How much of where equities are today has come from quantitative easing (QE)? For a long time the answer to this question has not really been that important to equity investors. But now, with central banks moving towards shrinking their balance sheets, it’s a question equity investors can no longer ignore. My view is that QE may not have contributed much to the equity rally and therefore its unwinding may not be a major concern either.
The rise of Chelsea and Man City shows that it takes a lot of money to break into the Champions League elite, but once you're there, it creates a virtuous circle. The same is true for inflation. There is a self-reinforcing loop of high inflation expectations, wages and prices. But the 2014 oil shock looks to have knocked the US and Japan out. Consumers' inflation expectations remain stubbornly low.
History is littered with episodes where the rules of economics were declared dead, only for these rules to return with a vengeance. You remember the ‘end of the business cycle’ debate in the late 90s or the ‘great moderation’ paradigm of the early 00s? Despite these precedents and despite overwhelming evidence that large debt build-ups can end in tears, we believe a Chinese financial crisis is not that likely over the next 2-3 years.
As deflationary disappointment continues, we think that structural drivers are making it hard to generate wage inflation. As central banks all try to bluff it out, I take a tour of the pressures facing the US, UK and Europe and what we think it means for asset classes.