The festive season is over but investors were probably happy to leave 2018 behind. Global trade war, worries over the slowdown of the Chinese economy, withdrawal of central banks support, Brexit uncertainties, concerns over Italy… It really has not been an easy year! All these elements coincided to make 2018 the worst year in a decade for stocks. All major indices ended the year in the red: minus 6% for the S&P 500, minus 12.5% for the FTSE 100, minus 13% for the Eurostoxx 600, not to mention minus 25% for the Chinese CSI 300 Index. And the fourth quarter was the worst quarter by far: within 3 months the S&P 500 lost 14% and the Eurostoxx 50 nearly 12%.
There is no doubt that 2018 was gloomy for the equity markets, the question is now what to expect from 2019. It is of course too early to tell. The elements that weighed on the mood of investors in 2018 are still present but there have been a few signs of relief such as the US and China trade talks or soothing comments from the chairman of the Fed. The market reacted positively to these signals with the major indices bouncing back. Since early January, the S&P 500 has gained over 3% while the Eurostoxx 50 and the Stoxx Insurance increased by 2.3% and 3.4% respectively.
For Ageas, 2019 will be an exciting year as it marks the beginning of our 3-year new strategy Connect21. As for the share, after strongly outperforming the sector in 2018, the beginning of the year has been more modest with a 1.1% increase in the share price since early January.