OPINION: Will Frankfurt and Athens dominate at Davos?
The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) takes place again this week in the Swiss resort of Davos. It is a unique gathering of world famous business leaders, politicians, policymakers, academics and civil society representatives. No event is quite like it in terms of gathering the global elite.
For four days, prepare to be bombarded with media coverage of debates ranging from 'The New Cyber World Order' to 'Africa's Growth Markets', sprinkled with interviews of powerful CEOs, decked in warm cashmere and fur hats, all set against the backdrop of an Alpine winter idyll.
The Davos programme this year is titled 'The New Global Context' and built around four pillars: crisis and co-operation, growth and stability, innovation and industry and society and security.
The agenda will try to focus on long-term thinking. Topics foremost on the agenda will likely include geopolitical tensions, climate change, tackling health pandemics, innovations in health care, the opportunities and challenges of technology, cyber security, inequality and various economic challenges, not least the co-ordination of central bank policies around the world. The debates will be fascinating and thankfully most will be available as webcasts for the world to view.
But there is a good chance the agenda is dominated this year by events taking place in Frankfurt, as well as the Greek elections to be held next weekend.
On Thursday in Frankfurt, the European Central Bank (ECB) will announce its latest monetary policy decision. The ECB is expected to announce a large-scale quantitative easing (QE) programme involving the purchase of sovereign bonds issued by euro area governments. If so, this will be seen as a critical juncture in the ECB's battle to tackle deflation and revive economic growth in the euro area.
What the ECB announces is likely to have a large bearing on global financial markets in the coming weeks and months. Like many others, we expect the ECB to announce such a QE programme. The reaction in financial markets will depend on the details of whatever is announced. Expectations are high, but we are hopeful of a positive outcome since President Draghi will be wary of delivering an underwhelming announcement. Any delay in implementing sovereign QE is likely to disappoint investors.
Last year the Davos agenda was dominated by troubles in emerging markets and the announcement of Argentina's currency devaluation. This year, especially after the Swiss National Bank's surprise move last week to abandon its currency ceiling, central bank policy will dominate conversation. And then, all eyes will be on Athens.
_Tristan Hanson is head of asset allocation at Ashburton Investments. Follow him on Twitter: _ @AshburtonInvest