Investors began 2019 cheering the global rally in risk assets that followed a dramatic late-2018 market plunge.
The tough Q4 caused the US Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates despite a relatively strong US economy, aligning the Fed more closely with other major central banks that are still keeping rates low.
However, as 2019 progressed, the markets turned volatile in the face of a fragmented economic environment with multiple pain points including the disruptive fire of the US-China trade war, which is turning into a "tech cold war" that threatens to disrupt global supply chains.
Europe is still vulnerable to Brexit uncertainty, and recent parliamentary election results may slow the European Union's ability to make critical decisions.
The US is continuing along its late-cycle path with growth stuck at less than 2%; and rising expectations of a recession in 2020.
Moreover, policy uncertainty related to the upcoming presidential election could create market headwinds.
Against this backdrop, we are closely watching the themes that will likely drive markets, regions and investors' decisions throughout the remainder of 2019.
Key investment themes at the halfway point of 2019
With the Fed on hold, will the dollar slide if the debt ceiling lifts?
The Fed made a surprise U-turn to its monetary policy at the end of January. Instead of hiking rates further, as expected, the central bank put future rate hikes on hold. The market is even pricing in two rate cuts by the end of 2019 and four by the end of 2020.
This shift in US monetary policy may ultimately weigh on the US dollar, especially if the US debt ceiling is increased this autumn against a backdrop of looser monetary policy.
However, general political uncertainty and ongoing easing by non-US central banks will likely prevent the dollar from falling further.
Polarised politics could mean higher volatility
Political incumbents around the world are feeling pressure to move away from the political centre on issues such as economic inequality and immigration.
Yet markets have largely stayed calmer than expected about politics because of the difficulty of anticipating policy changes.
That said, some geopolitical shifts are having direct effects on markets - for example, US pressure on Iran is raising oil prices, which is hurting consumer spending.
A "tech cold war" could rage for years
Amid heightened trade tensions between the US and China, US President Donald Trump has fired the first volleys in a tech cold war by targeting Chinese corporations for trade practices that many describe as unfair.
Supply chains could be disrupted if countries are forced to choose between Chinese and American tech ecosystems while the two superpowers vie for leadership in big data and artificial intelligence.