Global Financial Markets Forum 2016

Is the global stock party truly over?

Some of the biggest names in finance are back in the Middle East this week with plenty on the agenda as the world's markets tumble and investors contemplate the beginning of a bear market.

The U.S. Federal Reserve began its long-awaited tightening phase in December which helped to roil sentiment alongside growth concerns from China and an unnerving drop in the price of oil.

"We're closer to the end of the party than the beginning," Vikram Mansharamani, academic and author of "Boombustology" told CNBC via telephone. "Asset prices have grown addicted to cheap money."

Now markets, high on the availability of funds thanks to low interest rates and quantitative easing, are going cold turkey. A rapid disruption to this low-rate environment has the potential to generate significant financial chaos, according to Mansharamani who will attend the Global Financial Markets Forum this week.

He'll be joined by 1,500 economists, policymakers and market-watchers in Abu Dhabi from Wednesday when the event kicks off. The event focuses on specific topics that are relevant to the West-East corridor but the major volatility will no doubt be first and foremost with the agenda being so tightly linked to financial markets.

Bull and bear statues outside Frankfurt's stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany.
Ralph Orlowski | Reuters

Widely followed market watcher Mohamed El-Erian will be a major draw at the event, with the Allianz chief economic adviser warning in January that markets had a "full-scale contagion."

"The big concern is whether bad technicals contaminate the fundamentals even more and then we get into a vicious cycle. Markets are feeding off each other and they're not able to find any firm footing," the told CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report."

There was a brutal start to 2016 for risk assets and investors have yet to find their footing in waves of selling. The Dow Jones industrial average flirted with correction territory last week after a rebound fizzled out. The index is now down nearly 4.5 percent for the year, with the S&P 500 seeing a similar fall. The Russell 2000 is technically in bear market territory with a fall of 20 percent from its 52-week high.

"The beginning of the year has been one of the worst on record," equity derivatives strategists at Societe Generale said in a note last week. "The environment (is) turning more and more volatile. This is consistent with our view of global equity markets engaged in a change of regime."

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The Dow Jones Transportation Average has also seen the bears take over with a near 20 percent fall but this is small beer compared to some other global benchmarks. Greece is nearly 48 percent down on its recent high, The Shanghai Composite is 47 percent lower and major bourses in Europe are comfortably in bear market territory.

Influential investor Dennis Gartman sounded the alarm on January 7, telling CNBC that a bear market had "begun in earnest globally."

Other analysts and economists chimed in with Citi analysts claiming on February 5 that the global economy was seemingly trapped in a "death spiral" that could lead to further weakness in oil prices, recession and a serious equity bear market.

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But there are still pockets of optimism from major organizations amid the turmoil. Strategists at Goldman Sachs believe that recession fears are creating an extended stock market sell-off and an opportunity for investors ready to pounce. They have also urged clients to bet against the recent rally in gold prices, saying that market moves have been an "overreaction."

Meanwhile, the president of Germany's Bundesbank gave a resolutely positive outlook for the global economy on Wednesday.

"We shouldn't paint the global economy in too gloomy colors," President Jens Weidmann told CNBC. "The global recovery is on track," he added.