Stable courses and gloomy prospects

fNeither the weather nor the mood on the financial markets is spring-like buoyant these days. After two years of the corona pandemic, its economic influence is gradually weakening, even if China in particular is proving the opposite. But the stock market sky is full of dark clouds: The war in Ukraine, which has been going on for six weeks and is not only clouding the economic prospects, new sanctions and increasing speculation about an energy embargo against Russia, rising inflation rates, ongoing interest rate concerns – the negative factors are numerous and large.

The great horror at hundreds of dead civilians in eastern Ukraine, who were discovered after the withdrawal of Russian troops, resulted in new sanctions not only from the EU against Russia and makes further measures more likely. These increasingly harm the countries that impose them. Hardly anyone expects the war to end quickly anyway.

Hesitant ECB

The central banks also provided a lot to talk about this week. The American Federal Reserve is determined to tighten its monetary policy even more than previously expected in the fight against inflation. It intends to sharply tighten interest rates and, probably as early as May, rapidly reduce its balance sheet by throwing debt instruments that it has acquired in previous years onto the market. That prospect sent stocks and bonds alike falling midweek. Europe’s currency watchdogs, on the other hand, remain hesitant. In view of the high level of inflation, the Governing Council of the ECB had already struggled fiercely in March over how to proceed, particularly with regard to interest rate hikes. Inflation in the euro area is 7.5 percent, the highest level since the introduction of the euro. At 7.3 percent, the inflation rate in Germany is as high as it was 40 years ago.

In this environment, stock markets remain volatile. The Dax has lost about 10 percent of its value since the beginning of the year. An attempt to recover on Friday at least reduced the weekly balance of the selection index to a small minus. On the other hand, the situation on the oil market has eased somewhat. For the first time since mid-March, the Brent price fell below $100 a barrel (159 liters) at times. Gold, on the other hand, remained in demand as a safe haven, although inflows into funds have recently only been moderate.

Many economists expect raw material prices to continue to rise and inflation to persist for the time being. Investors should probably get used to deeply negative real interest rates and higher geopolitical risks.

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