If this is not yet capitulation, it sure feels like it. Money has been fleeing stock markets at record speed, and despite dovish signals from the Federal Reserve, investors are still not taking advantage of the buying opportunities the panic in the markets are throwing at them.
The list of reasons to worry in the market is growing longer by the day, and investors keep taking money out of risky assets – among them, European ones.
The phenomenon has been dubbed an “exodus from Europe” by analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who say there is “no surprise that the outflow from European high grade and high yield funds has been much more sizable than outflows from emerging markets debt funds.”
Last month has become known as Red October, not so much as a hint to the film starring Sean Connery as the commander of the defecting Soviet submarine by that name, but sadly, as an accurate description of the dominant colour on trading screens around the world.
The Halloween effect is a well-known seasonal quirk that pushes stock prices up between October 31 and May 1. After a horrible October for stocks, investors are anxious to know whether the market rout is over or it has more to run.
There is one indicator that could provide some clues. We’ve spoken about it before on this website. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Bull and Bear indicator triggered a “Sell” signal back in January of this year, and it is now close to a “Buy” one – although not yet.
There have been “massive” outflows from capital markets in the past week, but although they brought Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s “bull and bear” indicator close to the “buy” signal, they haven’t managed to trigger it.
This past week, there has been a frenzy of selling of emerging markets assets. The outflows from both stocks and debt in emerging markets reached their highest level since December 2016.
This amounted to $3.7 billion withdrawn from emerging market equities and bonds, according to data analysed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. These outflows have helped push our old friend, the Bull/Bear indicator developed by BofA Merrill Lynch, to 4.8 — its lowest level since January 2017.
The year-to-date capital flows seem to show a dramatic change in the way investors perceive risk in the stock markets. Emerging market equities, Japan and the financial sector seem to have turned from risky assets into “safe havens”.
Remember when Donald Trump hinted that he would threaten to restructure the US debt to get better terms on it? His protectionist measures may “help” him to achieve some sort of restructuring, but not in a good way.
The snow has melted and it’s time to make plans for the future again. And like every spring, those plans are likely to include what has become known as “reflation” — inflation increasing again to a level where it can eat away at the mountain of debt the world’s big economies have to deal with.
Will consumer price inflation, rather than inflation in asset prices like property and securities, finally take off? There have been two interesting points of view last week on this issue.