Some ten years after the outbreak of the Great Recession, global economic growth is positive and broadly based, inflation is low in the developed economies and falling in important emerging economies, and monetary policies are very supportive, cautious, and predictable. At the same time, company earnings growth has increased significantly, and the volatilities of many asset prices are low. This environment is generally positive for risky asset classes.
Two developments are prominently noticeable on the markets at the moment: on the one hand, the indicators of real economic growth suggest a stable real economic growth rate of about 3%. On the other hand, we have seen global consumer price inflation decline since the beginning of the year. The reflation phase, i.e. the general increase in inflation in the second half of 2016, seems to be over (for now).
The global economy is growing moderately, inflation is low, and the monetary policy is loose. This environment supports many asset classes from bonds to equities. The political uncertainty has been absorbed rather well so far too. Will this situation last?
Economic growth in the Eurozone has embarked on a clear upward trend. At the same time, the fear of falling wages and prices has disappeared for now. The worries over a possible break-up of the European Union have also eased. Against this backdrop, the ECB President Draghi issued a slightly more optimistic growth forecast yet again on 27 April at the press conference of the European Central Bank. This is another tiny step indicating a possible reduction of the monetary support in the medium term.
The rate of inflation has been quite substantial most recently, in comparison with the recent past and surprisingly so for many market participants. The harmonised consumer price index for the Eurozone was 2% higher on a year-on-year basis in February, which was also the highest value since 2013.
The markets were consolidating in March. The global equity index, the spreads for credit risk, and the yields of risk-free government bonds have been going sideways. Before that, the risky asset classes had recorded remarkable price increases, while risk-free bonds had incurred losses. Has the so-called reflation trade, i.e. the positioning towards rising nominal economic growth, come to an end?
The US central bank Fed increased the Fed funds rate last Wednesday. The risky asset markets reacted to the move with an increase. At the same time, the US dollar depreciated. How can that be explained?
The price declines on the equity markets at the beginning of the year suggest a decline in investor confidence. Is this justified? Please find a few hypotheses for 2016 in the following:
We have experienced an increased degree of jitters on the financial markets at the beginning of the new year. The triggers of this situation are based in China. Chinese equities have incurred a slump, and the Chinese currency has depreciated relative to the US dollar. Given that at 17% the share of the Chinese economy of the global GDP on the basis of purchase power parities had already exceeded that of the USA (16%) these developments of course come with global effects.
Interest rate decision by the Fed
Tomorrow, Thursday 17 September 2015, the federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) of the US central bank Fed will be taking an important decision. Is the Fed funds rate to be raised or not? The financial markets have accorded this decision a particularly important role. After all, the rate hike by the most important central bank in the world could cause the degree of instability on the financial market to continue rising.
Regardless of whether or not a rate hike materialises, the Fed will communicate that the interest rate cycle will only be set off very gradually. At the same time, the projection for the final level of the cycle will probably be taken down a bit. If the Fed managed to alleviate the worries of excessive rate hikes, a slight increase of the Fed funds rate on coming Thursday would not upset the financial markets in any sustainable fashion. However, the weakest segments in the emerging countries would come under pressure.