Everyone knows that after nearly a decade of capital markets central planning by the world’s central banks, “good news is bad news.” But did you also know that financial armageddon has become the most bullish catalyst to buy stocks? That’s the understated take-home message from the year ahead preview by Macquarie’s Viktor Shvets published last week. It is also the conclusion that One River Asset Management’s Eric Peters reached in his latest weekend notes.
While we will have much more to comment on Macquarie’s rather macabre 2018 preview, which is arguably one of the most honest, comprehensive, and objective predictions of what to expect from the “central bank/market confidence boosting nexus”, we will highlight the one argument that has served to promote countless BTFD algo-driven stock rips, summarized in the following blurb, which is a sublime explanation by Viktor Shvets the worst things are, the more you should buy:
If volatilities jump, CBs would need to reset the ‘background picture’. The challenge is that even with the best of intentions, the process is far from automatic, and hence there could be months of extended volatility (a la Dec’15-Feb’16). If one ignores shorter-term aberrations, we maintain that there is no alternative to policies that have been pursued since 1980s of deliberately suppressing and managing business and capital market cycles. [T]his implies that a relatively pleasant ‘Kondratieff autumn’ (characterized by inability to raise cost of capital against a background of constrained but positive growth and inflation rates) is likely to endure. Indeed, two generations of investors grew up knowing nothing else. They have never experienced either scorching summers or freezing winters, as public sector refused to allow debt repudiation, deleveraging or clearance of excesses. Although this cannot last forever, there is no reason to believe that the end of the road would necessarily occur in 2018 or 2019. It is true that policy risks are more heightened but so is policy recognition of dangers.
We therefore remain constructive on financial assets (as we have been for quite some time), not because we believe in a sustainable and private sector-led recovery but rather because we do not believe in one, and thus we do not see any viable alternatives to an ongoing financialization, which needs to be facilitated through excess liquidity, and avoiding proper price and risk discovery, and thus avoiding asset price volatilities.
Translation: central banks remain trapped by the mountain-sized bubble they have blown with years of QE and ZIRP/NIRP, and once volatility returns, and risk assets plunge, CBs will have no choice but to scramble right back and prevent the pyramid from keeling over and undoing a decade of fake “wealth creation” which was pulled from the future to the tune of $15 trillion in central bank asset purchases, which while still rising is about to go into reverse in just over a year’s time.
If that’s not enough, here is One River’s Eric Peters, with the exact same conclusion:
“The market has an accident, the Fed returns to QE, slashes interest rates, bonds surge, stocks recover,” said the CIO, high atop his prodigious pile, alone. Staring into the distance. Squinting, straining.
“The correlation between bonds and equities remains negative, the risk parity equity/bond portfolios are dented but not destroyed. And we descend to the next lower level in real interest rates. US bond yields turn negative. In essence, we prolong the paradigm that has driven markets for a few decades.”
Far below, economies hummed in harmony, capitalists collecting their expanding share. “A continuation of this paradigm is what everyone believes. And I just doubt that outcome so sincerely.” Hidden within the distant economic whir, labor strived, struggled. Their wage growth anemic, their children indebted, career prospects uncertain.
“It has taken time, but the political context for a regime shift is now established; populism is evident in recent elections. And the academic context for a seismic economic policy shift is in place too.”
The extraordinary response to the global financial crisis prevented depression. But the price of salvation is proving to be as profound as it is impossible to precisely measure — unexpected election outcomes, political paralysis, an isolationist America, de-globalization, fake news, opioid epidemics.
And connecting it all, a corrosive, woven thread; injustice, unfairness, inequality, hypocrisy, distrust, endemic, growing. “We are on the cusp of great change, the old paradigm is set to shift,” he said, at altitude, the air crisp, clear.
“The market has an accident, monetary policy is seen to be bust, the models have been wrong, we have to change what we do, we can’t go down the same route, we need to move to a different policy mix. Fiscal expansion, infrastructure, labor over capital. We’re moving to something that may be great for the economy, but no good for asset markets. New Regime — end of story.”