“In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream”, sings Bruce Springsteen in “Born to Run”.
Wizards in Wall Street and coaches on Main Street offer a variety of competing descriptions of and reasons for the emergence, continuation, and ending of economic trends, including bull and bear patterns in stock, interest rate, currency, and commodity marketplaces. Apparently dramatic price fluctuations and trend changes frequently inspire heated language of volatility, spikes, crashes, mania, and panic. Colorful metaphors frequently punctuate the tales and explanations. The Federal Reserve Board Chairman’s May and June 2013 tapering talk about a potential reduction in quantitative easing (money printing) in conjunction with marketplace movements generated wordplay of a “taper tantrum”.
In recent weeks, international financial marketplaces and media have worried that central bank policy tightening (or threats of such action) will ignite a taper tantrum akin to what occurred around late spring 2013. That fearsome event saw stocks plummeting and interest rate yields rising rather rapidly in the United States and elsewhere around the globe.
Not only is the Federal Reserve in the process of slowly raising the Federal Funds rate and chirping about diminishing the size of its gargantuan balance sheet. The European Central Bank and others have hinted about reducing the extent of their highly accommodative monetary policies. The ECB is buying €60 billion in mostly government bonds each month via quantitative easing. Will the ECB taper its purchases in 2018?
The Financial Times headlined: “Confusion as Carney [Bank of England Governor] and Draghi [ECB President] struggle to clarify stimulus exit” and “‘Taper tantrum’ echoes” (6/29/17, p1). “End of cheap money leaves central bankers lost for words” and “Officials struggle to convey policy direction precisely to avoid further ‘taper tantrums’” (FT, 6/29/17, p3). “Central bank retreat from QE gathers pace”; “Sudden hawkish shift in policy across the globe has analysts talking of new ‘taper tantrum’” (FT, 7/5/17, p20).
Central bank language and behavior (whether by the Fed or one of its allies) expressing willingness to reduce (or cease) very easy money schemes indeed increase the chances of rising yields in key debt signposts such as the US Treasury 10 year note and boost the likelihood of a decline in important stock benchmarks such as the S+P 500.
Though central banks nowadays may (as in 2013 and at other historical points) spark or accelerate noteworthy trends in securities (and other) marketplaces, the central bank policy factor nevertheless intertwines with numerous other economic and political phenomena. And one or more of such other variables significantly may help to inspire a noisy marketplace “tantrum”. Not all marketplace tantrums are “taper tantrums”.
FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
Marketplace Tantrums (and Other Signs, Sounds, and Fury) (7-11-17)