Issuing dire warnings of an impending global economic meltdown is like making craft beer: everyone is having a go at it these days, with varying degrees of credibility. But when the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is serving a heady brew of doom and disaster, it’s time to pay attention. Basel-based BIS was the only global body to predict the last financial crash, so how worried should we be?
In its latest quarterly report, BIS chief Claudio Borio said the “uneasy calm” of previous months had given way to turbulence and “signs of a gathering storm that has been building for a long time”. Additionally, he warned: “The tension between the markets’ tranquillity and the underlying economic vulnerabilities had to be resolved at some point. In the recent quarter, we may have been witnessing the beginning of its resolution.“
This time his prediction isn’t a bolt from the blue as most investors will already be keeping a close watch on today’s darkening skies. Troubles in China and Asia, global currency wars, oil price slippage, Middle East turbulence, eurozone troubles, Brexit, debt, demographics and negative interest rates… the clouds are gathering. The impact can be seen on the FTSE 100, which has suffered its most turbulent start to the year for 20 years, with the banking, oil and commodity sectors at the very heart of it.
Metals mini revival
Right now, we’re enjoying relatively balmy weather and stricken commodity stocks have recovered. For example, Anglo American is up a mighty 116% in the last month, while Glencore is up 86%. Take a look at those numbers again, because they’re quite incredible. One month ago, both stocks were at death’s door. They were the worst two performers of 2015, down around 75% each, and management was desperately slashing dividends and costs in the teeth of falling metals prices and revenues. Watch them go now.
Their revival is particularly impressive when you consider that nothing substantial has changed and the commodity sector remains under pressure. Both stocks were oversold in the panic, and while the truth is that they may have been overbought now as well, storms can throw up great opportunities like these if you’re able to take them.
Gunning for bargains
Right now, the FTSE 100 is becalmed. Oil is edging up to $40 and for once, a higher oil price is thought to be good for global growth. But as BIS has warned, all that could change in a moment. Serious global economic problems remain unresolved, as debt rises, productivity slows and central bankers run out of options. The “gathering storm” may come crashing down on our heads at any moment. Or it may not. As the February fightback showed, nobody can accurately predict the future, not even the prescient BIS.
All investors can do is keep an eye on their favourite stocks, and if an opportunity arises to buy them at a discounted price, seize it. So keep your storm-response must-buy checklist close to hand, you may need it soon.
Harvey Jones has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.