City Watch: Investors could be in for a bumpy ride in 2015, says Brian Tora

Brian Tora of J M Finn & Co.

Brian Tora of J M Finn & Co. - Credit: Archant

There is an old stock market saying that as goes January, so goes the rest of the year.

If the start of 2015 is anything to go by, we could be in for a bumpy ride. Volatility has returned to equity markets in spades, driven by more uncertainty over the future of the European single currency zone, growing doubts over global economic growth and continuing geo-political concerns in a variety of areas.

As it happened, shares last week recovered much of earlier falls, though sentiment remains fragile.

The fall in the price of oil is adding to investors worries. While overall this might reasonably be considered a plus as it takes pressure off consumers and hopefully puts some spending capability in their hands, cheaper fuel costs should not be considered as pure unalloyed joy.

For a start, our own offshore oil industry is suffering hugely, with leading figures demanding tax cuts if it is to survive. Then there is the devastating effect it is having on Russia, where oil makes up around half of the country’s revenue. With sanctions still in place over Russia’s Ukrainian excursions, the economy there is in a bad way, which could encourage president Putin to take even more drastic measures.

Then, of course, there is the reason behind the falling oil price. While much of the decline can be laid at Saudi Arabia’s door as it attempts to discourage expensive producers, such as the burgeoning shale oil industry, demand really isn’t there at present, largely because China’s economy is visibly slowing. 2015 is looking as though it could turn out to be quite a difficult year.

Yet as shares fall, so buyers do emerge, suggesting some appetite for risk remains. For the humble private investor this is beginning to look like a year when a little more care than usual might be in order. In the end threats and opportunities

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: : Brian Tora is an associate with investment managers JM Finn & Co.