For example, the German economy has already shown some softening as a result of its close export ties to Russia. This could still be an issue as the year goes on and the Russian incursion in Ukraine escalates, adding to the already troubling evidence of a weak euro zone economy.
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However, what is a much bigger risk for global markets is ironically one that could emerge from a continued improvement in the U.S. economy and with it, further declines in unemployment. These factors could put pressures on the U.S. Federal Reserve to accelerate its current plans of exiting its monetary generosity.
For a long time, I have followed the U.S. weekly job claims as a good short- to medium-term leading indicator of the underlying employment market, and this has been the case again in the past couple of years. In recent weeks, the improvements have continued, and weekly job claims are now starting to move below 300,000 on a regular basis, taking us into a new range. If this continues, the Fed is probably going to start sending stronger signals that interest rates will be on the turn in 2015.
As we saw in a small sign in the second half of 2013, higher short-term interest rates could have a consequence for financial markets all over the world -- whether they be domestic US equities, the bond markets of other developed economies, the value of the dollar and the performance of many emerging markets.