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With markets advancing, mounting risks are easily disregarded. “Deficits don’t matter.” Debt concerns are archaic. Market Structure is a nothing burger

Posted by Richard640 @ 13:49 on February 9, 2019  

Why have safe haven assets performed so well in the face of surging equities and corporate debt? Because current Market Structure is inherently unstable and increasingly prone to an accident. Today’s buyers of Treasuries, bunds and JGBs are less concerned with January/Q1 equities and junk bond returns, keenly focused instead on acute global market instabilities and the inevitability of a systemic market liquidity event. I would further argue that this dysfunctional market dynamic recalls the destabilizing rally in Treasuries and agency securities in 2007 and well into 2008. This market anomaly stoked end-of-cycle speculative Bubble excess and exacerbated systemic fragilities.

When risk markets advance, news and analysis invariably focus on the positives – an expanding U.S. economy, prospects for a trade deal with China, buoyant profits, a backdrop of ongoing exciting technological advancements, perpetual low interest rates, endless loose financial conditions, etc. With markets advancing, mounting risks are easily disregarded. “Deficits don’t matter.” Debt concerns are archaic. Market Structure is a nothing burger. Best to ignore escalating social, political and geopolitical risks. The unfolding clash between the U.S. and the rising China superpower – it’s nothing. An increasingly fragmented and combative world – ditto.  

As we saw in December, sinking markets direct attention to an expanding list of troubling developments. Years of inflating securities prices seemed to demonstrate that so many of the old worries were unjustified – none really mattered. The problem is that many do matter – and some tremendously. The current extraordinary backdrop has all the makings for a decisive bearish turn in market sentiment that would create a problematic feedback loop within the real economy – domestically and globally.

I’ll highlight an issue that has come to be easily dismissed – yet matters tremendously. Zero rates and QE were a policy experiment. The consensus view holds that the great success of this monetary exercise ensures that QE is now a permanent fixture in the central banking “tool kit”. The original premise of this experiment rested on the supposition that a temporary boost of liquidity would stimulate higher risk market prices and risk-taking with resulting wealth effects that would loosen financial conditions while stimulating investment, spending and income growth throughout the real economy. The expectation was that a shot of stimulus would return the real economy back to its long-term trajectory.  

History teaches us that monetary inflations are rarely temporary. Travel down that road and it’s nearly impossible to get off. Dr. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve and global central bankers never contemplated what a decade of unending monetary stimulus would do to Market and Financial Structure. Most – in policy circles and the marketplace – believe beyond a doubt that monetary stimulus was hugely successful in resuscitating economic growth dynamics.


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Post by the Golden Rule. Oasis not responsible for content/accuracy of posts. DYODD.