The week saw a sudden calm in several markets as China showed signs of renewed economic strength and Greek banks reopened, but falling commodity prices have hurt export-driven economies’ currency values and future inflation expectations.
In Greece, banks reopened earlier this week after three weeks of closure. Controls on withdrawals remain in place, with Greeks limited to taking out 420 euros per week from their accounts, but the banks are open for business and relatively calm queues have appeared at most banks throughout the week.
The Athens Stock Exchange remained closed, with spokespeople from the exchange citing the need for regulatory reforms to ensure orderly markets. Many analysts believe the exchange has remained closed to limit selling pressure. However, foreign expectations of a bear market appear mute. In the past five days, the Greece Exchange Traded Fund that is sold through the New York Stock Exchange lost 10% of its value, with most losses coming on Monday. Since then the ETF has remained relatively stable, indicating some traders expect selling pressure on Greek stocks to be muted when the exchange reopens.
In Asia, China posted a better-than-expected rate of economic growth in the second quarter, with GDP rising at an annualized 7% rate after many economists’ downgraded expectations for the rest of 2015.
While Chinese officials say, they are still on track to reach their 7% GDP growth for the full year, a drag on growth from the first quarter means the country will need to avoid any fall in growth by the end of the year to reach that target.
A boost to the economy from several stimulus programs has helped boost a rise in domestic incomes, but aggressive cuts in interest rates have also caused an increase in debt loads for both individual consumers and corporations. China has cut interest rates 4 times in the last 9 months to encourage more lending.
The lower cost of borrowing appears to come from an improvement in China’s real estate markets, which were seeing falling prices for over two years in most major cities. That trend continues but at a less extreme rate, with only 33 cities seeing price declines in June, and the largest cities—Beijing and Shanghai—saw prices rise alongside Shenzhen, which saw housing prices rising 15.7%.
With risks in Europe and China subsiding, gold tumbled sharply on Monday, falling over 3% in one day on a widespread sell-off that began in Asia and continued in Europe and the U.S. Gold extended its losses throughout the week, with some analysts predicting an ounce to sell for less than $1,000 in the short term.
Part of the fall in gold prices may be attributable to a surprise announcement by the People’s Bank of China that its gold reserves were a third of estimates, with only 1,658 metric tons. Some traders interpreted this as a sign of central banks’ declining interest in the metal.
Oil also fell sharply this week, after the American Petroleum Institute announced oil reserves rose by 2.3 million barrels last week. This increase in supply surprised analysts, who expected supplies to weaken on lower production due to low costs. The API did note that demand was rising, but far below the 12.5% year-over-year increase in crude oil production.