Stocks suffer worst performance in years in ‘miserable’ 2022

Stock markets were wrapping up their worst performances in years on Friday before heading into 2023 under recession fears following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, high inflation and rising interest rates.

Wall Street opened lower while European markets were down in the afternoon after Asia closed on a more positive note in the final trading sessions of 2022.

For the year, Frankfurt was down 12 percent and Paris was headed towards a nine-percent slump for their worst performances since 2018.

The JSE’s All Share Index lost less than a percent.

London, however, was up 0.9 percent in 2022 as the energy sector was buoyed by soaring energy prices.

Wall Street faces its worst annual drop since 2008, with the S&P 500 index down 20 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq losing 30 percent in the final hours of trading for the year.

Equities were slammed as the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England aggressively lifted interest rates in a bid to tackle rampant consumer price rises. The move carries the risk of sparking recession as higher borrowing costs slow economic activity.

US tech companies were hit particularly hard as they are usually boosted by lower interest rates.

The MCSI World Equity Index has lost almost a fifth in its worst annual performance since 2008, when markets were ravaged by the global financial crisis.

In Asia, China was plagued once more by the pandemic this year as authorities grappled with the deadly disease.

Hong Kong tanked 15.5 percent and Shanghai dived 15.1 percent in the biggest annual slumps since 2011 and 2018 respectively.

Covid spiked once more in the Asian superpower in December after Beijing relaxed its strict curbs in the face of rare public outcry. That also prompted worries about the impact on stretched global supply chains.

Tokyo plunged 9.4 percent in the first annual fall since 2018 but the Bank of Japan maintained its ultra-easy monetary policy, in contrast with other central banks, to help its fragile economy.

“It’s shaping up to be a pitiful end to a miserable year in stock markets,” OANDA trading platform analyst Craig Erlam told AFP.

He said 2022 had “brought an end to an era” of low interest rates that fuelled tech and crypto booms.

“That’s been replaced with soaring inflation and interest rates, immense economic uncertainty and the reshaping of energy markets in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Erlam said.

In commodities, oil prices rallied in 2022 with Brent gaining 7.5 percent and New York crude adding 4.2 percent.

However, they remain 40 percent below peaks struck in March on supply woes after key producer Russia invaded its neighbour, sending natural gas prices also spiking.

Britain and other major economies now face the likely prospect of grim recessions next year, as consumers and businesses battle rampant inflation and rising rates after years of ultra-low borrowing costs.

“The most important take of the year is: the era of easy money ended, and ended for good,” noted SwissQuote analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya.

“And given that there is still plenty of cheap central bank liquidity waiting to be pulled back, the situation may not get better before it gets worse,” she said.

“Recession, inflation, stagflation will likely dominate headlines next year.”

Stagflation refers to a toxic mixture of high inflation and low growth.

The London stock market closed 0.8 percent lower on Friday while Frankfurt finished 1.1 percent in the red in half sessions ahead of year-end festivities. Paris was down around one percent in thin afternoon trading volumes.

“It would appear that people have checked out for the year — and have settled back into holiday mode for New Year celebrations,” Erlam added.

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