Of all the fears sweeping the markets right now, perhaps the most worrying is the fear of a debt crisis in the corporate sector.
Warnings about corporate debt rising to unsustainable levels are intensifying, at a time when interest rates are at record lows and even Greece joined the club of negative-yield sovereign debt issuers.
Uncertainty about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations has hit new highs, President Trump seems determined to scare the markets witless with his threats of escalating the trade war, debt problems in China are accelerating – the perfect background for a contrarian ‘buy’ signal.
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.
It finally happened: investors are so bearish that a contrarian “buy” signal has been triggered. The Bull and Bear indicator developed by researchers at Bank of America Merrill Lynch is finally indicating Buy, one year after climbing so high that it triggered a Sell signal.
The Bank of England’s decision to borrow Mario Draghi’s bazooka has had immediate consequences: investors rushed into bonds like they’re the best investment out there. And what else could they have done? Ever since the financial crisis, central banks have dictated where investors should put their money, picking winners and losers in the markets with their asset purchases.
Oil prices have always had a big political component, but it seems that increasingly they also have a financial, speculative one. And if this means oil stays cheaper for longer, we may be in for a very strong economic boom.