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As far as first impressions go, 2016 leaves a lot to be desired

Sanitation workers clean up confetti following New Year celebrations in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York January 1, 2016.
Reuters/Andrew Kelly
Party’s over.
  • Jason Karaian
By Jason Karaian

Global finance and economics editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The new year brings new beginnings—fresh thinking, honest assessments, and a general determination to do things better. This rarely lasts.

And so it goes in 2016, which within a week has already dashed many hopes for happier times. China’s persistent meddling in its markets has mostly backfired, sending jitters through global markets, especially in developing economies. The cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is heating up. The conflict in Syria is as horrifying as ever. North Korea provocatively tested some sort of bomb near the Chinese border. America’s social ills brought its president to tears on national television.

First impressions matter, and 2016 hasn’t made a great one. Indeed, one high-profile consultancy says that 2016 is shaping up to be “the most volatile and challenging” year in a very long time. That’s disconcerting, given how lousy last year was, in many ways.

But it is darkest before the dawn. For investors, at least, there is no evidence that trading in January holds any predictive power for the year as a whole. The US economy is chugging along, and there are reasons to believe that even Europe may finally be getting its economic act together. And let’s not forget that for all the turmoil in 2015, many big markets ended the year more or less flat.

In investing, as in life, it often pays to zig when others zag. When asked to make a bullish case for 2016, one fund manager told Quartz, “I don’t see the wheels coming off—it definitely could be worse.” Not exactly a cause for celebration, but it will do amid the general doom and gloom of the past week. Hang in there, there’s a lot of the year left to come.

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