The global economy is on a sustainable growth trajectory that will provide a catalyst to financial markets and a source of strength for corporate profits. Though periods of volatility may challenge investor resolve over the course of 2015, resilience will prevail thanks to a global growth story buoyed by tectonic shifts in the real economy, continued improvements in global consumer and business spending, and supportive global central banks.
Of course, resilience has been a defining characteristic of markets for some time now, as we have seen them shake off such potentially destabilizing factors as Europe’s chronic economic malaise, China’s growth slowdown, and Japan’s sharp and surprising return to recession. That’s not to mention the various geopolitical hotspots — Ukraine, the Middle East and elsewhere — that have flared up from time to time. Along the way, markets have been fortified by all-time high U.S. corporate earnings; renewed monetary stimulus from central banks in Japan, Europe and China; and plummeting oil prices that have provided a positive supply shock to consumers and businesses. This confluence of events has bolstered markets worldwide (including new records for domestic bourses) and has raised investor confidence that such trends can be sustained in 2015.
Regionally, emerging market economies continue to outpace their G7 brethren. While China with its 1 billion consumers and $10 trillion GDP has led the way, a veritable “new China” has emerged in the ASEAN region, which has more than 600 million consumers and an aggregate GDP of $2.4 trillion. Economic growth in the emerging markets is most notable in those regions with low trade barriers, high foreign direct investment and strong property rights.
But there is also progress being made in the developed world. While the UK and Germany both are aligned for global expansion, it’s the U.S. that truly stands out, due in part to its exposure to the tectonic shifts — particularly in energy — that are changing the economic and investment landscape. However, the dramatic decline in oil prices and the strengthening U.S. dollar are having negative impacts elsewhere, wreaking havoc in oil-producing nations, upsetting the capital expenditure plans of global energy companies and pressuring the currencies of emerging markets.
By: Douglas Coté