Brought to you by Investec Switzerland.
SMI stocks, along with markets around the world, started 2016 in a state of chaos this week as weak economic data from China, heightened tensions in the Middle East and crude oil prices tumbling to multi-year lows wreaked havoc on investor sentiment.
Markets slumped around the globe after Chinese regulators were forced to halt trading twice this week after weak manufacturing data led investors to dump Chinese stocks in droves. The yuan also sank to a five-year low when China’s central bank set the currency’s reference rate at an unexpectedly weak level. Investors took the move as a sign that policy makers are now more tolerant of depreciation as intervention costs rise and economic growth slows. Bad news out of the US added further downside pressure to global stocks after another report showed that US manufacturing contracted in December at the fastest pace in more than six years. The report highlighted that sluggish global growth and the strong dollar led to factories cutting staffing numbers towards the end of 2015.
In Switzerland, a survey representing the condition of the Swiss industrial sector (PMI) surprised positively in December, showing expansion. However, according to analysts the positive result does not suggest a broad recovery in Swiss manufacturing for 2016 as the strong Swiss franc and pricing pressure continue to weigh on the industrial sector. Swiss unemployment held steady in December at 3.4% albeit a bit higher than in recent months, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Friday.
The Swiss National Bank said this week that it incurred a record loss of 23 billion francs last year after it abandoned its euro currency cap in January 2015. The major driver behind the loss was the appreciation of the franc that followed the decision to scrap the cap that resulted in a loss of 20 billion francs on its foreign- currency positions. The SNB reported that the euro now constitutes more than 40% of its total foreign currency reserves, leaving it vulnerable to any further weakening of the single currency.
In company news, this week’s biggest losers are expected to be Swatch due to its high exposure to Chinese consumer sentiment and Transocean as a result of the continued slump in the price of oil. Stock prices of more domestically focused companies, like Swisscom, fared better during the weeks mayhem.