Investors might find it somewhat difficult to decide on where to put their money this year because the headlines coming from investment circles are mostly depressing. The weakness in Chinese economy is weighing down much of Asia and American manufacturers are starting to feel the pinch. Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East remain unresolved and oil prices are in troubled waters. Economic data in the U.S. is mixed and the fact that 2016 is an election year doesn’t provide much of an economic direction.
It is already obvious that 2016 will be very volatile year in the global economic scene. The move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at the end of 2015 was the harbinger of things to come. Economic events in the first three weeks of 2016 has shown that 2016 will be characterized by a rollercoaster of exciting highs and depressing lows in the global economy. This piece seeks to explore the outlook in stocks, precious metals, and global oil prices so that investors might pitch their tents on the winning side.
Stocks are swimming in wild swings
If you have investments in the equities market, you'll have already seen the handwriting on the wall that stocks will be volatile this year. On Wednesday, all the major U.S. market indices were down. For instance, the S&P 500 was down by a significant 1.56%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.17%, and the NASDAQ Composite was down 0.12%. More so, all the major market sectors (except healthcare) were down in yesterday's session, with the energy sector taking the biggest hit with a 3.14% decline.
The global equities scene was also not impressive. In Asia, stocks are suffering in China as the Shanghai index dropped 3.23%. The situation was not different in Japan as Nikkei 225 had a 2.43% decline while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was down 1.82%. The situation also appears to be worse in Europe as Euro STOXX 50 was down 0.19% and France's CAC 40 was down 0.16%.
It is well known saying in the equities market that as "January goes, goes the year"; hence, stock investors will not be surprised if they make massive gains in a session and then lose everything in the next session.
The outlook for oil is uncertain
Crude oil has been facing significant headwinds since last year and it seems that the situation has taken a turn for the worse this year. Oil futures have dropped to the lowest price since September 2003 this week, as a glut in the supply of oil and drop in demand (especially from China) has caused the price to fall lower. On Thursday, Benchmark Brent was down 3.2%o $27.10 per barrel. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down an incredulous 6.7% to $26.55 per barrel. The decline marks the largest monthly fall since May 2003.
Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro in Amsterdam notes that "There are worries surrounding demand and oversupply". Dominick Chirichella, oil analyst at the New York-based Energy Management Institute also notes that “no matter how one looks at the fundamental data every angle points toward lower prices as supply is continuing to outstrip demand.”
However, the uncertainties in oil prices provide smart traders with an opportunity to benefit from trading oil futures. If you know how to trade oil, you'll find the current weakness in oil prices as a good opportunity to make consistent gains from the economic dynamics of oil. It is obvious that oil prices are searching for a bottom and you can make gains when you sell. When the geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are resolved, you can expect oil prices to recover and then you'll buy oil futures.
The safe-haven status of gold might be back
The weakness in the global equities market as discussed earlier is already causing investors to think twice about investing in stocks and they are running into the inherent stability of gold. Gold is considered a safe-haven asset because it tends to keep its value over time, because it is a good hedge against inflation and because it tends to outperform fiat currencies.
The reigniting of the safe haven status of gold suggests that 2016 might be the year of precious metal investors. A Bloomberg data analysis shows that in the five days to January 14, investors have bought 26.8 metric tons of gold through ETFs that are physically backed by the bullion. Gold prices per ounce have climbed more than 4% since the market opened this year in sharp contrast to the decline in equities.
Citigroup analysts in their 2016 commodities outlook note, "gold's safe haven rationale is back in vogue". They also mentioned that "geopolitical issues typically tend to be short-lived in terms of lending support to gold prices; we expect ongoing global macro concerns to lend support this quarter, aided by a modestly more benign U.S. dollar outlook."