The Davos dampener: Markets stagnant on WEF discussions

The annual World Economic Forum conference is well under way this week, and as can perhaps be expected, the debates taking place at the event, which is being held in its usual location of Davos, Switzerland, are having an effect on the global markets.

The World Economic Forum, often referred to by its acronym WEF, is well known to polarize opinions.

There are some who view it as a meeting of the global elite, who convene to discuss the planned agendas which in some cases are viewed as anti-business or anti-free market by dissenters, and there are those who consider it an important platform to address global matters on how the business world interacts with overall society and nature.

For this reason, the discussions taking place at the annual WEF conference are being reported widely by global media and having an effect on the markets.

It is common for high profile celebrities who attend the WEF annual conference to voice their opinions on fashionable issues such as the environment, or distribution of wealth, and on that subject, it was reported yesterday that approximately 200 members of the super-rich global elite, one of which was Disney heiress Abigail Disney, explained that they are calling on governments around the world to “tax us, the ultra rich, now” in order to help billions of people struggling with cost of living crisis.

This self-inflicted attempt to remove wealth from the coffers of some of the highest generators of income in the world is a way of clearly reinforcing a widely held opinion that the WEF conference is attended by many very wealthy individuals whose viewpoint favors removing their own and other peoples’ wealth and distributing it, giving rise to a perception that it has socialist overtones.

On the agenda for discussion was the slow economic growth in western markets, and the ongoing geopolitical discourse between the Western nations and Russia and China.

On the subject of China’s economy, it has grown just 3% in the past year, marking 2022 as the slowest growth for the Chinese economy in many years. Citi Group’s chief executive Jane Fraser told a panel at the WEF annual meeting today that it is a positive step that China’s economy is reopening.

The draconian lockdowns have paralized China’s economy in the eyes of the outside world, however real economic data from inside China is very hard to obtain.

One interesting discussion, as reported today by the Financial Times, is that Gita Gopinath, deputy managing director of the IMF, signalled that the fund would upgrade its economic forecasts. Instead of predicting a “tougher” 2023, she now expected an “improvement” in the second half of the year and into 2024.

US business leaders hailed the Joe Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act — a $369bn bid to stimulate green investments in America’s economy.

Overall, whilst there has been a backdrop of harsh economic circumstances across many markets over the last year, the annual discussions at Davos often put the dampener on the markets until the conference is over. Let’s hope it is business as usual after that.