“That was easy!”, some might be tempted to say, with 20-20 hindsight. For portfolio managers, 2017 was a big year in both equities and bonds, with respective returns of almost 20% and 4% (USD-hedged), driven by an acceleration in global growth (+4% yoy in the third quarter) and weaker-than-expected inflation. Low volatility encouraged risk-taking and more aggressive behaviour by investors. This was stress-free performance – music to investors’ ears and far removed from the sombre mood of 2008…
It is ironic that the fate of the US dollar depends on whether Saudi Arabia will continue to insist on accepting only US dollars for oil. The Free Thought Project had a good article by Jay Syrmopoulos on this subject on 16th July 2017, Russia and China Declare All Out War on US Petrodollar — Prepare for Exclusive Trade in Gold, which was picked up by Activist Post. It is the position of the US dollar as the main world reserve currency that has made it possible for the US to continue in its role as the global policeman or, as some would have it, the imperialist bully.
Here’s an asset class that continues to defy the odds. Despite concerns of high debt levels, growing geopolitical risks and sluggish global growth, emerging markets (EM) corporate debt has once again delivered another year of impressive results. This year sees a continuation of many of the same challenges, not least the uncertainty over what Donald Trump’s US presidency will look like. Anyone hoping that Trump’s campaign promises were just talk won’t have been overly encouraged by his first week in the White House. The Republican has already signed two proclamations, seven executive orders and seven presidential memoranda. His decision to ban the entry of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries has ruffled more than a few international feathers, while his pledge to renounce the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal – a signature policy of Obama – has also raised eyebrows.
Since Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, research and views have been very divided on emerging markets. And, in general, negative views have carried the day. On the one hand, many agreed that the macroeconomic situation and microeconomic fundamentals were in the process of improving and that 2017 would hold some positive surprises in store. On the other hand, the utmost caution was in order, given the threats to launch trade “reprisals” against a number of emerging economies. All in all, having fallen out of grace in late 2016 and early 2017, emerging equities and debt have been among the best performers in their respective asset classes, with gains of 8.8% and 1.75% respectively, as of 15 March and in euros. Where does the consensus stand now?
Donald Trump’s first weeks as US president are turning out to be just as controversial as his bruising election campaign. A flurry of executive orders on border controls, trade and healthcare has dominated headlines, causing dismay and galvanising opposition.
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