Equity markets

2019 will be remembered as an outstanding year for equities. The equity markets successfully overcame the various negative events. Higher stock prices and falling corporate profits led however to significantly higher valuation ratios. The MSCI World Index rose in USD value by 27 per cent up to the end of December (in CHF value by 25 per cent) and, at the same time, attained a new record level. Accordingly, measured against expectations for 2019, it posted a price/earnings ratio of almost 20. Neither the trade dispute between the USA and China, nor other events, were able to restrain the rise of equity prices in the key markets for very long. Nevertheless, the various conflicts are having an increasingly adverse effect on global trade. Even if the USA and China are able to reach a temporary agreement, confidence in cross-border trade has been badly shaken and is leading to losses in prosperity. The power struggle between the USA and China could become the dominating issue in future, and not just in a purely economic context. Moreover, the coming year will be overshadowed by the election campaign for the US presidency. If the conflict with Iran should escalate, this would most probably impact the price of oil with correspondingly negative consequences for the global economy. Therefore the starting situation, with an expected price gain of 10 per cent for the overall market in 2020, appears to us to be too ambitious and we expect profit forecasts to be revised subsequently. On the other hand, investors can count on the central banks being very friendly towards the markets by being willing and able to step in and support the markets at any time with bond purchasing programmes.