Traders will be glad to see the back of 2018. Nearly $7 trillion has been wiped off world stocks, emerging markets have been trampled flat by a charging dollar and even gold and U.S. government bonds have lost money.
A grisly combination of U.S.-China trade tensions, central banks turning off the money taps and cooling growth in former hot spots has wiped 10 percent off MSCI’s 47-country world stocks index .MIWD00000PUS — its first double-digit loss in any year since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Many places have fared far worse. Top Chinese shares .CSI300 have fallen 25 percent into ‘bear’ territory, export bellwether Germany .GDAXI has shed 16 percent, and Turkey and Argentina have led emerging markets losses, down 45 and 50 percent respectively.
Add in a wild 35 percent plunge in oil prices LCOc1 since September, rises in Italian, Greek and now French borrowing costs that show euro zone worries remain alive, and a full scale cryptocurrency collapse, and it has been unequivocally brutal.
“After 10 years of low interest rates and quantitative easing I think we have to understand how some of this leverage in the market can unwind,” said Allianz Global Investors fund manager and global strategist Neil Dwane.
“What was a virtuous circle on the way up can become a vicious one on the way down.”
A fair bit of the year’s pain has stemmed from swift move up in U.S. interest rates and a pumped-up dollar .DXY, which has had its best year in three years.
As a result, the euro EUR=, pound GBP=, Canadian and Aussie dollars CAD=AUD= and Swedish crown SEK= have all lost between 5 and 10 percent and though the Japanese yen JPY= comes out largely unscathed, emerging markets certainly haven’t.
Argentina’s peso ARS= and Turkey’s lira TRY= have slumped 50 and 30 percent, while India’s rupee IDR=, South Africa’s rand ZAR=, Brazil’s real BRL= and Russia’s rouble RUB= are all down between 10 to 15 percent. China’s yuan CNYUSD=R is in the red for a fourth year in five.
Emerging market shares meanwhile have hemorrhaged almost 17 percent .MSCIEF and JP Morgan’s EM local currency bond index has lost nearly 8 percent. tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh
Dalton Investments emerging market portfolio manager Pedro Zevallos said the big falls meant many markets, including China were now cheap. “But right now it honestly feels like catching a falling knife.”
“And my concern going into next year is that the dollar will continue to strengthen.”
As well as the escalation in global trade tensions this year there has been the realization among investors that the big central banks aren’t thinking about stimulating the economy anymore — they’re trying to rebuild their arsenals in case of recession.
But the year hasn’t been a complete write-off everywhere.
While the S&P 500 and Dow Wall Street bellwethers are down the most since 2008, at around 5 percent their losses aren’t too bad, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq .NDX is clinging on for its 10th consecutive year of gains.
The FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) have had rollercoaster year. As a group, they are ending 2018 worth roughly $2.8 trillion — more or less where they started it, but down some $800 billion or 24 percent from their late August peak.
There has been a big parting of the ways too. While Amazon (AMZN.O) and Netflix (NFLX.O) have surged 33 and 45 percent, repeated scandals over data misuse and fake news propagation have slashed 19 percent off Facebook (FB.O) shares.
Asia, Europe stocks slide after Fed rate hike
With China also the biggest consumer of industrial commodities, its misfiring economy has contributed to the respective 17 and 23 percent declines in the price of copper CMCU3 and zinc CMZN3, used in things like pipes and galvanized steel.
The big cryptocollapse has seen Bitcoin BTC=BTSP crash 72 percent. There are now over 2,000 other digital currencies in circulation but their value has plummeted to $128 billion from over $800 billion in January.
But even traditional safe-havens have failed to provide much in the way of protection.
Another four U.S. interest hikes have cost Treasury bond holders US10YT=RR nearly 2 percent despite a better last few months and the euro’s fall puts German Bunds down 2.3 percent in dollar terms. Gold is 4 percent less precious.
Italy’s government bonds meanwhile have plunged 9 percent after an anti-establishment government took charge in Rome and the European Central Bank confirmed its huge bond-buying program will end this year.
“The question as we look into 2019 and 2020 is how much worse the trade/tech cold war and Brexit get,” Allianz’s Dwayne said. “That could tells us that maybe we are not going to see a traditional downturn but a significant one.” -Reuters
– Marc Jones
Coca Cola South Africa Improves SME Role In Value Chain
Coca Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) launches an R20 million fund for small supplier development and procurement, annually, for the next five years.
This was announced by the Financial Director, Walter Leonhardt at Gallagher Convention Centre at the third annual Supplier Development Conference.
CCBS is the South African-based subsidiary of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA).
Leonhardt said the purpose of this fund is to assist young upcoming black entrepreneurs in the Coca-Cola value chain.
“We are, today, launching the CCBSA supplier fund of access to funding. To address the issue of access to funding which most SMEs experience,” said Leonhardt.
This will enable the entrepreneurs’ procurement process to be easier.
“It is to help them buy equipment, fund working capital and to help them overcome something we have identified as a challenge for upcoming businesses, which is access to capital on quit lenient terms,” said Leonhardt.
Budding entrepreneurs can visit their website to find out how they can access the funds.
There were over 120 suppliers of CCBSA in attendance.
Managing director of CCBSA Velaphi Ratshefola said they spent R2.35 billion last year, supporting 567 black-owned suppliers, of whom, 265 were black female owned suppliers.
“So for me, it is clear that this is working. We have helped create a very inclusive economy. We need to play our part and we need to ensure that only through an inclusive growing economy we can create a stable environment where businesses can flourish.
“If we do not have a stable environment, a stable economy, we will have a lot of disturbances which are never good for business,” said Ratshefola.
“So for all of us, we should not do it just for social reasons, we must do it for the success of businesses and imperative,” said Ratshefola.
Zimbabwe Central Bank Borrows $985 Million From African Banks
Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank has borrowed $985 million from African banks to purchase fuel and other critical imports with current reserves covering imports for just four weeks, underscoring the severity of dollar shortages, governor John Mangudya said.
The southern African nation last month ditched a discredited 1:1 dollar peg for its surrogate bond notes and electronic dollars, merging them into a lower-value transitional currency called the RTGS dollar.
Mangudya said the central bank borrowed $641 million from the African Export and Import Bank, $152 million from Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, and $25 million from Mozambique’s central bank, among others.
The loans, which would be repaid from future gold earnings, have a tenure of between three and five years and attract an interest of up to 6 percent above the Libor rate, Mangudya said.
Gold is Zimbabwe’s single biggest mineral export earner, accounting for a third of its $4.2 billion earnings last year after a record output, central bank data shows.
“These loans are well structured facilities contracted last year. They will be paid from future (gold) export receivables,” Mangudya told a parliamentary committee.
The central bank takes 45 percent of dollar sales from gold producers and half from other miners to fund imports like fuel and power and repay foreign loans.
But the miners only have 30 days to keep their dollar balances in local foreign currency accounts, after which they must sell them. The companies have asked the central bank to extend the period they may keep their dollars to 90 days, according to mining executives.
Unable to get funding from foreign lenders like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank due to arrears of more than $2.4 billion, Zimbabwe has looked to financiers from the continent and local banks to shore up its budget.
The central bank chief said Zimbabwe had just $500 million in reserves, enough to purchase four weeks’ worth of imports.
Mangudya said government borrowing from the central bank reached $2.99 billion in December, about three times its permissible overdraft limit.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has promised to curb borrowing in 2019 under reforms to revive the southern African economy, after the budget deficit soared last year following a spike in spending ahead of elections.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said last week that the local RTGS dollar, Zimbabwe’s new de facto currency, will be backed up with fiscal discipline and the government would allow it to fluctuate but would manage excessive volatility.
On the interbank forex market on Monday, one U.S. dollar fetched 2.5 RTGS dollars, the same rate as on Feb. 22 when the central bank sold some dollars to banks. That compares to a rate of 3.5 RTGS dollars per U.S. dollar on the black market. -Reuters
Volvo To Limit Car Speeds In Bid For Zero Deaths
Volvo Cars said on Monday it will introduce a 180 km per hour (112 mph) speed limiter on all new vehicles as the Swedish automaker seeks to burnish its safety credentials and meet a pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.
While Volvo, whose XC90 flagship SUV currently has a top speed of 212 km/h, has made progress on its so-called “Vision 2020” target of zero deaths or serious injuries, Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said it is unlikely to meet the goal without additional measures to address driver behavior.
“We’ve realized that to close the gap we have to focus more on the human factors,” Samuelsson said. Volvo did not elaborate on the data but said its passenger fatalities were already well below the industry average before the goal was announced in 2007.
In addition to the speed cap, Volvo plans to deploy technology using cameras that monitor the driver’s state and attentiveness to prevent people driving while distracted or intoxicated, two other big factors in accidents, Samuelsson said.
The company is also looking at lower geo-fenced speed limits to slow cars around sensitive pedestrian areas such as schools, while seeking to “start a conversation” among automakers and regulators about how technology can be used to improve safety.
Volvo, which is owned by China’s Geely, announced the new speed limitation policy on the eve of the Geneva auto show, where its new Polestar performance electric-car brand is showcasing its second model, the Polestar 2.
While Volvo buyers often choose the brand for its safety, Samuelsson conceded that the speed cap could be a turn-off for a few in markets such as Germany, where drivers routinely travel at 200 km/h or more on unrestricted autobahns.
“We cannot please everybody, but we think we will attract new customers,” the CEO said, recalling that the roll-out of three-point seat belts pioneered by Volvo in 1959 had initially been criticized by some as intrusive.
“I think Volvo customers in Germany will appreciate that we’re doing something about safety,” he said. -Reuters
– Laurence Frost; additional reporting by Esha Vaish
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