2015 – A year of extremes…in numbers

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While 2014 was in many ways a reasonably sedate year, 2015 has been a year of (mostly bearish) extremes.

Governments and central banks were more often than not at the centre of the storm. They failed to staunch the fall in headline CPI-inflation towards 1% even if the erosion in global GDP growth to a multi-year low of around 3% was not as dramatic as feared.

The Swiss National Bank kicked off the year by revaluing its currency, while the People’s Bank of China took a different approach by delivering a token devaluation. The European Central Bank finally launched its long-awaited quantitative easing program while the US Federal Reserve hiked its policy rate for the first time in nearly a decade.

Unsurprisingly perhaps the US dollar extended its meteoric rise, with the trade-weighted-index up about 10% year-to-date, leaving most currencies in its wake. Major emerging market currencies, including three of the five BRICS currencies (the Real, Rouble, and Rand), the Malaysian Ringgit and Turkish Lira, weakened sharply in the first three quarters of the year. Developed commodity currencies – the Australian and Canadian Dollars and Norwegian Krone – have only fared a little better. The euro was somewhere in the middle of the pack but still managed to weaken to levels versus the dollar not seen since early 2003. Only the Swiss Franc, Yen and Iraeli Shekel have really held their own.

Along with global trade, commodity prices collapsed. Brent crude oil resumed its fall and is currently trading at an 11-year low of just above $36/barrel.

European politics provided much volatility and little relief, with Greece only reaching an agreement with official creditors after many months of acrimonious negotiations. Immigration has become the latest headache splitting European nations. Meanwhile the incumbent Conservative Party in the UK confounded opinion polls by comfortably winning the May general elections.

Equities were not devoid of extremes, with the Shanghai composite index surging a whopping 60% in H1 2015, before giving back all its gains and more by end-August. Year-to-date it is up a far more modest 12%. The US Dow Jones spent most of the year trading in a narrow 6.5% range, punctuated for a few months by the renminbi devaluation in August. It is currently down about 4% year-to-date with only eight trading sessions left in 2015.

I highlight below some of the macro, financial and political numbers which stood out.

My next research note – What to expect in 2016 – will be published in early January. In the meantime I would like to thank you all for taking the time to read my research and offering valuable feedback.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Olivier desbarres 2015 in figures fig2

 

Olivier Desbarres is an independent G10 and emerging markets economist, rates and currency strategist with over 15 years experience with two of the world’s largest investment banks.


 

Notes:

  1. Candidates which have been listed in five or more major independent nationwide polls, participated in authorized forums and debates, and are on the ballot in at least four states.
  1. Working majority is calculated as 650 seats minus the four Sinn Fein MPs who typically don’t take their seats and the speaker of the house who is apolitical and does not vote (645), divided by two and rounded up.
  1. October and November 2015 non-farm payroll numbers are preliminary and subject to revisions

 

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