2017: 3 events that shook the trading world

2017 – surprise!

Are natural disasters in the top three?

Mother nature showed her power this year sending Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma across US territory and beyond, a massive earthquake to Mexico, monsoon flooding in Bangladesh. mudslides in Colombia and landslides in Sierra Leone. The human toll has been unfathomable and the markets didn’t like them either, though the US administration seems to think we don’t need to worry. But these weren’t the biggest events to hit the markets in 2017.

Bitcoin shock: a strong contender

December has brought a late contender to event of the year with the Bitcoin surge. Prompted by the cryptocurrency’s ascendency to two major futures exchanges in the U.S., investors flooded to buy Bitcoin though a few days after the launch prices looked like they were subsiding.

Sky-rocketing prices

Bitcoin reached a high of $19,375 on the Coinbase exchange on December 18th as trading launched on the giant CME exchange and its Chicago rival CboE Global Markets. The decision to list the currency legitimised Bitcoin and raised its profile enormously. Since the announcement was made, demand pushed the price through ceiling after ceiling and the media shouted frantic headlines warning potential investors about bubbles. At the time of writing, there has been no crash.

The problem with Bitcoin

The problem with Bitcoin for some is that it is outside the control of the existing authorities. Like the internet under net neutrality is equally accessible by all, Bitcoin is not the currency of one nation or even one region. It has no physical form and none of the established national or international authorities are in control of the supply. They don’t like that.

Bitcoin pros and cons

Bitcoin is limited by design to a maximum of 21 million coins. Supporters see it as a natural global successor to national physical currencies and exchange rates. Features of cryptocurrencies called blockchain will mean they can also securely replace other functions in banking and business so the potential is astronomical. Critics, including Singapore’s financial watchdog, warn that the lack of physical properties mean it is inherently valueless and investors will lose out when they come to withdraw their funds. Some say these critics are running scared.

Should everyone take Bitcoin seriously now?

The short answer is yes. In stark contrast to the doom and gloom of the threatened financial system, Ronnie Moas, the independent analyst who forecast this rise, now says he sees values reaching a meteoric $400,000 in 2018 saying the “mind-blogging supply and demand imbalance is what is going to drive the higher price.” He was right before; will he be right again? Either way, plenty are jumping on the bandwagon.

Brexit: the Brits want out

A review of market-moving events in 2017 has to include the Brexit tidal wave, which continues to punish GBP markets. Brexit is the snappy moniker bestowed by the British press on the British exit from the European Union decided by referendum in June 2016. 2017 has been a battle waged between varying factions in the UK government, who are justifiably concerned that washing their laundry in public puts them at a disadvantage in negotiations over the terms of the exit.

Europe, 20 June 2016
Brexit.
Markus Grolik/Cartoon Movement/Hollandse Hoogte

Who is responsible for Brexit?

In 2016, rampant propaganda, fervent canvassing and decidedly dodgy claims resulted in the United Kingdom agreeing to crash out of the thriving economic and political union that has blossomed since the 1970s. Why would one of the world’s biggest economies decide to commit economic suicide? Good question and it’s one many continue to scratch their heads over. The pound plummeted immediately sending imported product prices rocketing and the beleaguered currency has failed to yet make a full recovery over 18 months later.

What’s next for GBP?

The future for the British currency is unclear. A large part of its economy is funded by revenue from the City of London. However, many international banks are setting up subsidiaries in Frankfurt and other key European cities, all keen to become the new home of passporting. This key facility was located in the UK capital and allowed banks to work across Europe without needing authorisation in each individual country. It is highly unlikely passporting will continue to run from London when it leaves the Union and the banks are likely to cut many jobs and reduce their contribution to the economy in the UK from then on.

Will Brexit be calmer in 2018?

Political news around the exit negotiations are likely to impact both sterling and the Euro. Inside the Union, leaders will be keen to ensure Great Britain isn’t seen to get a good deal in order to deter other nations from making similar exit plans. It will be essential that countries who are in look better off than those who opt out. It’s looking cold outside the E.U and Britain will need to negotiate individual trade agreements with everyone. The deadline is 2019 so 2018 will be a rollercoaster ride through negotiations.

Trump

That word has so many meanings. It can be the winning card in a game. It can mean doing better than your rival. It can mean something altogether more foul-smelling connected to digestion. But this year Trump gained a new meaning as Donald became the 45th POTUS in an election that put the Brexit Leavers campaign to shame.

Sheneman Dec 2017

How did Donald Trump win?

Donald won by wooing the electorate that mattered in a battle against Washington insider, Hillary Clinton. While the rest of the world saw a privileged white man; a man with inherited money that he frittered away on poor business deals who was paying his way to the top spot on the Republican ticket, voters in key States believed the nationalist ‘America First’ propaganda and insular rhetoric pouring from his Twitter feed. Despite winning fewer votes than his rival, Donald won the White House. Look up the electoral college system if you’re keen to see how it’s rigged set up.

What did the markets think of Trump?

Trump revealed a change in attitude from the markets towards geopolitical risk. The shockwaves from the election were relatively minor. Although the rising value of safe haven gold suggests they’re not entirely keen.

Markets and politics

Since Trump was elected, the markets have learned to weather the Twitter spats between Kim and Trump, watched the military posturing across the east Asian region with a bucket of popcorn, ignored the implications of Russian interference in key Western democracies, and will see the year out analysing Trump’s ham-fisted diplomacy in Jerusalem and the U.N. with great interest. Interestingly, at no point have any of the indices tanked suggesting there may be a growing separation between geopolitics and market valuation. Or things haven’t got crazy enough to worry them yet.

2017 was characterised by massive geopolitical upheaval that didn’t always translate into market movement. But the biggest upset for the year was Bitcoin. Will other cryptocurrencies now gain value? Will the bubble burst or is BTC finding its true level? Let’s see in 2018.