UBS, Options Trader think you should not leave the market now



The market has been volatile over the last three months especially when the S&P 500 finished 2018 approximately 20 percent lower from its record high in September. The bearish sequence that started in early October sent the volatility index (VIX) into panic territory, meaning above 22.75 points, after months into soft territory, meaning below 15.95 points.

Since then, the S&P 500 has recovered about half of its loss as it stands 11.89 percent below its latest record high, the same elsewhere with minus 10.69 percent for the DJIA and almost minus 20 percent for its German counterpart the DAX 30.

Besides, Switzerland-based and world’s largest wealth manager UBS believes investors should keep their money in the stock market. “You have to stay invested, whatever your risk tolerance can bear,” Mark Haefele, global chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, told clients at the UBS Wealth Insights forum in Singapore.

In the meantime, an anonymous trader sold 19,000 put options on the S&P 500 index at strike price 2,100 and at expiration date December 18, 2020, whether it is a bullish bet or some hedging for some previous existing investing is not known however.

China has built 10,000 km of railways, hundreds of facilities in Africa



Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated China’s support for Africa’s “economic autonomy and sustainable development” while on an official visit to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Eastern African country Ethiopia.

Chinese people treated more than 200 million local patients, helped Africa build more than 10,000 km of highways, 6,000 km of railways and hundreds of airports, ports and power stations over the last decades, Wang stressed.

Rejecting “rumors” according to which the growing economic ties between China and Africa resulted in a growing debt burden for the latter, the Chinese official implied that other countries might be attempting in discrediting China’s support that he depicted as “a model not only for South-South cooperation but also for international cooperation with Africa”.

According to official statistics, China became Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009, rising from less than $20 billion in 2002 to a staggering $215 billion in 2014.

Latest available annual figures showed a relative slowdown in bilateral trade with $170 billion in 2017, however up 14.1 percent year-on-year. China’s exports to Africa reached US$94.74 billion, up 2.7%; China’s imports from Africa reached $75.26 billion, up 32.8%; the trade surplus was $19.48 billion, down 45.2% year-on-year.

Jihadists in Burkina Faso renew fears of instability in West Africa



France remains the main stabilizer and military force in West Africa thanks to its seasoned Special Forces, experimented soldiers and colonial history.

Despite a decade-long unabated engagement against terrorism – currently Operation Barkhane – in an area (the Sahel) that’s seven times larger than France, military officials noticed lately a scattered resurgence of the jihadist offensive especially aimed at destabilizing local governments and spreading fear among the population.

On December 17, 2018, President Emmanuel Macron and his Burkina Faso counterpart Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, while meeting in Paris, stressed on the fact that no additional French troops would be deployed in the country which is a member of the antiterrorist G5 Sahel group with Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Niger.

In the meantime however, Defense Minister Florence Parly and her Burkinabe counterpart Jean-Claude Bouda signed an intergovernmental agreement with a view to strengthening bilateral cooperation, including the delivery of 34 military vehicles by June 2019.

13 days before that, France had shown its willingness for more involvement after conducting an air strike against jihadist operatives who were attacking gendarmes at Inata, north of Burkina Faso. On December 28, 2018, a similar attack took place near the Malian border in Loroni, 250 kilometers north-east of Ouagadougou that left 10 gendarmes dead in an ambush, raising fears of increased jihadists’ operational capabilities and therefore greater potential of instability for West Africa as a whole.

“Average GDP growth in West Africa stalled in 2016, after several strong years, to 0.5 percent. It rebounded in 2017 to 2.5 percent, and was projected to rise to 3.8 percent in 2018 and 3.9 percent in 2019,” wrote the African Development Bank Group (AFDB) in its West Africa Economic Outlook 2018.

Such a growth dynamic could be at risk since the jihadist threat is increasingly developing outside the Sahel and spilling over into nearby countries, especially Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

Senegal-based researcher Bakary Sambe recently cited by the Washington Post pointed out “there are worries that West Africans are underestimating the threat” and the killing of ten gendarmes has come as a reminder of the growing challenge posed by jihadists to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).