ECONOMY

Rising interest rates impact on stock markets around the globe

The recent sharp fluctuations in share prices in the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) and elsewhere are no doubt impressive but they rarely offer real returns to investors, even to traders who supposedly know the art of short-term transactions. They are, however, the best indication that we are awaiting a phase of serious structural changes. Following a long period of rising share prices, particularly in emerging markets – which include Greece’s – a correction was to be expected. Still, a broader trend is reshaping the investment map. All three poles of the global economy, the US, eurozone and Japan, are in a phase of rising interest rates. This is causing tension in almost all markets, especially in emerging ones where the bulls have been evident; from the markets of the Middle East, which have attracted a large part of the liquidity from high oil revenues, to the markets of Turkey and Russia. Almost all stock markets rose over the past few months, simultaneously with metal and bond prices – a rare instance in world economic history, largely due to the long period of low interest rates. But suddenly rates began to rise, everywhere. And they are changing the terms at which many big stock market players borrow. But dearer borrowing is not the only effect of higher rates; it also means that existing bonds become cheaper, as future issues will have better yields. The tactic of central banks to prepare their markets for their future moves, which are effected gradually with small steps, has an advantage: they cause «controlled» crises which can be absorbed more safely. Besides, the slip in emerging markets is not due to fears of countries going bankrupt, or of their inability to deal with economic problems or a sudden devaluation. The sharp fluctuations in prices are largely due to the possibility of faster reaction which technology offers to investors, and to the large volumes of capital being invested.