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?
Caught in the middle of the Brexit saga, European investors can be forgiven if they glossed over a speech by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell that could turn out to be the starting point of a very risky period for the global economy.
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump would want the Fed to cut interest rates and debase the dollar. Earlier this year, he called the Fed “crazy” and Powell himself, “clueless.”
Of course, Powell did not immediately show that these repeated attacks influenced his policy. However, in a speech he gave last week he reiterated his fondness for a very risky idea on how to ease monetary policy even further.
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.
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This amounted to $3.7 billion withdrawn from emerging market equities and bonds, according to data analysed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.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”.
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.