Turkish financial markets continued to move higher Monday, adding to a three-week rally. The benchmark Borsa Istanbul BIST 100 equity index traded over 77,300 points late Monday, up 9 percent in Turkish lira terms and over 10 percent in US dollar terms. The lira itself also traded at its best levels of the year against the greenback and appears headed back to pre-United States Federal Reserve (Fed) tightening levels. Turkey's financial markets had feared a quicker pace for Fed rate hikes, but those worries have been largely put to rest. With global financial markets in turmoil, the Fed will most likely put off any new hikes until at least the summer - if it does not delay them indefinitely.
With the most recent release of employment data from the U.S., it appears though the labor participation rate may finally have found a bottom. Last month, the U.S. labor participation rate moved up from 62.7 percent in January to 62.9 percent. The rate was last this high over a year ago in January 2015 and its 10-year peak of 66.4 percent was in January 2007. While still far off from those levels, any stop to the hemorrhaging of labor participation is good news for the U.S. economy and the global economy overall. As Americans get back to work, they will have more disposable income. With more income comes consumption. U.S. consumer consumption, the locomotive of the world's largest economy, will in turn push U.S. imports higher, particularly from China, and thus, the domino effect should spread globally.
In U.S. politics, the American presidential election has taken a turn toward more uncertainty as the front runners of both parties have critical primaries coming up next Tuesday. While Republican candidate Donald Trump emerged the victor on Super Tuesday, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio chipped away at his delegate counts in several contests, outright stripping him of five victories. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also made a strong showing picking up four of 12 contests on Super Tuesday. With southern states over-represented on Super Tuesday, Sanders looks to have a much better chance as the primaries return to northern states. Since Super Tuesday, Sanders has actually picked up three of the last four races, bringing his delegate count to nearly 500 while Hillary Clinton holds on to 1,100 delegates. With nearly two-thirds of all delegates yet to be decided, it looks to be anyone's race for the Democrats even though Clinton does enjoy a comfortable lead at present.
The race for the Republican nomination appears to be more difficult for Trump to clinch than for Clinton, however, as Trump splits the vote with three other candidates. Next Tuesday, Ohio and Florida vote to choose their Republican nominees, and both states are winner-take-all. Should Rubio garner an endorsement from Jeb Bush - the former governor who fought against Rubio only weeks ago - he may have a solid chance at winning his home state. If Trump wins Florida, the window of opportunity for Rubio closes and he would most likely endorse John Kasich and bow out; however, Kasich may also exit the race should he lose Ohio. This makes next Wednesday make-or-break for Rubio and Kasich. If both exit and endorse Cruz, this may lead to a contested convention in which no clear nominee would emerge before late July when the convention will be held. This delay in a clear nominee benefits the Democratic nominee. Both Cruz and Trump lose to Clinton in polls; therefore, the U.S. presidential election itself may be decided next Tuesday.
Over the weekend, the fourth season of "House of Cards" was released by Netflix, and I wanted to share some observations from the season - thus, spoiler alert! While the reality of the 2016 U.S. presidential election is more exciting than the election that is being held in the parallel universe of "House of Cards," there are some lessons we can learn from the fictitious politicians in the series. One interesting observation comes toward the end of the season when the show's first lady, Claire Underwood, discusses the birth of a DAESH-like extremist organization - the Islamic Caliphate Organization (ICO) - operating in Iraq and Syria. She addresses the leader of ICO, who is in U.S. custody, and observes that ICO, and thus DAESH, were founded by members of the Baathist party, anti-Islamic Maoists. "There's no reason to keep up the façade," Underwood said. While it is great to hear the fictional version of the U.S. administration acknowledge, albeit in private, that the leadership of DAESH has nothing to do with Islam and that they are merely disgruntled members of the Iraqi Baath party looking to regain political strength, it would be great if the real administration took similar steps in public.