2016’s Financial Markets In 6 Simple Charts

Welcome to the penultimate day of 2016!

There’s a saying that a picture can say a thousand words. So, I thought it’d be interesting to pick out 6 charts that can give us a good overview of what happened in the financial markets in 2016. Here goes!

1. What happened to the Straits Times Index

Source: Yahoo Finance

After all the sharp ups and downs seen during the year, Singapore’s stock market barometer, the Straits Times Index (SGX: ^STI), is actually now slightly up for 2016. This goes to show why it can be futile to fret over short-term market movements.

2. The fate of Swiber

Source: Google Finance

Any overview of the biggest events in Singapore’s world of finance in 2016 will not be complete without featuring Swiber Holdings Limited (SGX: BGK), one of the high-profile casualties of the drastic collapse in oil prices experienced over the past two-plus years.

The chart above plots Swiber’s share price movement in 2016 and you’d notice that the chart only extends from January to July 2016.

That’s because Swiber’s shares have been suspended from trading since the latter month. The company had placed itself under judicial management after suffering from severe financial strain as the result of a heavy debt load; Swiber’s most recent financials show that it had US$1.02 billion in total debt and just US$130 million in cash.

There’s a lesson here. Be mindful of companies with highly leveraged balance sheets that are in cyclical industries.

3. The telco wars

Here’s a chart of StarHub Ltd’s (SGX: CC3) stock price movement in 2016:

Source: Google Finance

Earlier this month, the Australia-based TPG Telecom won the bid to become Singapore’s fourth telco. The entrance of a fourth player is expected by some analysts to change the game for the incumbents. StarHub’s falling share price illustrates this.

4. The US stock market

Source: Google Finance

No one really expected Donald Trump to win in the November 2016 US presidential elections. Some investors I spoke to expected the US market to tank if Donald Trump won.

Turns out, Trump did win – but the US market did not fall. The chart above shows how the S&P 500 had moved throughout 2016. You can see that the US market benchmark is currently higher than where it was in November just prior to the elections. In fact, the S&P 500 is near an all-time high.

5. What about Brexit?

Source: Google Finance

Beyond Trump’s shock win, another unexpected geopolitical event to happen this year was Brexit. In late June this year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.

Before the vote took place, the International Monetary Fund actually warned that a Brexit would cause a stock market crash. But a crash never happened. The chart above shows how the FTSE100 has changed since the beginning of the year; the FTSE100 is the UK stock market’s index.

As you can see, the FTSE100 has been climbing since June. It is currently at an all-time high.

One explanation I can think of for why the UK stock market has risen despite Brexit is that the pound sterling did plunge during the year following the vote, thus making UK stocks more afforadable.

This illustrates one of the biggest issues I see when it comes to investing with macro-economic predictions. There are just too many variables – and the interactions between the variables are too complex – for investors to get the predictions right.

6. Your personal portfolio’s chart

How has the value of your personal portfolio changed throughout the year? Does it look more like (a), (b), or (c)?

(a) An upward climb


(b) Unchanged in value


(c) A slippery downward slope


It’s informative to have an overview of the charts of the markets and different companies. But, this the real test: Which of (a), (b), or (c) reflects your personal portfolio for the year?

After knowing which chart belongs to us, we need to ask ourselves: Why did we end up with that kind of performance?

If (a) is our chart, we should identify what we did well and aim to repeat the positive actions in the future. If it is (c), then we need to learn from our mistakes. With that I hope all of The Motley Fool’s readers can end 2017 with a chart like (a)!

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The information provided is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be personalised investment or financial advice. Motley Fool Singapore contributor Lawrence Nga doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned.