It is becoming increasingly difficult for central banks to surprise the markets with good news. No matter how dovish they are, investors expect them to be even more dovish still. This financial repression has facilitated the rise of populist politicians, who threaten to bring the end of central banks’ independence.
January was an extraordinarily positive month in the markets for virtually all assets, after a horrible 2018 — and it’s all due to the Fed. The US central bank executed a massive U-turn in its monetary policy and, while many observers like to point to low inflation as the reason for the Fed’s aborted effort to normalise monetary policy, something more sinister is behind it.
Corporate bondholders, beware. The wave of enthusiasm for this asset class, which has helped it to reach new heights, is now ebbing. A research paper recently published by the IMF illustrates the reasons behind this – although it must be said the paper does not represent the official position of the IMF.
If anyone was looking for more proof of how central banks’ actions are distorting the markets, here it is: investors are trying to “front-run” the European Central Bank (ECB) – in the words of analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch — by buying investment grade bonds.
As the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) starts talks on what is probably the most watched interest rate hike in history, the importance of getting it right cannot be over-emphasized.