World Markets

Choppy July punishes China, commodities and EM

After a month of multi-year record lows for a number of different asset classes, a lot of investors will be relieved to see the back of July.

Trade was relatively muted on Friday, ahead of what is likely to be a less eventful August as much of the market takes time off in preparation of what could be a much more volatile September, if the U.S. Federal Reserve decides to go ahead with a much-anticipated move in interest rates.

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Leading the losing pack was the commodity sector, with WTI crude slumping almost 19 percent in the month of July on a confluence factors including persistent strength in the dollar, excess production worries and the general weakness in China.

"Analysts have been in a huge hurry to downgrade their medium-term forecasts (in commodities). I think that is probably the wrong way to think about it. But it is still very difficult, not a sector we are hugely exposed to. We are very disappointed in the opportunities that are being presented to us," said fund manager at GLG, Henry Dixon.

Despite concerns around the volatility seen in the Chinese market, as a well as Greek debt fears, the traditional safe haven gold did not get a bid, losing over 7 percent, pressurized by the stronger dollar, which is flat on the month after seeing a spike in the middle of the month.

Foreign exchange markets also saw a month of records, with the Mexican peso at an all-time low and currencies in Turkey, Braziland South Africa also hitting their lowest levels in more than a decade.

An employee watches a news broadcast on the trading floor at Panmure Gordon & Co. in London, U.K.
Matthew Lloyd I Bloomberg via Getty Images

"The rand has only ever traded at these levels for two days I believe in history and that was back in the end of 2001," said Simon Derrick, chief currency strategist at BNY Mellon.

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"We clearly have the potential for commodities to come under pressure because of this. There is also the risk that we could see these currencies come under seriously substantial further pressure. It could be the one thing that causes the Fed to pause a little bit," Derrick told CNBC.

While global equities had a choppy few weeks, developed market indices were not much changed by month end, with the exception of China.

The Shanghai Composite reported it biggest monthly lost since August 2009, falling over 14 percent.

Chinese regulators have stumped up their efforts to intervene in the sharp falls seen in recent weeks in the Shanghai Composite, China's domestic A-share market. In spite of this, the index still tumbled 8.5 percent on Monday, even after measures to curb selling, including a cut in interest rates and a ban on short selling and major shareholders from ditching their stakes in firms were introduced.

The tech heavy Nasdaq, saw a number of earnings releases in the last two weeks and while Apple's numbers beat expectations, the sell-off in the stock weighed in the index, which was down 2.8 percent on the month.

In Europe, French stocks were a bright spot, gaining 5.5 percent, outperforming the pan-European Eurostoxx 600, which was up around 2.3 percent in July.