The third quarter of 2013 held plenty of mayhem and emotion. It began with an overthrow of Egypt’s democratically-elected government and ended with the United States government at risk of defaulting on Treasury and government obligations. In between:
Fed officials had a lot to say. Like background music that manipulates your emotions, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s ongoing commentary about potential changes to U.S. monetary policy affected global stock and bond markets throughout much of the year, and third quarter was no exception. When the Fed didn’t adjust quantitative easing in September, markets celebrated. Apparently, they’d lost sight of the fact that the Fed could decide to taper at its next meeting in October. When reminded of that fact, markets retreated a bit.
Emerging market currencies bounced. Changing expectations for U.S. monetary policy had a profound effect on emerging markets. Many saw their currencies lose value relative to the U.S. dollar early in the quarter; some regained it as the quarter progressed. The most spectacular performance may have been delivered by the Indian rupee which went from being Asia’s worst performing currency to one of the world’s best in just five days.
Shibor Shock startled investors. During the second quarter, China’s GDP grew at the slowest pace in more than two decades. As curtains opened on the third quarter, the world saw Chinese banks staggering as the Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate (Shibor), China’s benchmark interest rate for an overnight bank lending, exceeded 25 percent. Shibor was about 2.5 percent early in 2013. The ensuing cash crunch created concern China’s economy might be in trouble. Apprehension increased when the country’s finance minister, Lou Jiwei, confounded analysts and investors by suggesting China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for 2013 might be 6.5 or 7 percent rather than the official target of 7.5 percent.
Europe may have turned the corner. In mid-August, the Eurozone’s GDP grew by 1.1 percent annualised. Markets breathed a sigh of relief on the tentative hope positive growth signaled a turning point for the region’s lagging economy which had been in recession for 18-months up to that point.
As the quarter ended, the world’s attention turned to U.S. fiscal policy as Congress battled over budgets and debt ceilings. Last week, Congress reached an impasse and the government shutdown partially. If they are unable to resolve differences, the U.S. government is at risk of defaulting on its debt; an occurrence experts say could send shockwaves through the global economy. Needless to say, the new quarter holds endless potential for storm and stress.