How 2022 shocked, rocked and rolled global markets

Trillions of dollars wiped off world stocks, bond market tantrums, whip-sawing currency and commodities and the collapse of a few crypto empires - 2022 has been perhaps the most turbulent year investors have ever seen, and for good reason.

Tallying the final numbers is useful but doesn't even come close to telling the whole story.

Yes, global equities are down $14 trillion and heading for their second worst year on record, but there have been nearly 300 interest rate hikes and a trio of 10%-plus rallies in that time making the volatility freakish.

The main drivers have been the war in Ukraine, combined with rampant inflation as global economies broke out of the pandemic, but China remained shackled by it.

U.S. Treasuries and German bonds, the benchmarks of global borrowing markets and traditional go-to assets in troubled times, lost 17% and 25% respectively in dollar terms.

DoubleLine Capital's Jeffery Gundlach, dubbed the 'Bond King' in the markets, says conditions got so ugly at points that his team found it almost impossible to trade for days at a time.

"There has been a buyer's strike," he said. "And understandably so, because prices have just been going down until recently."

The drama kicked in as soon as the year kicked off, as it became clear that COVID was not going to shutter the global economy again and the world's most influential central bank, the U.S. Federal Reserve, was serious about raising interest rates.

Ten-year Treasury yields jumped to 1.8% from less than 1.5%, knocking 5% off MSCI's world stocks index in January alone.

Fast forward and that yield is now at 3.8%, stocks are down almost 20% and oil ends the year 8% higher, having been up nearly 80% back in early March. The Fed has delivered an eye-watering 400bps of rate hikes and the European Central Bank, a record 250bps, despite saying this time last year it was unlikely to budge.


Potent dollar strength this month gave the yen a bit of lift.

In emerging markets, Turkey's inflation and monetary policy problems have cost the lira another 29%, but have also seen locals flock to its stock market making it the best performer in the world with an 80% gain even in dollar terms.

Hard-pressed Egypt devalued its currency more than 36%. Ghana's cedi crashed 60%, as it has joined Sri Lanka, Russia and Ukraine in default. Despite being well down from its June highs, Russia's ruble is still the world's third-best performing currency, supported by Moscow's capital controls. It was initially smashed after the invasion of Ukraine.

"If you ask me what will happen next year, I really couldn't tell you," said Close Brothers Asset Management's Chief Investment Officer Robert Alster, who, like many, also pointed to the pummeling the pound and British bond markets took when the short-lived government of Liz Truss flirted with an unfunded spending splurge.

Ten-year gilt yields soared over 100 bps and the pound lost 9% in a matter of days - moves the scale of which are rare in major markets.

"If you sell it wrong, don't be surprised if it goes down like a cup of cold sick," said veteran CMC Markets' analyst Michael Hewson.


The surge in rates has also taken $3.6 trillion off the tech titans. Facebook and Tesla  have both hemorrhaged more than 60%, while Google and Amazon are, respectively, down 40% and 50%.

Chinese stocks have staged a late rally, thanks to the easing of its zero-COVID policy. But they are still down 24% and emerging market "hard currency" government debt is down over 17% in what will also be its first ever consecutive annual loss.

Initial public offerings and bond sales have also slumped almost everywhere apart from the Middle East, while commodities have been the best performing asset class for a second consecutive year.

Natural gas' near-15% rise is the largest overall in that group, mainly due to the war in Ukraine, which boosted prices by as much as 140% at one point.

Mounting recession worries, along with the West’s plan to stop buying Russian oil, mean Brent crude has given back much of the 80% it made in the first quarter, as have wheat and corn.