Geopolitical and policy noise stalls market trends

Here's what we're thinking

February 14, 2017

Year-to-date major stock indices have grinded out healthy gains amidst generally tight trading ranges and low volatility (S&P500: +2.4%, TSX: +1.3%, MSCI EAFE: +3.3%). In fact, the equity implied volatility index (better known as VIX) hit a near-10 year low on February 1st at 9.97. The quiet that has fallen over markets stands in stark contrast to the growing uncertainty and unpredictability in the stance of the new U.S. administration on key policy issues such as geopolitical alliances, import tariffs, immigration, tax cuts, infrastructure spending, etc. In particular, political momentum seems to have waned recently as the President’s popularity suffers from recent controversial actions and comments which are weighing on tax reform prospects (a key to market expectations for stronger earnings growth this year and next). As well, investors are contending with rising geopolitical risks in Europe with nationalists, hoping to follow Britain out of the EU, leading in polls heading into elections in the Netherlands (March) and France (April).

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