Global economic growth was below potential in 2023, but still markedly stronger than the forecasts had been indicating at the start of the year, with the US leading the way and even the likes of Europe and the UK, though hardly stellar performers, posting better than expected economic activity.
As the major central banks in developed markets reach, or at least near, the end of their hiking cycles, markets, rather than identifying when policy rates will peak, focus is now on the conundrum of just how long these policy peaks will be maintained.
Although 2022 was a remarkably bad year for bonds and equities, any hopes that 2023 might illuminate a brighter path have already been dispelled as rapidly changing narratives – from recession to boom to fears of a banking crisis – all tossed and turned stock and rates markets. The result was a remarkably turbulent first quarter.
Another US jobs report comes in significantly above consensus. Its across-the-board strength, upward revisions to previous reports, and an unemployment rate at the lowest level since 1963, may indicate that the economy is not quite as near recession as previously surmised. And with inflation still rising, albeit slightly less fast than expected, the outlook remains cloudy.
Just over a decade ago, Mario Draghi, then President of the ECB, gave a speech in which he uttered the famous words: “.…the European Central Bank [ECB] is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro”, a phrase often credited with hauling Europe out of the depths of its sovereign debt crisis.