The expectations of global markets for 2024

While the road ahead may be fraught with uncertainties, it also presents a myriad of opportunities. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

While the road ahead may be fraught with uncertainties, it also presents a myriad of opportunities. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Published Mar 23, 2024


By: Harion Camargo

IN THE dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of global finance, 2024 presents investors with a multifaceted scenario, necessitating discerning decision-making amid a backdrop of shifting monetary policies and evolving economic dynamics. As markets navigate the delicate equilibrium between moderating inflation rates and decelerating global growth, investors find themselves at a pivotal juncture where astute navigation is paramount to mitigating risks and seizing upon emerging opportunities. These avenues offer not only potential returns but also a semblance of stability amid the prevailing uncertainty.

Amid this intricate financial tapestry, investors are confronted with a paradigm marked by notable fluctuations in asset valuations and shifting investment flows. The exodus from emerging market debt, a trend observed since 2022 and continuing into 2023, has significantly reshaped global investment portfolios, leaving this asset class conspicuously underrepresented. Despite these challenges, emerging market bonds and currencies have exhibited remarkable resilience, buoyed by tightening global liquidity and adept management of external pressures.

In the US, the Federal Reserve's steadfast belief in its capacity to mitigate inflationary pressures foreshadows a forthcoming shift towards monetary easing in 2024, carrying significant implications for market sentiments and pricing dynamics. Yet, uncertainties persist regarding the timing and extent of policy adjustments amid evolving economic trajectories. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the European Central Bank grapples with a complex interplay of divergent growth patterns and inflationary forces, highlighting the intricate challenges of monetary policy formulation in a diverse economic landscape.

2022 witnessed a dramatic downturn in the S&P 500, plummeting nearly 20% amid the Federal Reserve's rapid interest rate hikes. However, defying expectations, equity markets rallied resiliently in 2023, culminating in record highs for the Dow by December. Nevertheless, the outlook for US equity earnings growth has not met investors' lofty expectations, with S&P 500 equity concentration reaching levels unseen since the 1970s.

Turning to the UK, economic indicators are poised to deteriorate further as the repercussions of substantially higher interest rates permeate the economy. While this may be partially offset by improvements in real wages due to declining inflation, the precariousness of UK labour markets looms large, with higher rates potentially squeezing corporate profit margins. Despite investor reluctance since Brexit, valuation-driven opportunities have emerged in the UK equity market. The defensive qualities of the FTSE 100 Index could position it favourably amidst the anticipated volatility in the global economy and equities markets in 2024.

Meanwhile, in the vast expanse of China's economic frontier, a unique set of challenges and opportunities presents itself. Despite persistent weaknesses in key sectors, signs of nascent recovery begin to emerge, bolstered by improving industrial profits, a gradual end to inventory destocking cycles, and accelerated credit growth. Yet, the spectre of falling property valuations looms large, posing a formidable systemic risk to the economy. In response, authorities are tasked with implementing targeted interventions aimed at stabilising property market liquidity and reinvigorating consumer sentiment, lest the nation succumbs to the perils of a deflationary spiral.

According to the last South Africa Economic Outlook Report from PWC, in many emerging markets like South Africa, fiscal space is constrained in 2024 due to weak revenues and rising debt-servicing costs. Elevated debt, tight financial conditions, and tepid economic growth are putting pressure on fiscal sustainability while increasing vulnerability to external financial shocks. Public debt distress is among the top five risks faced by one out of three countries this year. The fiscal situation is detracting from other government work as policymakers face trade-offs between fiscal stability and other priorities. These include industrial policy and investment in reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There is a critical need for policies to reinvent industrial systems and avoid the worst consequences of climate change. PwC estimates the 2023/2024 fiscal year will see a budget deficit equal to 5.1% of GDP.

This is slightly larger than the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) 2023 projection of 4.9% of GDP due in part to a poor performance for companies with December 2023 financial year-ends. The MTBPS 2023 pencilled in a deficit equal to 4.6% of GDP in 2025/2025, while we project a figure equal to 4.9% of GDP.

As investors navigate the labyrinthine complexities of the financial markets in 2024, strategic acumen and adaptability emerge as indispensable assets. The confluence of shifting monetary policies, geopolitical uncertainties, and sector-specific challenges demands a nuanced approach, one characterised by vigilance, agility, and a steadfast commitment to prudent risk management. While the road ahead may be fraught with uncertainties, it also presents a myriad of opportunities for those willing to embrace the inherent dynamism of the global financial landscape, positioning themselves for success amidst the ebb and flow of market forces.

* Camargo, CFP® is a logistics management technician at Mercantile Bank, in Brazil.