We are entering a new era for central banking, where the freedom to pursue the easy money policies of the past are receding. To the degree cheap money has fueled the global economy and market rise since 2009 this development is particularly worrisome for the near term. Conversely, insofar as central bank policies have created market imbalances and stood in the way of needed structural reforms this will be a long-term positive over the coming decades. In short the easy money party is winding down. And that means stock market risk is higher now than at any point since 2007.
With the news that China’s central bank is lowering interest rates, the bull market that began in 2009 is likely entering its final stage, which should carry it into at least the next year. Fears that the current global economic recovery is faltering led not just China’s central bank to cut rates, but the European Union to lower rates from 1 to 0.75 percent and the United Kingdom to increase its stimulus efforts. With a weak June jobs report, expectations of further monetary intervention by the United States also grew. But outside of China, monetary intervention is to a large degree pushing on a string. And even if China can give the world a temporary boost, the expansion of its economy will only provide a reprieve from the onset of the next downturn.
For the current secular bear market asset inflation trouble comes in threes. Too much liquidity in the global economy in the late 90’s fueled the Internet bubble of bad corporate investments that popped in 2000. To avoid the necessary restructuring pain around a recession, more liquidity was injected into the global economy leading to unsustainable growth around the residential real estate bubble that popped along with related credit markets in 2007. In another attempt to avoid restructuring pain and alleviate the following recession more liquidity is being injected into the global economy notably by the U.S. and Chinese governments. Today that capital is fueling more unsustainable price appreciation or levels in bonds, emerging markets and commodities.