Tom Sowanick is Co-President and Chief Investment Officer of Omnivest Group, Princeton, N.J.
By now everyone knows how unusual the price movement of global equities was last week. Unprecedented ups and downs caused screen huggers to move completely under the covers. We, on the other hand, believe that it is time to lower the covers enough so that we can see the responses by global leaders.
First and foremost, Central bankers have been quick to take action in order not to experience another 2008 financial crisis meltdown. The European Central Bank (ECB) was quick to announce that they would be purchasing Spanish and Italian debt at the start of last week. This was followed by European countries placing bands on short-selling of banks.
In the U.S., the Federal Reserve opened the door to the possibility of another round of quantitative easing, if necessary. The intent of government and central banks’ actions was to calm irrational financial market movements. Even the Swiss National Bank alerted the investment community that they would consider having the Swiss franc pegged to the euro in order to halt the unprecedented rise of the franc.
All of these actions combined have clearly elevated the prominence that financial markets have gained in the eyes of central bankers and government officials globally. And while this should be good news for investors, what is still lacking is a true sense of a global effort to reduce unwanted volatility. But we will take what they have to offer.
In the meantime, financial markets appear to have stabilized by the end of the week with nearly all equity markets gaining ground on Friday. Somewhat less noticeable was the fact that the Brazilian equity market gained nearly 1 percent on the week and was up 4 straight days (Tuesday - Friday). Chile followed the same performance pattern and ended the week up 4.54 percent and Columbia gained 1.45 percent on the week. The point being is that investors are clearly beginning to distinguish across regional boundaries.
U.S. Treasury yields set new historical lows at the front end of the yield curve with long interest rates also falling sharply. The volatility that was experienced in the bond market resulted in negative returns for corporate and municipal bonds. High yield was the worst performing sector as investors used the high yield market to hedge against other high quality bond investments.
This week investors should focus on the performance of European sovereign debt markets and the necessary follow through for lower yields in the (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain) PIIGS market.
In the U.S., market activity will focus on Producer & Consumer Inflation data points, with the most important number being Initial Jobless Claims (IJC) on Thursday. A print below 400,000 (IJC) for a second consecutive week, would have a significant impact on buoying investment sentiment.
Excessive market volatility has created long-term value in global equities. Investors should take the opportunity to add to SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) and emerging market exchange-traded funds (ETFs).