World Markets

The potential pitfalls of the rest of 2014

The ups and downs of Q2

Halfway into 2014, as trading desks across the world go quiet for the summer, it's time to take stock and take a look at what might lie ahead.

Despite geopolitical shocks from Ukraine and the Middle East, it has been a positive first half overall, with global stocks (as measured by the MSCI world equity index) on track for their fourth straight quarter of gains.

The promised IPO rebound has materialized, with global volume up 44 percent to $104.9 billion via 533 deals, according to Dealogic, but the mergers and acquisitions market hasn't quite bounced back on a similar scale.

Markets have been reassured that major central banks will continue to keep money pumping into the financial system – and interest rates at historic lows – but this may risk artificial prolonging of other problems.

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"Investors have bid up financial assets, buoyed by expectations that global monetary policy will stay easy for a long time," analysts from Barclays argued in a research note.

In the U.S., "steady, but unexceptional, growth" is expected by economists at HSBC.

The second half is also likely to feature the first interest rate hike by a major Western central bank – probably the Bank of England in November, if current noises are accurate.

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In the rest of the U.K., expect more tiffs over tax and the European Union from politicians, as the parties set out their stalls ahead of an expected 2015 election.

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Geopolitical risk is unlikely to go away, and, if the price of oil moves upwards on more turmoil in the Middle East, there will be knock-on effects for some key countries, particularly in the emerging markets.

The price of other commodities, such as grain, is also edging up.

So how to weather the potential storms ahead?

In the second half, commodities may start diverging again, with energy and industrial metals returns doing better than grain and cereal, as record harvests are expected in the U.S. this fall, according to commodities analysts at Citi.

Barclays recommends shifting away from risk towards a more defensive position, by raising the cash held in your portfolio. This is not a recommendation to expect from a healthy global recovery.

Turkey has been singled out as one of the most worrying emerging markets.

"(In Turkey) you still have a dovish central bank, a lot of political uncertainty and a country which is very exposed to high oil prices, whereas a country like Russia or Venezuela will benefit from them," Christian Keller, head of research for emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa at Barclays, told CNBC.

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