At present, our working hypothesis for 2019 is that, following a potentially quite bright start to the year as the US approaches its ‘peak fiscal stimulus’ and the Administration runs down some of its savings deposit holdings at the Federal Reserve (for reasons connected with the Debt Ceiling), global liquidity conditions and in particular dollar liquidity conditions are likely to tighten quite significantly – and possibly severely – during the second quarter.
The late 1990s and mid 2000s were periods that appeared characterised by above trend growth in much of the OECD and ‘unexpectedly’ low rates of inflation, a combination that was blithely described as the ‘Goldilocks Economy’.
In 1986, the governors of the G5 ‘arguably most important’ central banks were P Volcker (USA, life-time central banker / Treasury Official); K-O Pohl (Germany, Journalist / Central Banker); S Sumita (Japan, life-time MoF / BoJ); R Leigh-Pemberton (UK, ex Commercial Banker); and M Camdessus (France, bureaucrat).
While it is difficult to believe that it is ten years since the GFC, the world has changed significantly since then. Although the US financial system remains the dominant force within global capital markets & flows, the way in which banks and financial institutions operate has evolved in the QE / low rate regime.
In many respects, we tend to view the price of a conventional bond and the price earnings ratio of an equity as being broadly equivalent concepts, in that the bond price in effect is the market price for the payment of a known (fixed) income amount over a usually finite number of years, while a PER is the market’s current valuation of a largely unknown income stream over an unknown time span. In effect, both are the markets’ valuation of different types of income stream and we can of course imagine that at times the markets may prefer the ‘certainty’ of a bond, while at other times they may need the flexibility or upside of the income that can be gained from owning equities.
“If in doubt, add more credit” seems to have become the global mantra or ‘solve all’ policy recommendation for the last 10 – 20 years.
There is currently much talk within the financial markets of the ‘new PIGS’, a group of countries which are widely viewed as having inflated property markets and notably elevated levels of debt that are therefore likely to prove vulnerable to the tightening in global (banking system) liquidity trends.
Although Italy possesses a useful and not insignificant visible trade surplus, the country is nevertheless continuing to suffer from persistent and we might suggest remarkably large capital account deficits as its domestic savers by and large continue to shun the local asset markets
In a somewhat unscientific way, we could suggest that risk markets have lost their ability to shrug off bad news and even economic disappointment (despite all of the hoopla, 2017 did not in fact live up to consensus expectations) and instead seem now to view any adverse news as a reason to sell.
Our starting point for this year was that global growth would be ‘satisfactory’ and that it would once again be led primarily by China’s continuing import boom.