Markets stormy 'but no full-blown crisis'

PHOTO: Markets stormy 'but no full-blown crisis'

SINGAPORE - Markets are heading into a stormy few months after the United States pricked the euphoria that pushed share prices to record highs, but turbulence does not mean a return to crisis, analysts said.

After elation over Japanese efforts to stimulate the economy out of two decades of deflation and stagnation sent shares soaring in May, indices in many countries tumbled about 10 per cent last month.

Yields on government debt have also risen and emerging markets have been hit by large capital outflows.

"What affected the markets was the announcement of the Fed. That was what triggered the volatility," said Mr Olivier Garnier, chief economist at Societe Generale bank.

On June 19, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke signalled that the US central bank could begin winding down its asset-purchase programme and stop it altogether in the middle of next year, if the US economy continues to recover.

Equities markets plunged for several days before recovering some ground last week, while the yield on 10-year US Treasury bonds shot up nearly 18 per cent in one week to levels above 2.5 per cent - unseen for two years.

"The markets don't really know which way to go. There is uncertainty, which has a price - volatility," said Mr Rene Defossez at Natixis investment bank.

"The Fed has flipped a switch that will disturb the markets for a while."

The shift in US monetary policy pushed investors to reduce their higher-risk investments. The rise in sovereign-borrowing costs, if it continues and filters through to higher rates for mortgage and consumer loans, could also hit the recovery of the US economy.

But markets have had more to worry about than just anticipating the Fed's actions. The slowdown in China's economy and a credit crunch at its banks have also sparked concern among investors, as has the limping recovery in the euro zone.

Nevertheless, analysts don't expect the current volatility to degenerate into a full-blown crisis, saying the situation is still far from the chaos of the summer of 2011, when fears of a euro-zone break-up swept the markets.

"This is not an end-of-the-world climate," said Mr Romain Boscher at Amundi Asset Management.

But stock brokerage Aurel BGC noted that "the scenario is getting more difficult for investors" as recent developments force them to review their strategies and "concentrate more on economic perspectives".

The easy-money policies pursued by the major central banks "had hidden the bad surprises on the world economy: Chinese growth has slipped, the US economy has slowed in the second quarter, Europe is having difficulty getting out of recession", added the brokerage.

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