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Market sentiment: Individual regions traded-off apparently their own idiosyncratic drivers, characteristic of the diverse web of risks plaguing investors. Chinese indices were the stand-out, climbing more than 2.5%, collectively, while European shares were generally lower, and US stocks were mixed. The mood is still edgy and dour for equities overall, with the weight of an extending list of risks stifling appetitive for riskier assets. There is a growing sense now that the many and considerable challenges facing market participants are here to stay; the matter hence becomes what level of willingness do market participants possess to stomach these and push equity markets higher.
Risks-elevated: Uncertainty and instability isn't something novel for traders -- it's reigned for the last decade, as is well known. Yet it's proven now that there doesn't necessarily exist the confidence that, with the world's most powerful central banks turning off the liquidity taps, markets have the strength to sustain themselves. To be perfectly fair, 12 months ago, an all-out trade-war, the seeds for huge US twin deficits, a new Italian fiscal crisis, a Chinese economic slowdown, and major regional instability in the Middle East wasn't seriously expected. Without such interferences, perhaps the global economy would have been on stronger footing. It's pointless to speculate, however one can safely assume at this stage of the economic cycle, fundamentals should be presenting as much firmer.
Economic fundamentals: The way in which this dynamic of higher risk and lower confidence plays out in Australian markets will be curious, as the final stages of the calendar year unfold. The US economy is booming and that will anchor the global growth story until the Fed's interest rate hikes begin to lean on the US economy. For us down under though, it's of lesser relevance than what transpired in the Chinese economy. The massive data dump delivered on Friday out of China was on balance underwhelming: headline growth was lower, while the other tier-2 data releases didn't salvage much. The Australian economy is ticking along relatively nicely it must be said, but our economic fortunes will stay wedded to China's almost undoubtedly, with the effectiveness of Chinese policymakers attempts to stimulate their economy the key variable.
China: As far as markets go, equity indices seemed to benefit from the latest salvo by some of China's top economic officials about tackling any economic slowdown. In effect, policymakers came-out on Friday and implored market participants that they would ensure that a floor was placed under the recent sell-off across Chinese shares, in the interest of capital safety and financial stability. According to the slew of top-regulators who delivered the message, the massive tumble (30% year-to-date) in Chinese stocks isn't reflective of the nation’s fundamentals, so support, it is argued, can justifiably be provided to align financial markets to the economy.