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Markets in a Minute

Black Swan Events: Short-term Crisis, Long-term Opportunity

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Black Swan Events COViD-19

black swan events

This Markets in a Minute chart is available as a poster.

Black Swans: Short-term Crisis, Long-term Opportunity

Few investors could have predicted that a viral outbreak would end the longest-running bull market in U.S. history. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed stocks far into bear market territory. From its peak on February 19th, the S&P 500 has fallen almost 30%.

While this volatility can cause investors to panic, it’s helpful to keep a long-term perspective. Black swan events, which are defined as rare and unexpected events with severe consequences, have come and gone throughout history. In today’s Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we explore the sell-off size and recovery length for some of these events.

Wars, Viruses, and Excessive Valuations

With sell-offs ranging from -5% to -50%, black swan events have all impacted the S&P 500 differently. Here’s a look at select events over the last half-century:

EventStart of Sell-off/Previous PeakSize of Sell-offDuration of Sell-off (Trading Days)Duration of Recovery (Trading Days)
Israel Arab War/Oil EmbargoOctober 29, 1973-17.1%271475
Iranian Hostage CrisisOctober 5, 1979-10.2%2451
Black MondayOctober 13, 1987-28.5%5398
First Gulf WarJanuary 1, 1991-5.7%68
9/11 AttacksSeptember 10, 2001-11.6%615
SARSJanuary 14, 2003-14.1%3940
Global Financial CrisisOctober 9, 2007-56.8%3561022
Intervention in LibyaFebruary 18, 2011-6.4%1829
Brexit VoteJune 8, 2016-5.6%149
COVID-19*February 19, 2020-29.5%19N/A (ongoing)

* Figure as of market close on March 18, 2020. The sell-off measures from the market high to the market low.

While the declines can be severe, most have been short-lived. Markets typically returned to previous peak levels in no more than a couple of months. The Oil Embargo, Black Monday, and the Global Financial Crisis are notable outliers, with the recovery spanning a year or more.

After Black Monday, the Federal Reserve reaffirmed its readiness to provide liquidity, and the market recovered in about 400 trading days. Both the 1973 Oil Embargo and 2007 Global Financial Crisis led to U.S. recessions, lengthening the recovery over multiple years.

COVID-19: How Long Will it Last?

It’s difficult to predict how long COVID-19 will impact markets, as its societal and financial disruption is unprecedented. In fact, the S&P 500 reached a bear market in just 16 days, the fastest time period on record.

black swan events

Some Wall Street strategists believe that the market will only begin to recover when COVID-19’s daily infection rate peaks. In the meantime, governments have begun announcing rate cuts and fiscal stimulus in order to help stabilize the economy.

Considering the high levels of uncertainty, what should investors do?

Buy on Fear, Sell on Greed?

Legendary investor Warren Buffet is a big proponent of this strategy. When others are greedy—typically when prices are boiling over—assets may be overpriced. On the flipside, there may be good buying opportunities when others are fearful.

Most importantly, investors need to remain disciplined with their investment process throughout the volatility. History has shown that markets will eventually recover, and may reward patient investors.

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Markets in a Minute

Visualizing Interest Rates by Country in 2021

Are short-term interest rates rising or falling around the world? In this infographic we show interest rates by country in 2021.

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Interest Rates by Country

Visualizing Interest Rates by Country in 2021

Going as far back as the 14th century, pandemics have been found to have a negative effect on interest rates.

History shows that this effect is even greater than that of financial crises. Across a study of 19 pandemics since the mid-1300s, real interest rates fell an average of 1.5 percentage points lower in the following two decades than they would have otherwise. And yet, even before COVID-19, structural forces, such as rising debt, were causing interest rates to fall.

The above Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments shows interest rates by country in 2021.

How Have Interest Rates Changed?

Broadly speaking, the majority of countries’ short-term interest rates have declined since COVID-19 began. Using data from CEIC as of April 2021, short-term interest rates are measured by three-month money market rates where available.

Interest rate change Apr 2020 – Mar 2021

  • Interest rates fell: 69 countries
  • Interest rates increased: 10 countries
  • Interest rates stayed the same: 3 countries

Across nearly every continent, interest rates have decreased as central banks enacted measures to combat the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Country/ RegionShort-Term Interest Rate Mar 2021 (%)*Short-Term Interest Rate Apr 2020 (%)**Interest Rate Change 2020-2021 (%)
Argentina3112.418.6
Australia0.00.1-0.1
Austria-0.5-0.3-0.2
Bangladesh0.77.1-6.4
Belarus13.910.63.3
Belgium-0.5-0.3-0.2
Bolivia11.58.62.9
Botswana3.54.4-0.9
Cambodia1.81.60.2
Canada0.10.3-0.2
China2.61.41.2
Colombia1.84.6-2.8
Costa Rica3.64.1-0.5
Cyprus-0.5-0.3-0.2
Czech Republic0.40.9-0.5
Denmark-0.2-0.40.2
Ecuador1.01.3-0.3
Egypt9.99.60.3
Estonia-0.5-0.3-0.2
Finland-0.5-0.3-0.2
France-0.5-0.3-0.2
Georgia8.09.0-1.0
Germany-0.5-0.3-0.2
Greece-0.5-0.3-0.2
Hong Kong0.21.7-1.5
Hungary0.81.1-0.3
Iceland1.42.4-1.0
India3.75.3-1.6
Indonesia3.84.9-1.1
Ireland-0.5-0.3-0.2
Israel-0.10.1-0.2
Italy-0.5-0.3-0.2
Japan-0.10.1-0.2
Jordan4.64.7-0.1
Kenya6.97.2-0.3
Kosovo-0.5-0.3-0.2
Kuwait1.51.8-0.3
Latvia-0.5-0.3-0.2
Lithuania-0.5-0.3-0.2
Luxembourg-0.5-0.3-0.2
Macau SAR0.31.7-1.4
Malaysia1.92.8-0.9
Malta-0.5-0.3-0.2
Mauritius0.11.2-1.1
Mexico4.26.2-2.0
Moldova7.08.0-1.0
Montenegro-0.5-0.3-0.2
Morocco1.52.0-0.5
Mozambique13.310.03.3
Nepal1.12.1-1.0
Netherlands-0.5-0.3-0.2
New Zealand0.30.30.0
Nigeria6.910.1-3.2
Norway0.41.4-1.0
Pakistan7.68.2-0.6
Panama0.20.7-0.5
Philippines1.23.2-2.0
Poland0.20.7-0.5
Portugal-0.5-0.3-0.2
Qatar1.11.10.0
Romania1.72.5-0.8
Russia4.76.7-2.0
Saudi Arabia0.81.2-0.4
Serbia0.91.2-0.3
Singapore0.40.9-0.5
Slovakia-0.5-0.3-0.2
Slovenia-0.5-0.3-0.2
South Africa3.84.2-0.4
South Korea0.81.0-0.2
Spain-0.5-0.3-0.2
Sweden-0.20.3-0.5
Switzerland-0.8-0.7-0.1
Taiwan0.50.50.0
Thailand0.60.9-0.3
Turkey208.411.6
UAE0.31.9-1.6
United Kingdom0.10.6-0.5
United States0.00.1-0.1
Uruguay5.010.1-5.1
Venezuela73.823.550.3
Vietnam1.74.2-2.5
Zambia14.016.5-2.5

Source: CEIC (Apr, 2021)
*Bolivia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Japan, Mauritius, Nepal, Qatar, Russia, Slovakia, Zambia have most recent data as of Feb ’21
**Costa Rica, Denmark, Mauritius, Norway & Russia have 2020 data as of Mar 2020

In the U.S., interest rates fell to record lows, dropping by 0.1 percentage points between April 2020 and March 2021. As vaccine rollouts accelerated in 2021, real GDP grew by an annual rate of 6.4% in the first quarter. Unemployment slightly improved to 6.1%, but still remains well above pre-pandemic levels of 3.5%.

Given these variables, the question of whether interest rates will rise is an open one.

Like the U.S., interest rates in the European Union declined, although at a greater rate—from -0.3% to -0.5%. To help improve economic conditions, the European Central Bank promises to purchase $2.2 trillion in government bonds until March 2022.

Together, the euro area, the U.S., Japan, and Britain have produced at least $3.8 trillion in new money supply since early 2020.

Interest Rates: The Steepest Gains and Declines

As money creation and low interest rates have become increasingly common phenomena, the focus has shifted to inflation.

With interest rates reaching 343% in 2020, Venezuela has been a poster child for hyperinflationary forces. Energy shortages only compounded the effect which was well underway before the pandemic. Between April 2020 and March 2021, interest rates jumped over 50 percentage points.

In addition, Turkey and Brazil raised interest rates in March 2021 to dampen inflation. Interest rates in Turkey have increased 11.6 percentage points over the time frame, one of the highest absolute changes globally.

In 2020, the lira faced historic declines, causing the price of imports to climb significantly.

Interest Rates by Country

On the other hand, Bangladesh has seen its interest rates decline 6.4 percentage points, the steepest drop across the dataset. To help offset the effects of COVID-19, the Bangladesh Bank lowered interest rates from 7.1% to 0.7%.

With rates falling 3.2 percentage points, Nigeria has also seen one of the greatest interest rate drops. In March, Fitch Ratings gave the country a B rating with a stable outlook, supported by its low government debt-to-GDP ratio and large economy.

Research has found that countries with better credit ratings and transparent fiscal infrastructure had greater ability for central banks to lower interest rates in response to the crisis.

Sign of the Times

Policy rate changes, a key central bank maneuver, have been an important tool in response to COVID-19.

As economic activity in some countries picks up, interest rates could rise. However, progress in vaccination distribution remains uncertain, especially in emerging markets.

In tandem with this, global central banks are applying unproven monetary policy frameworks, including money creation and large-scale bond purchases. While studies show that interest rates have been falling over the past several centuries, the confluence of these factors will be revealing in the years that follow.

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Markets in a Minute

Mapped: Global GDP Forecasts for 2021 and Beyond

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised its global GDP forecasts and anticipates a strong economic recovery from COVID-19 in 2021 and beyond.

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Mapped: Global GDP Forecasts for 2021 and Beyond

In the April 2021 version of its Global Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reiterated its expectations of a strong economic recovery over the next few years.

Economists acknowledged that, while the path of the pandemic remains uncertain, global vaccine rollouts represent the light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, global GDP growth forecasts for 2021 and 2022 sit at +6.0% and +4.4% respectively.

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we’ve mapped the IMF’s country-level GDP forecasts to see which areas are expected to have the greatest rebounds.

Country-level Data

The following table lists each country’s percentage GDP change for 2020, as well as forecasts for 2021 and 2022.

Jurisdiction2020 GDP Growth (%)2021 GDP Growth Forecasts (%)2022 GDP Growth Forecasts (%)
Afghanistan-5.04.04.5
Albania-3.55.04.0
Algeria-6.02.92.8
Angola-4.00.42.4
Antigua and Barbuda-17.3-3.011.9
Argentina-10.05.82.5
Armenia-7.61.03.5
Aruba-25.55.012.0
Australia-2.44.52.8
Austria-6.63.54.0
Azerbaijan-4.32.31.7
Bahrain-5.43.33.1
Bangladesh3.85.07.5
Barbados-17.64.17.7
Belarus-0.9-0.40.8
Belgium-6.44.03.1
Belize-14.11.96.4
Benin2.05.06.0
Bhutan-0.8-1.95.7
Bolivia-7.75.54.2
Bosnia and Herzegovina-5.53.53.3
Botswana-8.37.55.4
Brazil-4.13.72.6
Brunei Darussalam1.21.62.5
Bulgaria-3.84.44.4
Burkina Faso0.84.35.2
Burundi-1.32.83.7
Cabo Verde-145.86.0
Cambodia-3.54.26.0
Cameroon-2.83.44.3
Canada-5.45.04.7
Central African Republic03.55.0
Chad-0.91.82.6
Chile-5.86.23.8
China2.38.45.6
Colombia-6.85.23.6
Comoros-0.503.6
Costa Rica-4.82.63.3
Côte d'Ivoire2.36.06.5
Croatia-9.04.75.0
Cyprus-5.13.03.9
Czech Republic-5.64.24.3
Democratic Republic of the Congo-0.13.84.9
Denmark-3.32.82.9
Djibouti-1.05.05.5
Dominica-10.4-0.45.8
Dominican Republic-6.75.55.0
Ecuador-7.52.51.3
Egypt3.62.55.7
El Salvador-8.64.22.8
Equatorial Guinea-5.84.0-5.9
Eritrea-0.62.04.9
Estonia-2.93.44.2
Eswatini-3.31.40.9
Ethiopia6.12.08.7
Fiji-19.05.09.0
Finland-2.92.32.5
France-8.25.84.2
Gabon-1.81.22.7
Georgia-6.13.55.8
Germany-4.93.63.4
Ghana0.94.66.1
Greece-8.23.85.0
Grenada-13.5-1.55.2
Guatemala-1.54.54.0
Guinea5.25.65.2
Guinea-Bissau-2.43.04.0
Guyana43.416.446.5
Haiti-3.71.01.0
Honduras-8.04.53.3
Hong Kong SAR-6.14.33.8
Hungary-5.04.35.9
Iceland-6.63.73.6
India-8.012.56.9
Indonesia-2.14.35.8
Iraq-10.91.14.4
Ireland2.54.24.8
Islamic Republic of Iran1.52.52.1
Israel-2.45.04.3
Italy-8.94.23.6
Jamaica-10.21.55.7
Japan-4.83.32.5
Jordan-2.02.02.7
Kazakhstan-2.63.24.0
Kenya-0.17.65.7
Kiribati-0.51.82.5
Korea-1.03.62.8
Kosovo-6.04.55.5
Kuwait-8.10.73.2
Kyrgyz Republic-8.06.04.6
Lao P.D.R.-0.44.65.6
Latvia-3.63.95.2
Lebanon-25n/an/a
Lesotho-4.53.54.3
Liberia-3.03.64.7
Libya-59.71315.4
Lithuania-0.83.23.2
Luxembourg-1.34.13.6
Macao SAR-56.361.243.0
Madagascar-4.23.25.0
Malawi0.62.26.5
Malaysia-5.66.56.0
Maldives-32.218.913.4
Mali-2.04.06.0
Malta-7.04.75.6
Marshall Islands-3.3-1.53.5
Mauritania-2.23.15.6
Mauritius-15.86.65.2
Mexico-8.25.03.0
Micronesia-1.6-3.72.8
Moldova-7.54.54.0
Mongolia-5.35.07.5
Montenegro-15.29.05.5
Morocco-7.04.53.9
Mozambique-0.52.14.7
Myanmar3.2-8.91.4
Namibia-7.22.63.3
Nauru0.71.60.9
Nepal-1.92.94.2
Netherlands-3.83.53.0
New Zealand-3.04.03.2
Nicaragua-3.00.22.7
Niger1.26.912.8
Nigeria-1.82.52.3
North Macedonia-4.53.84.0
Norway-0.83.94.0
Oman-6.41.87.4
Pakistan-0.41.54.0
Palau-10.3-10.810.4
Panama-17.912.05.0
Papua New Guinea-3.93.54.2
Paraguay-0.94.04.0
Peru-11.18.55.2
Philippines-9.56.96.5
Poland-2.73.54.5
Portugal-7.63.94.8
Puerto Rico-7.52.50.7
Qatar-2.62.43.6
Republic of Congo-7.80.21.0
Romania-3.96.04.8
Russia-3.13.83.8
Rwanda-0.25.76.8
Samoa-3.2-7.81.7
San Marino-9.74.53.4
São Tomé and Príncipe-6.53.05.0
Saudi Arabia-4.12.94.0
Senegal0.85.26.0
Serbia-1.05.04.5
Seychelles-13.41.84.3
Sierra Leone-2.23.03.6
Singapore-5.45.23.2
Slovak Republic-5.24.74.5
Slovenia-5.53.74.5
Solomon Islands-4.31.54.5
Somalia-1.52.93.2
South Africa-73.12.0
South Sudan-6.65.36.5
Spain-11.06.44.7
Sri Lanka-3.64.04.1
St. Kitts and Nevis-18.7-2.010.0
St. Lucia-18.93.110.7
St. Vincent and the Grenadines-4.2-0.14.9
Sudan-3.60.41.1
Suriname-13.50.71.5
Sweden-2.83.13.0
Switzerland-3.03.52.8
Syrian/an/an/a
Taiwan Province of China3.14.73.0
Tajikistan4.55.04.5
Tanzania1.02.74.6
Thailand-6.12.65.6
The Bahamas-16.32.08.5
The Gambia06.06.5
Timor-Leste-6.82.84.9
Togo0.73.54.5
Tonga-0.5-2.52.5
Trinidad and Tobago-7.82.14.1
Tunisia-8.83.82.4
Turkey1.86.03.5
Turkmenistan0.84.63.9
Tuvalu0.52.53.5
Uganda-2.16.35.0
Ukraine-4.24.03.4
United Arab Emirates-5.93.12.6
United Kingdom-9.95.35.1
United States-3.56.43.5
Uruguay-5.73.03.1
Uzbekistan1.65.05.3
Vanuatu-9.23.24.6
Venezuela-30.0-10.0-5.0
Vietnam2.96.57.2
West Bank and Gaza-11.05.77.0
Yemen-5.00.52.5
Zambia-3.50.61.1
Zimbabwe-8.03.14.0

Just 27 countries saw positive GDP growth in 2020, including a cluster of Asian economies that includes China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Although the virus originated in China, the country’s strict lockdowns enabled it to flatten the infection curve relatively quick. As a result, Asia’s biggest economy returned to pre-COVID GDP levels in 2020—something most others aren’t expected to do until 2023.

Forecasts for 2021 are very positive, with the vast majority of countries expected to bounce back economically. Within advanced economies, the U.S. is expected to be a strong performer. The IMF believes that the Biden administration’s new fiscal package, valued at $1.9 trillion, will provide a strong boost to growth.

Looking further to 2022, the IMF expects GDP growth to remain positive around the world. Many European economies will experience positive GDP growth above 3%, including France (+4.2%), Germany (+3.4%), and Spain (+4.7%). The European Central Bank (ECB) has relied on expansionary monetary policy to stimulate its economy during the pandemic, growing its balance sheet by over $2 trillion since February 2020.

Uncertainty Remains, Despite Vaccine Rollouts

Given the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and its many variants, the GDP forecasts visualized in the above maps should not be interpreted as concrete figures.

India, which was forecasted to grow its GDP by 12.5% in 2021, is now facing the world’s worst surge of COVID-19, fueled in part by the emerging B1617 variant that many are dubbing a “double mutation”.

“We completely let down our guard and assumed in January that the pandemic was over.”
– K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India

It remains to be seen if India’s second outbreak will significantly impact its economy, or even the economies of other countries. This situation does, however, serve as a reminder that the virus can still surprise us.

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