At the beginning of 2015, the world economy looks to be in reasonable shape. As in 2014, investors will have a number of hurdles to overcome, not least a prospective rise in US interest rates – the first since 2006. Nonetheless, analysts believe the outlook is for a continued rally in riskier asset classes such as shares. Global economic output is expected to expand by around 3.5 per cent this year, which would be close to its historical average.
However, with already-low rates of inflation set to fall further following a plunge in commodity prices in 2014, the environment for bonds is not particularly unfriendly either. Yields are low, but for the moment at least there is no reason to expect an aggressive sell-off.
Just as in 2014, this relatively favourable overall picture masks some significant regional variations.
Economies and monetary policy are likely to vary significantly. While interest rates are likely to rise in both the US and UK, further monetary easing is on the cards in Europe, Japan and possibly China.
The US looks set to do best among the developed economies while the UK is also in fairly healthy shape. By contrast, the situation is far bleaker in the euro zone where policymakers are struggling to tackle chronically high unemployment and fend off deflation. 2015 looks like being another difficult year for the euro zone.
The other large economy causing concern at present is China. But while it is true that China’s growth rate is slowing, this looks more like an evolutionary process than a cause for alarm.
With a rise in US interest rates, the US dollar will continue to strengthen against most other currencies. ‘Developed’ equity markets should continue outperforming ‘emerging’ ones, as developing economies have historically struggled in times of a rising dollar.
However, the UK market could suffer given the preponderance of commodity producers’ shares within the index and uncertainty ahead of next May’s general election.
It is likely that property [real estate] will continue to deliver positive returns given the low rates of return available from safe haven investments.