Charles Sylvester on a volatile start to the year for equities

Charles Sylvester of Charles Stanley & Co, Ipswich

Charles Sylvester of Charles Stanley & Co, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The UK equity market has had an extremely volatile start to 2015, for variety of reasons.

Most important amongst these is the dramatic fall in the oil price which has seen Brent Crude trade below $50 a barrel for the first time since the middle of 2009.

Over time this should be of enormous benefit to consumers in areas like the UK, US and Western Europe; however because energy producers make up a significant proportion of the constituents in the FTSE100, we have seen the index fall quite sharply and then recover. At present, it seems hard to say when the oil price will stabilise as Saudi Arabia seem intent on maintaining production levels; maybe this is their way of trying to put the US shale gas producers out of business for a while.

In the UK, U.S. and Emerging Markets economies seem likely to grow by around 3% over the coming year. In spite of this, last Tuesday the Dow Jones slid by over 2% after several US multinationals reported disappointing earnings or outlooks due to the stronger dollar; the US currency has now risen by over 18% since July 2014.

Meanwhile on this side of the pond, Greece has hogged the headlines following Syriza’s victory in the recent election. All eyes will now be on the negotiations the new government will conduct with the Eurozone’s ‘bail-out committee’.

However, perhaps the bigger European event was the European Central Bank’s decision to launch their version of Quantitative Easing. Experience teaches us three things; QE will go on a lot longer than anyone expects, it will be bad for the value of the Euro and it will be good news for share prices in the region.