Oil price drop scares investors around the world

Stock exchanges plunge around the world; Istanbul holds firm for now, but decline expected.

Oil price drop scares investors around the world
World Bulletin / News Desk
 
The drop in oil prices to nearly $50 per barrel has scared investors around the world, and sparked a sell-off on most major exchanges.

In the U.S. on Monday, Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.8 percent, its biggest drop since October; the Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 1.9 percent; the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 1.6 percent.

The panic in the U.S. spread to Asia Tuesday, as investors pulled out of stocks. Japan’s Nikkei saw its largest decline in 10 months, and Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and India all fell sharply.

The anxious sentiment spread to Europe, where the pan-European Stoxx Index was down 0.4 percent in the late morning.

But one notable exception to the panic selling was Borsa Istanbul, which has remained flat on Monday and Tuesday.  However, analysts say that Turkey’s major stock exchange is not likely to escape the trend for long.

Investors around the world are worried that the plunging oil price might be a prelude to a global slowdown. They are also concerned about the effect the price slide will have on energy companies. Investors fled oil and gas stocks on Monday and Tuesday.

“If the price of oil drops to near $40 per barrel, then something is very, very wrong with the world, not just the economy,” warned Jeff Gundlach, Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles-based portfolio management firm DoubleLine, in an interview with the Swiss magazine Finanz und Wirtschaft Monday.

“The geopolitical consequences could be terrifying,” Grundlach said.  Employment in the U.S. would suffer, Grundlach predicted, as energy companies cut jobs – much of the job creation in the U.S. in recent years has depended on the shale oil industry.

“Then, with the global economy weakening and the dollar strengthening, there is a real chance that the U.S. will import economic weakness and deflation," he said. And recovery in the U.S. is hoped to drive economic improvement around the world, providing growth opportunities to Asian and European companies.

All of this explains why investors are fleeing stock markets, but why is Istanbul holding out?

“For Turkey, the decline in oil prices has a very positive effect on two main issues for Turkey’s economy – the current account balance and inflation,” Harun Dereli, a senior analyst with the Ziraat Yatirim brokerage in Istanbul, told The Anadolu Agency.

This is why the oil price slide hasn’t scared investors in Turkey – yet.

 “On the other hand, divergence may not go further. In the coming days, signs of weakness in the global economy may also raise questions about Turkey’s economic growth,” Dereli warns.

In other words, investor sentiment may sour in Turkey too. But Dereli doesn’t believe the selloff will last long on the Istanbul exchange.

“The Turkish market should move into positive territory as a sharp decline in inflation, narrowed current account deficit and recovery in EU economies will affect sentiment for positive market movements in Turkey.  For Turkey, the main concern for 2015 will be growth like all other countries. We think that low oil prices will support Turkey’s growth,” Dereli says, and he forecasts four percent growth in 2015.

Despite the projected length of the oil slide – analysts see low oil prices lasting for well into 2015 – there is considerable positive sentiment supporting improvement on the Istanbul exchange, which, according to CNN Money, was one of the five best-performing markets in 2014.

Dereli would not say how long the oil price scare would last, or when the Istanbul exchange would recover from it.

Michael Harris, Turkey strategist for Renaissance Capital, argues persuasively that the Istanbul exchange will boom thanks to the improving Turkish economy.

“Many of our peers in the industry have until recently been arguing that the Central Bank of Turkey’s policy lacks credibility owing to inflation running above nine percent – we disagree,” Harris said in a note published on Dec. 22.

“Rising unemployment, lost exports to Iraq, deteriorating credit quality and the weak third quarter 2014 Gross Domestic Product growth all make it clear to us that the Turkish economy is not overheating and is effectively rebalancing. Throw in: tumbling commodity prices (oil down 35 percent from 2014 averages even in lira terms, and now talk of discounts in more rigid gas pricing); the one-off impact from the drought- and refugee-driven food price spike; and the surge in refugees now entering the work force,” Harris said.

Both domestic demand and supply-side support all argue that it is not a question of whether inflation will fall in 2015, but by how much it will fall, he insists.

But analysts also point to Turkey’s vulnerability to rapid capital flows out of the country. “Turkey is still vulnerable to such external pressures,” says Schweta Singh, an economist with Lombard Research in London.

There is the additional danger, analysts point out, of disruption to the global economy due to the low oil price, as it may not rise again for some time.

Citigroup analyst Ed Morse wrote in a report published on Dec. 22 that the first half of this year would bring "a step-up in oversupply, more volatility, and turmoil."

Production of shale oil in the U.S., along with Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ announced determination to continue cutting prices to preserve market share, are pressuring oil lower, and will keep it there for some time.

This may keep investor sentiment sour in the U.S. for some time, and there is often a knock-on effect from the U.S. markets to those in Europe and Asia.

However, analysts believe that Turkey’s fundamentals will continue to draw investment from abroad. About 65 percent of the investment on the Istanbul exchange comes from foreign investors. That does tend to support belief that the Borsa Istanbul will keep performing well.

 

Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2015, 18:00
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