SINGAPORE (Dec 25): This time last year, I was warning that stocks were headed for a turbulent 2017 because of rising interest rates, geopolitical turmoil and technological disruption. I was wrong. Stock markets around the world have generally done well and many investors are now bullish. But the risks have not abated. If anything, they have worsened.
In the geopolitical sphere, for instance, North Korea still poses a nuclear threat, which could pressure relations between China and the US. More recently, a dangerous political purge appears to have taken place in Saudi Arabia, once a relatively stable nation in the Middle East. Tensions now also appear to be growing between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
On the interest rate front, the US Federal Reserve hiked the federal funds rate by 25 basis points three times in 2017 and has set the stage for three more hikes in 2018. The Singapore Interbank Offered Rate, against which a large swathe of mortgage loans are priced, has also crept up over the course of the past year. Meanwhile, new technologies have continued disrupting everything from retailing and transport to banking and media.