It cannot have escaped the attention of many people that the parliamentary election in Greece last month has been causing something of a commotion across much of mainland Europe. Since polls closed on January 25th, and the far left party Syriza emerged with 149 of the 300 parliamentary seats – just two away from an absolute majority – economists from across the globe have been looking to Europe in an attempt to explain just how this outcome may affect the future of the Eurozone.
First, let us look at the origins of the European currency union itself, and the underlying causes of the disputes that we see today.
Syriza and the Single Currency: Background to a Debt Dispute
When the European Union (EU) was established by the Maastricht treaty in 1992, a currency union was at the heart of the agreement. The idea of a single currency was to promote trade and industry across borders, and expand the free market. In practise, however, the single currency lent itself to export economies such as Germany, who were able to sell their goods abroad whilst retaining an artificially low currency. In essences, the smaller economies acted as ballast that would allow larger nations to sell their goods at a competitive price. Conversely, smaller economies began to struggle with prices rising faster than their nations had historically been familiar with, leading to poverty, stagnation, and large scale migration of workers.
When the effects of the credit crunch began to hit all of the world’s economies in 2008, austerity measures were seen as the safest initial response to secure markets and re-introduce stability. However, for the smaller nations who had been struggling just to retain their existing standards of living during the good times, the austerity economics of the past seven years have hit even harder. It is to a backdrop of widespread unemployment, benefit cuts, and lost pension entitlements that the anti-austerity Syriza party emerged in 2012.
Cause and Effect: The Greek Election Outcome
So who are Syriza? And how have they managed to capitalise on the market turmoil within the Eurozone, and the fall of the value of the Euro?
What is now the largest party in Greek politics began in 2004 as a coalition of 13 disparate, far left organisations. The radical, anti-establishment identity that Syriza held in its formative years enabled it to capitalise on the broad anti-austerity sentiments that were felt throughout much of Europe following the global financial crisis. In 2012, Syriza established itself as a single, unified political party, with a more moderate set of principles that focused primarily on civil rights. Amongst its key platforms were an end to strict anti-terror laws, and a reversal of the harsh cuts imposed on pensions and welfare.
With its populist manifesto, commentators have been predicting a Syriza victory as far back as May 2012. Yet the result has nevertheless been met by the rest of Europe with something almost like surprise.
The European Union’s failure to address the emergence of the new political power in Greece should itself be interpreted as part of a strategy for containing the repercussions of The Syriza Effect. Staying the course and offering no concessions has been the mantra of the political establishment thus far.
It is not hard to see why: the Euro has already plummeted in value against world currencies, and investors’ confidence in both the Eurozone economies, and the currency union itself, has never been lower. Appearing to appease the anti-austerity movement in Greece would only provoke fears of greater instability. Yet the victory of Syriza in Greece makes confrontation inevitable. A failure by the European establishment to act now will foment the very doubt that it has been so careful to minimise until now.
Long Term Solutions: Compromise, Negotiations, and a Chance for Resolution
So the dispute has its two sides: the European Establishment on the one side, including the European Central Bank (ECB), Germany’s Angela Merkel, and Britain’s chancellor George Osborne; and on the other, the popular anti-austerity movement of Greece, which enjoys grass-roots support in Spain and Ireland.
The first glimmer of hope for a compromise is the relaxation of the anti-Euro rhetoric coming from the Syriza camp. The party’s MEP, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, has asserted that Greece’s future lies in the currency union, and that the nation has no desire to become the basket case economy of the Eurozone.
There is a case for compromise. Alongside the single currency outlined in the Maastricht treaty, a number of other core values were set into European law at the same time. These detailed the required levels of national debt and the repayment requirements that were necessary for the union to operate with sound finances, and for nations to be eligible for membership. But since the 2008 credit crunch, very few EU nations have adhered to these targets – even amongst the powerhouse economies. As such, much of Europe has been failing to live by its own rules for the past seven years, and its position for negotiation is weakened because of it.
This is a fact compounded by the ECB’s own decision last month to begin a programme of quantitative easing within the Eurozone. Whilst the newly printed money will provide liquidity to the markets, it at once adds debt to the balance sheets of individual nations, and simultaneously dilutes the value of the Euro in your pocket. The €1.1 trillion total valuation of the scheme dwarfs the €315 billion of debt at the centre of the Greek stand-off.
On Feb 20th the European Institutions gave a lifeline to the Greek government in the form of a four month extension of the Feb 28th deadline. The extension came on the condition that Greece will implement a comprehensive reform plan which will be presented in its entirety in April.
On Monday Greece illustrated the main actions it will undertake to meet the new June deadline for the €7 billion installment, including the pursuit of tax evasion and a spending review.
There is then both a legitimate case, and a prevailing mood, for compromise as opposed for confrontation. Some would argue, there is also now a certain level of necessity, too. Tsipras had to come to terms with the situation and hasn’t ventured too far from what Samaras (his predecessor) had agreed to put in place. At the same time Greece has regained control of its fate and will be able to make or break its immediate stance on the international board within the next four months.
This article is brought to you by Hantec Markets
How has the online trading landscape changed in 2020?
By Dáire Ferguson, CEO, AvaTrade
This year has been all about change following the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent global economic downturn which has impacted nearly every aspect of personal and business life. The online trading world has been no exception to this change as volatility in the financial markets has soared.
Although the global markets have been on a rollercoaster for some time with various geopolitical tensions, the market swings that we have witnessed since March have undoubtedly been unlike anything seen before. While these are indeed challenging times, for the online trading community, the increased volatility has proven tempting for those looking to profit handsomely.
However, with the opportunity to make greater profits also comes the possibility to make a loss, so how has 2020 changed the online trading landscape and how can retail investors stay safe?
Interest rates offered by banks and other traditional forms of consumer investments have been uninspiring for some time, but with the current economic frailty, the Bank of England cut interest rates to an all-time low. This has left many people in search of more exciting and rewarding ways to grow their savings which is indeed something online trading can provide.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, it was widely reported that user numbers for online trading rocketed due to disappointing savings rates but also because the enforced lockdown gave more people the time to learn a new skill and educate themselves on online trading.
A volatile market certainly offers great scope for profit and new sources of revenue for those that are savvy enough to put their convictions to the test. However, where people stand the chance to profit greatly from market volatility, there is also the possibility to make a loss, particularly for those that are new to online trading or who are still developing their understanding of the market.
The sharp rise in online trading over lockdown paired with this year’s unpredictable global economy has led to some financial losses, but with a number of risk management tools now available this does not necessarily have to be the case.
Protect your assets
Although not yet widely available across the retail market, risk management tools are slowly becoming more prevalent and being offered by online traders as an extra layer of security for those seeking to trade in riskier climates.
There are a range of options available for traders, but amongst the common tools are “take profit” orders in conjunction with “stop loss” orders. A take profit order is a type of limit order that specifies the exact price for traders to close out an open position for a profit, and if the price of the security does not reach the limit price, the take profit order will not be fulfilled. A stop loss order can limit the trader’s loss on a security position by buying or selling a stock when it reaches a certain price.
Take profit and stop loss orders are good for mitigating risk, but for those that are new to the game or who would prefer extra support, there are even some risk management tools, such as AvaProtect, that provide total protection against loss for a defined period. This means that if the market moves in the wrong direction than originally anticipated, traders can recoup their losses, minus the cost of taking out the protection.
Not a day has gone by this year without the news prompting a change in the financial markets. Until a cure for the coronavirus is discovered, we are unlikely to return to ‘normal’ and the global markets will continue to remain highly volatile. In addition, later this year we will witness one of the most critical US presidential elections in history and the UK’s transition period for Brexit will come to an end. The outcome of these events may well trigger further volatility.
Of course, this may also encourage more people to dip their toes into online trading for a chance to profit. As more people take an interest and sign up to online trading platforms, providers will certainly look to increase or improve the risk management tools on offer to try and keep new users on board, and this could spell a new era for the online trading world.
By Paddy Osborn, Academic Dean, London Academy of Trading
Whether you’re negotiating a business deal, playing a sport or trading financial markets, it’s vital that you have a plan. Top golfers will have a strategy to get around the course in the fewest number of shots possible, and without this plan, their score will undoubtedly be worse. It’s the same with trading. You can’t just open a trading account and trade off hunches and hopes. You need to create a structured and robust plan of attack. This will not only improve your profitability, but will also significantly reduce your stress levels during the decision-making process.
In my opinion, there are four stages to any trading strategy.
S – Set-up
T – Trigger
E – Execution
M – Management
Good trading performance STEMs from a structured trading process, so you should have one or more specific rules for each stage of this process.
Before executing any trades, you need to decide on your criteria for making your trading decisions. Should you base your trades off fundamental analysis, or maybe political news or macroeconomic data? If so, then you need to understand these subjects and how markets react to specific news events.
Alternatively, of course, there’s technical analysis, whereby you base your decisions off charts and previous price action, but again, you need a set of specific rules to enable you to trade with a consistent strategy. Many traders combine both fundamental and technical analysis to initiate their positions, which, I believe, has merit.
What needs to happen for you to say “Ah, this looks interesting! Here’s a potential trade.”? It may be a news event, a major macro data announcement (such as interest rates, employment data or inflation), or a chart level breakout. The key ingredient throughout is to fix specific and measurable rules (not rough guidelines that can be over-ridden on a whim with an emotional decision). For me, I may take a view on the potential direction of an asset (i.e. whether to be long or short) through fundamental analysis, but the actual execution of the trade is always technical, based off a very specific set of rules.
To take a simple example, let’s assume an asset has been trending higher, but has stopped at a certain price, let’s say 150. The chart is telling us that, although buyers are in long-term control, sellers are dominant at 150, willing to sell each time the price touches this level. However, the uptrend may still be in place, since each time the price pulls back from the 150 level, the selling is weaker and the price makes a higher short-term low. This clearly suggests that upward pressure remains, and there’s potential to profit from the uptrend if the price breaks higher.
Once you’ve found a potential new trade set-up, the next step is to decide when to pull the trigger on the trade. However, there are two steps to this process… finger on trigger, then pull the trigger to execute.
Continuing the example above, the trigger would be to buy if the price breaks above the resistance level at 150. This would indicate that the sellers at 150 have been exhausted, and the buyers have re-established control of the uptrend. Also, it is often the case that after pause in a trend such as this, the pent-up buying returns and the price surges higher. So the trigger for this trade is a breakout above 150.
We have a finger on the trigger, but now we need to decide when to squeeze it. What if the price touches 150.10 for 10 seconds only? Has our resistance level broken sufficiently to execute the trade? I’d say not, so you need to set rules to define exactly how far the price needs to break above 150 – or for how long it needs to stay above 150 – for you to execute the trade. You’re basically looking for sufficient evidence that the uptrend is continuing. Of course, the higher the price goes (or the longer it stays above 150), the more confident you can be that the breakout is valid, but the higher price you will need to pay. There’s no perfect solution to this decision, and it depends on many things, such as the amount of other supporting evidence that you have, your levels of aggression, and so on. The critical point here is to fix a set of specific rules and stick to those rules every time.
Good trade management can save a bad trade, while poor trade management can turn an excellent trade entry into a loser. I could talk for days about in-trade management, since there are many different methods you can use, but the essential ingredient for every trade is a stop loss. This is an order to exit your position for a loss if the market doesn’t perform as expected. By setting a stop loss, you can fix your maximum risk on a trade, which is essential to preserving your capital and managing your overall risk limits. Some traders set their stop loss and target levels and let the trade run to its conclusion, while others manage their trades more actively, trailing stop losses, taking interim profits, or even adding to winning positions. No matter how you decide to manage each trade, it must be the same every time, following a structured and robust process.
The final step in the process is to review every trade to see if you can learn anything, particularly from your losing trades. Are you sticking to your trading rules? Could you have done better? Should you have done the trade in the first place? Only by doing these reviews will you discover any patterns of errors in your trading, and hence be able to put them right. In this way, it’s possible to monitor the success of your strategy. If your trades are random and emotional, with lots of manual intervention, then there’s no fixed process for you to review. You also need to be honest with yourself, and face up to your bad decisions in order to learn from them.
In this way, using a structured and robust trading strategy, you’ll be able to develop your trading skills – and your profits – without the stress of a more random approach.
Economic recovery likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair
By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood
Equity markets continued their upward trend last week, with global equities gaining 1.2% in local currency terms. Beneath the surface, however, the recovery has been a choppy affair of late. China and the technology sector, the big outperformers year-to-date, retreated last week whereas the UK and Europe, the laggards so far this year, led the gains.
As for US equities, they have re-tested, but so far failed to break above, their post-Covid high in early June and their end-2019 level. The recent choppiness of markets is not that surprising given they are being buffeted by a whole series of conflicting forces.
Developments regarding Covid-19 as ever remain absolutely critical and it is a mixture of bad and good news at the moment. There have been reports of encouraging early trial results for a new treatment and potential vaccine but infection rates continue to climb in the US. Reopening has now been halted or reversed in states accounting for 80% of the population.
We are a long way away from a complete lockdown being re-imposed and these moves are not expected to throw the economy back into reverse. But they do emphasise that the economic recovery, not only in the US but also elsewhere, is likely to prove a ‘stuttering’ affair.
Indeed, the May GDP numbers in the UK undid some of the optimism which had been building recently. Rather than bouncing 5% m/m in May as had been expected, GDP rose a more meagre 1.8% and remains a massive 24.5% below its pre-Covid level in February.
Even in China, where the recovery is now well underway, there is room for some caution. GDP rose a larger than expected 11.5% q/q in the second quarter and regained all of its decline the previous quarter. However, the bounce back is being led by manufacturing and public sector investment, and the recovery in retail sales is proving much more hesitant.
China is not just a focus of attention at the moment because its economy is leading the global upturn but because of the increasing tensions with Hong Kong, the US and UK. UK telecoms companies have now been banned from using Huawei’s 5G equipment in the future and the US is talking of imposing restrictions on Tik Tok, the Chinese social media platform. While this escalation is not as yet a major problem, it is a potential source of market volatility and another, albeit as yet relatively small, unwelcome drag on the global economy.
Government support will be critical over coming months and longer if the global recovery is to be sustained. This week will be crucial in this respect for Europe and the US. The EU, at the time of writing, is still engaged in a marathon four-day summit, trying to reach an agreement on an economic recovery fund. As is almost always the case, a messy compromise will probably end up being hammered out.
An agreement will be positive but the difficulty in reaching it does highlight the underlying tensions in the EU which have far from gone away with the departure of the UK. Meanwhile in the US, the Democrats and Republicans will this week be engaged in their own battle over extending the government support schemes which would otherwise come to an end this month.
Most of these tensions and uncertainties are not going away any time soon. Markets face a choppy period over the summer and autumn with equities remaining at risk of a correction.
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