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Stock Markets Had its Worst Half Year Since 1970

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The 14.44% decline of 2008 is actually the tenth worse performance since 1900. July hasn’t exactly started off with a bang and US traders may be thankful for the long weekend last week. The S&P 500 closed the week down 1.19%, registering its lowest daily close for almost two years. June was especially hard for US markets with a drop of 8.55% for the S&P 500, and a 10.19% collapse on the Dow, making up most of the years losses to date.

The culprits are not too hard to find. The first half performance of the US financial sector was -30%, while the Energy sector managed to find a rise of 8.12%. If you were asked to list the top dangers for the global economy, you would be hard pressed to find any factors that are not already playing themselves out. Firstly we have oil prices that seem to reach new record
highs with each passing week. $150 per barrel is looming ever closer. This price action is linked to the second danger, further conflict in the Middle East. Last week, a former Israeli air force commander was quoted as saying that Israel was ready to attack Iran if diplomacy fails. The Iranian oil minister has responded by saying that Iran is ready to defend itself, and that an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would be the start of war.

Oil fueled inflation is still causing central bankers headaches, with Citi Group today predicting that UK inflation jumped to 4.6% in June. Last week, the ECB went to great lengths to stress that the recent rate hike didn’t automatically precede a series of hikes. Nevertheless, Trichet’s firm stance on fighting inflation has caused some disagreements between the ECB and the Federal Reserve in the US. The final horseman of the apocalypse could be when the global economy finally yields to the pressures of inflation and the aftermath of the credit crunch. There are increasing signs that the world’s largest economy is slowing. Thursdays US payroll figures showed a 20% increase in unemployment year on year. Also Non Farm Payrolls shrank for the 6th consecutive month. With UK house prices going the same way as the US market, the bricks and mortar ATM is no longer paying out, and UK households are already at record levels of indebtedness. Shocking figures from Marks & Spencer last week was testament to this.

The week ahead is a quieter affair with fewer top tier announcements than the week just gone. That said, there are still some potential market moving datasets due. UK industrial and manufacturing production figures are released on Monday morning. The recent Purchasing Managers Index monthly survey of UK manufacturing was described as “truly dreadful”, with indications that this sector at least may be heading for a recession. On the same day, we provisionally have the UK Halifax Price Index delayed from last week. On the same note, US pending home sales are released on Tuesday. Bad news is expected for both, the only question being how bad the news actually is.

The week’s top ticket trading is the MPC interest statement on Thursday. The Bank of England is still stuck between a rock and a hard place, with record oil prices driving inflation, and slowing consumer spending hurting the economy. A no change verdict is widely expected to be the more likely course of action.

With next week being relatively lighter on the economic news front, BetOnMarkets.com thinks that it may be a good time for a trade that looks to profit from low volatility. A barrier range trade wins if neither of two levels are hit within the specific time period. A barrier range trade predicting that the FTSE 100 will not touch 5016 or 5875 in the next 16 days could return 10%.

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