EDITOR'S LETTERJohn Stepek
El Niño may topple bonds
There’s been a lot in the press recently on how the climate affects investing. The world’s wealthiest nations this week agreed to phase out fossil fuel emissions this century (the “how” part was left vague), while Norway’s vast sovereign wealth fund is pulling out of coal-dependent businesses. Our long-held view is that it’s hard to predict the effects of climate change itself – but if governments are bent on making rules and spending taxpayers’ money to combat it, it’s worth paying attention to the opportunities and threats created.
But another weather event could have a much more immediate impact on your portfolio – El Niño. I’m no meteorologist, so forgive me for keeping this basic – El Niño is a weather phenomenon involving prolonged warming of parts of the Pacific. This has the knock-on effect of causing all sorts of unusual and extreme weather across the world. It looks likely that we’ll see a particularly severe El Niño this year, reckons the Australian Bureau of Meterology.
What’s this got to do with your investments? Potentially rather a lot, as it turns out. One of our favourite analysts, Jonathan Allum of SMBC Nikko, highlights a recent paper from Cambridge economists Paul Cashin, Kamiar Mohaddes and Mehdi Raissi, looking at the impact of El Niño episodes between 1979 and 2013. There are elements you’d expect – the disruption to agriculture in various parts of the world tends to drive up crop prices. But more surprising is that, taken globally, El Niño is actually good for global growth.
• Read the full editor’s letter here: El Niño may topple bonds