As August comes to a close, one can’t help but wonder just how dependent risk assets have become on everything from tweets to rebalancing. The biggest form of life-support comes from the Fed: equities are in a world of total dependency.
What’s lost in the kerfuffle over signals that may or may not be sent by shape of the Treasury curve is the fact that the front-end is now doing precisely what Fed officials feared the most – and what they are least equipped to handle.
This isn’t intended as a rant against the practice of diversification – nothing could be further from the truth. But, like all popular investment tools, there’s a mythology that’s been created around modern portfolio theory to suggest a panacea to cure all ills. It’s peddled as a fairy tale that ends with investor & portfolio happily ever after – together on a horse, riding off into the sunset. My argument is that the benefits of diversification depend on having appropriately calibrated priors. And when those priors are dramatically altered, it’s time to reassess – not double-down.
The Fed now spends over 1/3 of its time talking about financial markets in the minutes. That’s more than trade, monetary policy & employment combined. This unhealthy obsession is a distraction – and it’s guiding the market in a dangerous direction.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently about $ strength preventing risk assets from making new highs. I don’t dispute the fact – it’s pretty obvious that we’re losing badly in the battle for competitive devaluation that global central banks have embarked upon. But it’s even worse than the headlines might suggest: where the real damage is being done is in FX forward markets. In some cases, 12mth $ funding has more than doubled in the last two months alone. #China #Europe #Canada, etc.
A 4-sigma event would be expected to happen once or twice in a trading lifetime – according to the most popular VaR-based risk models. We’ve seen 10 of those this month in Treasuries. What we should have learned from the GFC has been all but forgotten. What the market had considered to be impossibilities (or at least highly unlikely…) is quickly becoming the norm.