Major events at the close of 2014, specifically the fourth quarter of 2014, included: the abnormally low prices of oil; the unique position of the Federal Reserve and the US dollar; US Treasury Rates poised (still) to rise; and American manufacturing ramped up to march on ahead of other world leaders, while an embroiled Europe awaits the coming year.
“Returns and Valuations by Style”
Significantly improved from the previous quarter, overall market growth was strong in the final quarter of 2014; though the annual return was less than half of the growth from 2013’s phenomenal success.
By a landslide, the most compelling story of the closing chapter of 2014 was the low oil prices brought upon by OPEC with ferocious Saudi leadership striving to re-establish control of global oil markets. Oil production outpaced consumption, therefore supply outpaced demand, and led to a build in inventories. The supply is not uniformly distributed, though, and the United States is responsible for the fastest supply growth since 2013; however, consumption in the US did not grow nearly as much, and China continues to contribute to the most global demand growth. Notably, Europe and Japan’s consumption declined.
The population most effected by gasoline prices, of course, is the lowest quintile of the population. If oil production declines, and global demand growth picks up, then oil prices could move higher, but if the demand trends persist, and supply growth remains robust with neither the US nor OPEC yielding any production, then oil prices could move further down. Economists overall are split either way, but most agree that the current low prices are abnormal. The Federal Reserve expects that any resulting deflationary pressure from current low oil market prices will be transitory, rather than permanent, and that the economy will achieve the 2% target inflation over time.