Market commentary

October turned out to be a jittery month and kept investors on their toes.

"Increased US election uncertainty, choppy crude oil prices, mixed US data and bets on a December rate hike as well as amplified currency volatility - particularly sterling's so-called 'flash crash' on Oct 7 - were all to blame," said the CFAS panel.

As a result, the VIX Index (a gauge of equity market volatility) hit 18.56 at the end of October, the highest level since June.

Global equities closed the month 1.8 per cent lower. Meanwhile, global emerging markets fared better than their developed market counterparts, gaining 1.3 per cent.

CURRENCY

The panel noted that currency markets moved even more dramatically last month with the biggest loser among the major currencies being sterling, which fell 5.6 per cent.

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The yen lost 3.3 per cent and the euro was down 2.3 per cent, with the euro-dollar hitting a seven-month low. Much of this, of course, has to do with divergent central bank policies.

Market expectations are still pointing towards a December rate hike despite mixed data from the United States.

ASIA

Economies in Asia that are more export-oriented saw their currencies weaken the most. The Korean won and Singdollar were the biggest losers.

The offshore Chinese yuan traded close to a record low at 6.80 against the dollar but there was no panic. This was nowhere near the rout seen in the yuan at the start of the year and policymakers in China seem to be sending the message that they are comfortable with allowing the currency to drop, especially given weak exports and trade.

The Indian rupee was relatively resilient.

LATIN AMERICA

The largest gains were recorded in Latin America, particularly the Mexican peso (up 2.8 per cent) and Brazilian real (up 2.1 per cent). This only confirms the fact that increased global liquidity is finding its way into riskier assets, especially emerging markets, but as we have highlighted before, volatility has become a permanent guest.

THE UNITED STATES

The US earnings season and the elections will be at the forefront this month. FBI investigations into Mrs Hillary Clinton's e-mail have not helped with sentiment and negative news flow could continue.

COMMODITY

Commodity prices will also add to the uncertainty. Gold climbed at the start of last month before closing the month almost 3 per cent lower.

Brent crude started the month higher but ended 1.6 per cent lower at US$48.30 per barrel. After a choppy month, oil prices could remain low for a while amid diminishing hopes of Opec cutting supply. This is now hurting oil-producing countries' revenues.

Lorna Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'Market commentary'. Print Edition | Subscribe