Markets are realising that the five-and-a-half year recovery since the financial crisis may already be over, says Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Combined tightening by the United States and China has done its worst. Global liquidity is evaporating.
What looked liked a gentle tap on the brakes by the two monetary superpowers has proved too much for a fragile world economy, still locked in “secular stagnation”. The latest investor survey by Bank of America shows that fund managers no longer believe the European Central Bank will step into the breach with quantitative easing of its own, at least on a worthwhile scale.
Markets are suddenly prey to the disturbing thought that the five-and-a-half year expansion since the Lehman crisis may already be over, before Europe has regained its prior level of output. That is the chief reason why the price of Brent crude has crashed by 25pc since June. It is why yields on 10-year US Treasuries have fallen to 1.96pc, and why German Bunds are pricing in perma-slump at historic lows of 0.81pc this week.
We will find out soon whether or not this a replay of 1937 when the authorities drained stimulus too early, and set off the second leg of the Great Depression.
The global financial markets are dangerously stretched and may unwind with shock force as liquidity dries up, the Bank of International Settlements has warned.
Guy Debelle, head of the BIS’s market committee, said investors have become far too complacent, wrongly believing that central banks can protect them, many staking bets that are bound to “blow up” as the first sign of stress.
In a speech in Sydney, Mr Debelle said: “The sell-off, particularly in fixed income, could be relatively violent when it comes. There are a number of investors buying assets on the presumption of a level of liquidity which is not there. This is not evident when positions are being put on, but will become readily apparent when investors attempt to exit their positions.
“The exits tend to get jammed unexpectedly and rapidly.”