Behind a roller coaster first quarter

Stock investors went on a wild ride in the first quarter.

Share prices opened the year by falling off a cliff, tumbling down more than 10% at one point in early February.

roller coaster

Then, just as suddenly, the major indices came storming back.

Source: Bespoke Investment Group
Source: Bespoke Investment Group

Fresh Start

As of March 28, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 Index are hovering at the break-even point.

It’s as if the year is starting anew.

Oil Rebound

One positive for stocks has been a mini-rally in oil prices since early February.

Bloomberg: West Texas Intermediate

The extended run of low energy prices is starting to slow the supply of oil supply growth, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

True, storage levels of oil are at record highs. But the decline in US oil production should start to push oil prices as high as $40-per-barrel, according to some analysts.

Ties That Bind

If so, that could be good news for stocks.

The correlation between US share prices and oil has touched a multi-year peak, rising up to 0.6 (1.0 is perfect correlation), an analysis by Bespoke Investment Group shows.

oil and stocks
Source: Bespoke Investment Group

Gold Bugs

One other remarkable feature of the first quarter market action has been the rebound in gold prices.

The gold bugs are back as stock market and currency instability have boosted demand for the precious metal, thought by some to be the safest repository of wealth.

Demand has been particularly strong in Southeast Asia where currencies are unstable. Chinese consumers are also pulling money out of stocks and buying gold.

Bloomberg: SPDR Gold Trust ETF
Bloomberg: SPDR Gold Trust ETF


The best one can say about the first quarter of 2016 is this: It’s over.

Stock market losses have all be erased as oil prices have stabilized.

Given all the challenges facing the global economy, investors would be well advised to keep their seat belts fastened.
Photo Credit: Felix Montino via Flickr Creative Commons