The return of inflation has taken a lot of people by surprise, although it should not have done. Worryingly, even central banks have acted quite surprised by the abrupt rise in prices, when they should have expected it.Continue reading
The panic buying of essential items around the globe – from food to, fittingly, toilet paper – sparked by the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been mirrored by panic selling in capital markets. It’s almost as if investors were taking cash out of stocks and bonds to buy whatever food, hand sanitiser and toilet paper they could get their hands on.
Pessimism in global financial markets has reached heights not seen since the dark days of the great financial crisis of 2007-2009, which this current crisis threatens to overtake in depth and significance. But, as news about rapid tests for COVID-19 and resilience to deal with the virus begin to multiply, could investors hope for a bottom in the capital markets’ selloff?
Last week, investors yet again favoured bonds over any other asset class, despite central banks cooing dovish everywhere.
The Fed is cutting rates? No worries, buy bonds. The European Central Bank prepares to push rates even further into negative territory? Bonds are the ticket. The Bank of England gets the printing press ready again? Oh yes, some bonds would be great.
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.
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”.
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.
Everybody is waiting for Jay Powell, the new Fed Chair, to set out his vision this week. The main question is: will there be a “Powell Put” just as there has been a Greenspan put, a Bernanke put and a Yellen put?
The past week has not been encouraging for investors, with many asset classes haemorrhaging funds at increased speed.
The week before that, on January 30, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Bull/Bear indicator triggered a sell signal for the first time in five years, and markets sold off.