At the end of last year Russia remained a key concern for investors, particularly as the European Union refused to back down over its sanctions against the country for its continued conflict with Ukraine.
Europe seemed unmoved by the fact that Russia’s economy was in seeming free fall as its currency plummeted roughly 11 per cent the week before Christmas in spite of its central bank hiking interest rates.
Russia could see even further economic pressure if the oil price remains at its current low. Cheaper oil might be good news for the everyday consumer, but the unprecedented drop to below $60 a barrel for Brent Crude is less positive for big commodity producers such as Russia.
But it’s not just eastern Europe that faces headwinds as we move into 2015.
Japan still has some major concerns. Prime minister Shinzo Abe may have won his snap election last month, but he still has work to do to bring the country out of its technical recession and move towards that all-important inflation target.
The remainder of Europe also hovers on the brink of potential recovery or disaster. While some of the continent’s countries are sluggishly improving, others are holding the eurozone back, with many questioning whether 2015 could see full quantitative easing from the European Central Bank.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom; there are some potential bright spots on the horizon, such as South America. The scheduled elections later this year in Argentina could provide a welcome boost to an economy that has suffered from numerous issues.
The expected unseating of current president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is likely to produce a positive effect, especially as the MSCI Argentina index has performed the best of the South American countries with a return of 20.04 per cent for the year to date to December 18 2014. This is in spite of well-documented economic and political issues, such as the country defaulting on its bonds in July.
With a more stable and perhaps more business friendly leader, 2015 could see Argentina make a good recovery and build on the returns of last year.
Elections are also going to play a key part in the UK, with the country scheduled to go to the polls in May. The outcome is still uncertain, although a coalition certainly looks likely.
However, research by Stephen Eckett suggests that of the 18 elections that have taken place in the UK since the Second World War, the market has ended the year higher than it started for 12 of those elections. This suggests a good chance the UK market could see a positive return in 2015.
With so many geopolitical and economic issues simmering at the start of the year, it’s only a matter of time before some of these big trends finally boil over.
Nyree Stewart is features editor at Investment Adviser