SHAKIN’ ALL OVER: MARKETPLACE FEARS © Leo Haviland August 13, 2015

China’s recent shocking currency devaluation underscores not only that country’s ongoing growth slowdown, but also its leaders’ fears that real GDP expansion rates will ebb further. China of course is not the only emerging/developing nation nervous about insufficient output or even recessions. Trends in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar, emerging stock marketplaces, and commodities “in general” signal (confirm) slowing growth in both emerging and OECD economies. Moreover, recent pronouncements by the International Monetary Fund regarding the central bank policies of key advanced countries manifest widespread worries about growth in these well-developed territories. Despite about seven years of highly accommodative monetary policies such as yield repression and money printing (and frequently bolstered by hefty deficit spending), the foundations of worldwide growth increasingly look shaky.

China’s devaluation assists the long-running bull charge in the broad real trade-weighted US dollar (“TWD”). China represents about 21.3 percent of the TWD (Federal Reserve, H.10).


Are central banks and politicians always devoted to so-called “free markets”? To what extent do they restrict themselves from entering into and manipulating marketplaces?

In any case, the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England have long been married (roughly seven years) to highly accommodative monetary policies. They do not seem to be in a rush to change them substantially anytime soon. The Fed’s apparent willingness to make a minor (gradual) boost in the Federal Funds rate in the near term is not a dramatic shift in its highly accommodative policy.

Inflation (and interest rate) and unemployment targets are not divorced from opinions regarding what constitutes sufficient (appropriate; desirable) real GDP growth levels and trends. An economic boom currently does not exist in the OECD in general. So if substantial “normalization” of monetary policy is not imminent among key advanced nations, then arguably central bankers believe that prospective growth GDP probably will remain rather feeble for at least the near term.


Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the phrase, “irrational exuberance” (Speech, “The Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society, 12/5/96). About two decades later, this financial guardian proclaimed (Bloomberg Television interview, 8/10/15): “I think we have a pending bond market bubble.” Of course, as in 1996, defining and identifying a bubble and predicting when (and why and how) it will pop and the consequences of such an event remains challenging.

Flights to quality can play a role in creating low interest rate yields, particularly in the safe haven government debt securities of countries such as the United States and Germany. However, sustained yield suppression by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and others, which motivates avid searches for yield (return) in assorted financial playgrounds (including stocks), surely encourages low interest rates in both government and many other debt arenas. Think of corporate bonds. In any case, suppose there is a bond price bubble (“too high” or “overvalued” bond prices; too depressed yields) in the United States. So presumably as various marketplaces interconnect in today’s global economy, if American bond prices are at bubble levels, then arguably prices in other realms, as in the S+P 500, some real estate sectors, or the art world (painting), consequently could be inflated.

Were the S+P 500, US real estate, and art at the end of the Goldilocks Era in 2007 rather lofty?

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Shakin' All Over- Marketplace Fears (8-13-15)