“Markets are constantly in a state of uncertainty and flux, and money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.” (George Soros)
This may be the best piece of advice we can cling to these days, as any effort to predict and benefit from market performance is going to take a great deal of patience and daring. Across the spectrum, from raw materials to real estate, we see a shifting landscape of improvement and decline, rises and collapses.
Let’s begin with oil prices. Brent hit a low of $27 per barrel in late January, and there were expectations of even lower prices to come. However, prices have bounced back: not to 2014’s peak levels of $115 per barrel, but this week they were hovering between $43 and $45. Some of this is due to an unwritten agreement between Russia and OPEC to freeze production at January levels, which were already much above normal. Even though Iran and Iraq are not joining the agreement, oil traders still see the market as having bottomed out and now on the way up, noting IEA’s forecast that surplus is diminishing and that US production has peaked. The consumption picture is also looking positive, with China and India leading the way. Sinopec predicts that Chinese crude oil imports will reach 7.5m-bpd by the end of this calendar year. India’s fuel consumption increased by approximately 11% over the previous fiscal year (March 2016) to 3.77m-bpd. Put all the statistics together and you can see why IEA is predicting Brent to average out at $45 for the remainder of this year and hit $80 by 2018.
Any recovery in crude oil prices is also good news for the tanker industry, which can look forward to a big release of crude and other raw material stockpiles, an easing of vessel congestion and improved shipping rates.
On the FTSE, the best news was for the mining sector, with Anglo American, Glencore, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto all seeing double digit gains. On the flip side, the major declines were in the construction industry, particularly UK homebuilders Berkeley Group, Barratt Developments, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey all of whom are most likely being negatively impacted due to tax increases and impending legislation that would severely cool down foreign real estate investing.