.
Stocks rallied, so-called “reluctantly”, as investors viewed equities as the least-bad option.
Oil remained unsteady and the US dollar continued to provide a safe haven for investors.
Nervy investors traded frantically around the Greek debt bailout and China growth concerns.
Emerging stocks fell. Volatility Indexes (also known as fear gauges), such as the VSTOXX Index (a measure for the European markets) shot up.
But it was a confusing month. Safe havens like the dollar and US government bonds were abandoned, while developed stockmarkets mostly fell too.
Greece cut a deal with its lenders but emerging markets came under pressure again as currency weakness dented investor confidence in the regions.
Brazil cut fiscal targets for 2015 and 2016 and volatility surrounding China remained.
Chinese equities fell and China growth concerns continued to dampen appetite for commodities.
Not many people will forget Black Monday.
Global equities entered correction territory (down around 10% of previous highs) and bonds fluctuated wildly as worries over slowing Chinese growth hit heightened levels.
In response, China’s policymakers took the historic action of devaluing its currency, the yuan.
China continued to dominate market sentiment.
Despite the actions by China’s policymakers investor confidence remained low, stockmarket volatility remained high and commodity prices fell.
UK-listed commodities trading firm Glencore surprised investors by suspending its dividend.
Investors’ unease over the global outlook grew as did their fears over richly priced income stocks.
Volkswagen (VW) hit the headlines with one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent memory. VW’s emission scandal saw more than 30 percent wiped off its share price at its lowest point.
September’s declines contributed to the worst quarter for stocks since the 2011 eurozone crisis.
Equities rebounded across the board following the rout over August and September.
A surprise interest rate cut in China and the Fed delaying its own rate hike fuelled investors’ appetite for stocks.
However, gains were capped towards the end of the month with speculation returning that the Fed would be raising interest rates in December having failed to do so in September and October.
Central banks dominated market sentiment. The “will they, wont they” Fed rate hike saga rumbled on.
Expectations of diverging monetary policy presented a perplexing proposal for the market and prevented equity markets from overheating.
The year ended as it began with central banks hogging the headlines.
The Fed raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
Equities fell in the build up to the announcement and questions were about the market pricing in very little beyond an initial rate rise.
Central bank policy consumed investors in 2015, but what themes will dominate markets in 2016?
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