Artificial intelligence and banks make world stock markets soar

Artificial intelligence and banks. This is the combination that made the world’s stock markets shine, with Piazza Affari at the top (+9.2%) in the first half of the year. The first quarter was a boom, then came a second quarter with a slower optimism. The brake was put on by the different monetary policies of the Fed and the ECB (the former took its time, while Brussels began cutting rates but without momentum) and by political uncertainty (post European elections and consultations in France). But in the end, all things considered, the first six months of the year were a real success for some stock markets, which recorded excellent results (Italy, Holland, United States, Tokyo), while for others there was more difficulty (Paris first of all).

Piazza Affari is at the top with an increase of 9.2% in Europe, second only to the Dutch index which exceeded 17%, thanks above all to the race for artificial intelligence with companies such as ASM (+51.5%) and ASML Holding (+41.4%). Milan began its run in mid-2022, achieving six consecutive quarters of growth. The trail of constant gains was interrupted in the last quarter of the year (largely due to the political uncertainties of neighboring France), but the semester ended in a clearly positive way, just under 10%. “Among the top performers, the financial sector particularly stood out, with the banking sector recording an impressive growth of +32.63% and the insurance sector of +25%. Unipol led the growth, closing the half-year on top thanks to its corporate rationalization project, which included the merger of its insurance subsidiary UnipolSai. This move received a positive reception from the market, as evidenced by the stock’s 21% jump in a single session on February 16. The market seems to be betting above all on the MPS dossier. The Unipol + hub, made up of the title of the Bolognese insurance group and its two banking subsidiaries (Bper Banca and Bca Pop Sondrio), fuels speculation on the Bolognese group’s desire to create a third banking hub that combines the assets of Siena with those of the institutions of which he is already the main shareholder. It is therefore not surprising to see Unipol triumph on Piazza Affari with +87%, followed by BPER at +65% and MPS in fourth position with +62%. However, we find Saipem in third position, thanks to solid financial results and a strong order collection”, explains Gabriel Debach, Italian market analyst of the eToro investment community. There were certainly some of the worst headlines on the Milan market in the half-yearTelecom Italia, Nexi and STM. For many stocks the challenges were significant in this first part of the year, but 58% closed in progress, i.e. 23 out of 40.

The results of Piazza Affari are decidedly superior to those of the other European markets (except Amsterdam). Frankfurt +8.8%, Madrid +8.3%, London +5.6% and Paris -0.8%. In Germany, Siemens Energy dominated the stocks (+102%), in Spain Banco de Sabadell (+62%), in the United Kingdom instead Rolls Royce (+42%) and NatWest Group (+42%). The banking sector has driven several European stock exchanges, especially in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. While the boom on Wall Street has to thank the artificial intelligence industry. The US markets had a semester with greater vitality than Europe: Nasdaq almost + 17%, S&P 500 + 14.5%, with Nvidia and the Mega Caps responsible for the success. According to the Financial Times, 60% of the gains since the beginning of the year have been generated by the big ones alone (Nvidia, Apple, Microsoft…) and Nvidia alone has accounted for 31% of the increase. And the other stocks? Not significant and this could be a warning bell for the next semester. Excellent results also in Asia: +28.5% for Taiwan and +19.1% for Tokyo. “The success of the TAIEX was driven by strong demand in the artificial intelligence sector, while the Nikkei benefited from the collapse of the yen”, explains Gabriel Debach.

And now? The second half of the year on Piazza Affari and all the markets in the world will be affected by the trend in inflation (will it stabilize? At what speed), monetary policies (at what pace will interest rate cuts be?)political issues (runoff in France and general elections in the United States), geopolitical tensions (the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East). “Although July traditionally tends to be a positive month for the markets, the third quarter often records negative results. In this scenario, a repositioning towards more defensive assets could prove prudent, especially considering that volatility levels have remained unusually low over the course of the year. This strategy could help investors mitigate risks in a period that promises to be turbulent,” suggests Gabriel Debach. For investors at Piazza Affari, the eyes will remain focused in the coming months on the MPS dossier and Telecom. Stellantis (-30% in the last quarter) will be kept “under close scrutiny”. “In the context of a euro under pressure due to political risk, it could be useful to monitor stocks with a more international vision, and which could therefore benefit from a weaker euro. Among these, companies such as Prysmian, Recordati and Diasorin stand out,” advises the eToro analyst.
According to several experts, interesting opportunities could also arise for shares linked to activities crucial to the energy transition (such as Enel and Snam) and to banks that show solid management in times of interest rate cuts. Luxury, energy and technology remain sectors to be monitored in the coming months.