Fear will continue to stalk global markets even if the US manages to avoid defaulting on its debts, analysts said yesterday.
Investors are scrambling to remove cash from equities, and even traditionally safe havens such as gold, in anticipation of a particularly volatile week with August 2 the deadline for politicians in the US to reach an agreement over the country's $14.3 trillion (Dh52.5 trillion) debt ceiling.
However, even if Democrats and Republicans reach an agreement over the next few days, the ramifications of America's perilous fiscal situation is likely to dampen investor sentiment for the foreseeable future.
"In general, even if the US avoids default it is still an uncertain time for global markets as the ongoing discussions have only served to highlight the internal differences in US politics," said Anastasios Dalgiannakis, institutional trading manager at Mubasher Financial Services.
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"There probably will be a resolution on the debt ceiling before the August 2 deadline but this issue is going to stay with investors for some time," he added.
US stocks rose yesterday following three days of declines for the Standard and Poor's 500 Index but European shares fell for the fourth straight session. The Dubai Financial Market General Index slumped to a 19 week low, slipping 0.09 per cent to 1,506.13, whilst the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange fell 0.51 per cent to 2,627.99, its lowest close since May 30. Oman's measure dropped to a two year low.
"Foreigners are not actively trading in our markets; there is simply no buying interest from abroad at the moment," Dalgiannakis said.
The UAE Central Bank said yesterday it has no plans to de-peg the dirham from the US dollar, which is likely to depreciate further in value if the US defaults. The US dollar has dropped sharply against every major currency over the past week as markets grapple with the dual possibility of a default and credit rating downgrade.
But the dollar did strengthen against the euro yesterday after Standard and Poor's said Greece will partially default and new data showed European economic confidence fell more than forecast this month.
"[There] is no fear [about] the US dollar although it is exposed to price fluctuations as happens with all major currencies," the Central Bank said in a statement.
Gold, which has historically been viewed as a safe haven, was trading at $1,607 an ounce yesterday at 7pm UAE time, slightly off the record highs it had achieved earlier in the week. The precious metal is also not immune to the turbulence forecast for next week.
"If the US defaults on August 2, it will be an extremely volatile day for the markets across the board. The price of gold could rise or fall by at least $50, and very swiftly at that, unless an amicable solution is found," said Pradeep Unni, vice president at Richcomm Global Services, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre.
"However, the US debt issue will continue to loom even if an agreement is reached; the bull trend will not end any time soon regardless of whether the US defaults or not," he added.
According to Unni, the market has already discounted the possibility of a partial default although investors are reducing their exposure to equities and commodities.
"The next few weeks are going to be very volatile, particularly next week, and most investors are going by the mantle of ‘better to wait and trade' then ‘trade and wait'," Unni said. "We are already seeing less liquidity in the [UAE] market as people take their money off the table. Global equity markets are also down, which further emphasises the fear factor," he added.