Just shy of the new year, financial markets continue to be dominated by the extent of monetary accommodation. Especially in major advanced economies, bonds and stocks have shrugged off the summer sell-off and posted gains on the view that low policy rates and large-scale asset purchases would persist longer. Much attention has been given to the hope of a strengthening in the U.S. economy.
In Abe Gulkowitz’ latest The PunchLine letter, he highlights the key elements from a very slowly improving labor market to the amazing moves in asset markets with ‘all the charts you can eat’ in between. The unnatural easing stance, though necessary, spurred an aberrant demand for assets in the riskier end of the spectrum. By and large, such assets have so far lived up to their promise. The new year may again challenge that assumption as the likelihood of unlikely events rises.
Markets took in stride a two-week US government shutdown and uncertainty over a US technical default. By contrast, a wide range of country-specific strains weighed on several large emerging market economies, preventing a full recovery of local asset valuations and capital flows. Much attention has been given to the hope of a strengthening in the U.S. economy.
Real estate values and equity market valuations have bolstered both business and household wealth — and the outlook for spending in 2014. The perceived postponement of Fed tapering gave rise to significant gains in global bond and equity markets. Indeed, some have questioned whether the recovery in home prices in some areas has moved too quickly. Any move to normalcy, however gradual, will test markets.
The dreaded tapering will remain a key focus of markets… As the accommodative monetary policy stance persisted in all major currency areas, so did investors’ desperate search for yield. The unnatural easing stance, though necessary, spurred an aberrant demand for assets in the riskier end of the spectrum. By and large, such assets have so far lived up to their promise.
The new year may again challenge that assumption.