It’s been quite a year, with Bitcoin going from close to $20,000 to close to $3,000, the U.S equity markets unraveling to move into the bearish territory, driven by an unprecedented number of events and shifts in both the economic and political landscape through the year.
The selection of the 5 most influential comes amidst heightened market turmoil and a U.S government that has shut down over Trump’s much talked about Wall Street and an ongoing trade war between the U.S and China.
Donald Trump: At the center of a number of events throughout the year, which have jolted the global financial markets, is U.S President Trump and as a result would have to come at the top of the list. In just 2-years, the U.S President has gone from hero to zero, with the U.S equity markets tumbling by more than 10% in December to reverse much of the post-U.S Presidential Election rally to record highs. An ongoing trade war with China, fresh sanctions on Iran, the loss of the Senate to the Democrats and the hiring and firing of members of the administration have been the negatives for the markets. On the positive side, bringing the North Korean leader on the side to deliver peace across the Korean Peninsula has been positive, along with delivering tax relief earlier in the year.
Of greatest influence has undoubtedly been the President’s Twitter account, however, with frequent tweets including the threat of ousting FED Chair Powell, adding to the market angst through much of the year.
Jerome Powell: While relatively new to the job, FED Chair Powell has certainly had an impact on the global financial markets, the FED Chair seemingly less cautious than his predecessor Yellen on handholding the market with carefully worded speeches and statements to avoid rocking the apple cart. It’s hard to lay all the blame on the Fed Chair, but some blame is warranted with his hawkish chatter of late and plans to continue hiking rates coming in spite of some alarm bells ringing over the economic outlook.
Theresa May: Outside of the U.S, Brexit turmoil has seen the Pound swing like an exotic, a 52-week range of $1.2478 – $1.4377 reflective of the successes and failings of the British government domestically and in negotiations with the EU. Theresa May took the PM job that nobody wanted and has delivered a Brexit deal that nobody seems to want. Surviving an
‘in-party” vote of no confidence was of little consolation for the UK PM, with a material loss of support and pressure from the opposition party to oust the Tories a material threat as parliament gets ready to vote on the Brexit deal on 14th January. The uncertainty over what lies ahead for the world’s 5th largest economy is astounding and, while the Pound and the Footsie have been the major victims, a “no deal” outcome will have far wider ramifications in the coming year.
Xi Jinping: Moving across to Asia, few leaders have stood up against the U.S President and an administration hell-bent on reversing years, if not decades, of international diplomacy. China Premier Xi Jinping has been the exception, the ongoing trade war between the U.S and China seeing China retaliate in kind to tariffs imposed by the U.S administration on Chinese goods imported into the U.S.
The U.S President and administration have seen how influential the Chinese government can be on the U.S economy, with the ongoing trade war seeing U.S sentiment slide and U.S economic growth indicators begin to point to slower growth in the coming quarters. Alongside the ongoing trade war has been plenty of chatter on espionage, with two major Chinese corporations, Huawei and Tze, hitting the front pages through the year, the latest being the arrest of Huawei CFO Wanzhou in Canada at the request of President Trump
The Chinese equity markets have tumbled through the year, the CSI300 down a whopping 25.5% for the current year, weighing on the major indexes across the globe and monetary policy across the region.
Mark Zuckerberg: Looking across the corporate world, while there have been a number of significant stories and events that have jolted the markets, including the Elon Musk tweets that rocked Tesla, Mark Zuckerberg’s inability to navigate Facebook through some choppy waters was perhaps the most significant story from the corporate world, Facebook’s market cap sliding by a whopping $120bn in a single day in response to the Cambridge-Analytica privacy scandal. The single-day loss in July was the largest in corporate history. It’s not over for Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg, with social media having also been reportedly used to influence voters during the 2016 U.S Presidential Election and even the Brexit Referendum.