At the moment the environment on the markets is very supportive. The economy is booming, the big central banks are still buying government bonds on aggregate and are thus keeping yields low, and the tax reform in the USA has improved the sentiment further over the past weeks. In addition, most asset managers agree on the status quo. Given this background, people ask “when will the party end?”. An increase in inflation is (one of) the usual suspect(s).
2017 was an excellent year for stocks. Developed markets were up more than 16% in local currencies, emerging markets almost 28%. How will the markets develop in 2018?
European banks (as measured by the Stoxx 600 Banks Index) had a decent year in 2017: the index climbed more than 8%, slightly outperforming the broader European market (Stoxx 600 Index). The strongest positive impulse came from the French elections in April last year, where the populist threat was successfully defeated by Emmanuel Macron, arguably the most market-friendly candidate among the contenders. A robust European economy and a solid business sentiment throughout the year also helped banking shares go higher.
2017 is drawing to an end, and the bottom line is positive. The outcome is significantly better than we had expected. Since the financial crisis in 2008, the global economy has never expanded more quickly and especially concertedly than in 2017. Also, inflation has surprised on the downside, falling short yet again of the expectations held by central banks and analysts.
The following points reflect my impressions at the presentations that I attended at the IMF-meetings in Washington from 12 to 15 October 2017.