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News

Can rising uncertainty be followed by rising growth?

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The equity market rally that followed Trump’s election was in our view largely driven by expectations of tax cuts increasing corporate earnings. For the positive momentum to be sustained there needs to be firmer prospects of economic growth gaining traction. It is here that the picture is complex.

Uncertainty has been rising substantially since President Trump’s election. The future of NAFTA is in question. The manner with which some Executive Orders have been signed, with limited or no vetting by the concerned departments, suggests an executive style that is likely to lead to legal confrontations. The silence regarding potential action with respect to trade with China, combined with the rhetoric over maritime rights in the South China Sea is not comforting.

Political surprises and surprising reactions

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The past year has been one of multiple surprises. The year started with fears of a sharp deceleration in China, and worries over the implications of rising Fed rates for emerging markets. Some worried that the global economy could slip into recession. Britain was expected to vote to remain in the European Union, and almost all political analysts would have named Donald Trump as the candidate least likely to win the US presidential elections.

None of these expectations proved right.  China’s economy barely decelerated. The Fed did not yet hike interest rates. Britain opted to leave the EU, and Trump is president-elect.  More surprisingly, however, is that markets moved in the opposite direction of what most analysts had expected. Emerging markets have delivered their best performance in years. The UK and US equity markets reacted positively to what was assumed to be a negative outcome.