Despite good news about vaccine roll-outs, it is too early to tell when or even whether economies will fully reopen and life will go back to “normal.”Continue reading
With news of another Covid-19 vaccine on its way and optimism rising ahead of the end-year holidays, it looks like 2021 will shape up to be much better than 2020.
But one forgotten danger could spoil the party: inflation. Price rises are far from investors’ minds, but an ‘inflation tantrum’ could have devastating effects on various countries’ economies if they are not kept in check.
Among developed countries investors, there are various interpretations of the strength of the commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in emerging markets, ranging from the cynical to the idealistic.
The cynical view would be that there can be no “real” ESG in emerging markets because too often they are plagued by corruption, therefore investors cannot trust what companies in these countries report.
The idealistic view, on the other hand, would see every little step towards introducing ESG as a wonderful sign that these countries are finally deciding to adopt the same values as Western democracies.
While both extremes are wrong, sadly even the moderate take misses the main difference between emerging markets and developed ones: the effect of development itself on ESG — and in particular on the “E”.
The markets rallied so fast in November that bullish investors risk pushing the needle towards the “Sell” signal, according to Bank of America’s indicator.
With the eyes on the US presidential election and the second wave of Covid-19, investors around the world can be forgiven if they have missed two important warnings from emerging markets.
However, with the election (almost) out of the way, it may be time to go through the rest of the news flow and think properly about the two events that may have been overlooked: the postponing of the world’s biggest stock listing (China’s Ant Group), and the firing of the governor of the Turkish central bank.
If after the great financial crisis of 2007-2009 the word “extraordinary” characterised monetary policy, the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a much stronger adjective: “unprecedented”.
As the world has never before been faced with an instance when virtually all economic activity stopped for a certain period of time, this is an appropriate word. However, in monetary policy really very little can be said to be truly “unprecedented”.
For example, take modern monetary theory (MMT) — a theory about how to have your (monetary) cake and eat it, which (simplistically) states that if a country can print its own currency, that country will never default on its debt because it can create as much currency as it wants to and use it to pay back the debt.
Major central banks, to a certain degree, have already begun versions of MMT.
Just like he “urged everyone to find closure” regarding Brexit following his victory in elections last year, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week urged everyone to “move on” from the Dominic Cummings saga. But just like then, it is easier said than done.
Central banks are again under the limelight. With Mark Carney’s departure as governor of the Bank of England next month, Boris Johnson could try to seize the opportunity to curtail the central bank’s independence.
This should not come as a surprise. Already, Johnson’s soulmate from across the ocean, Donald Trump, has been making noises about the Federal Reserve being too independent (or rather: insubordinate) for his liking.
So, if these two authoritarian populists go for central banks, what are their chances of bringing them under their rule?
The first year of the new decade begins with markets in a much more exuberant mood than at the beginning of 2019. Some of the world’s most important stock markets reached record highs in the last month of 2019 — but do investors feel that markets have peaked?
When he finishes negotiating his “deal” with China, US President Donald Trump will probably try to take credit for the country’s shrinking current account surplus with the rest of the world.
However, the fact that China’s exports are slowing is not a new phenomenon, and it is not necessarily a reason to celebrate.