Of the diverse strains of inflation, asset inflation is by far the most dangerous. A bout of consumer price inflation would be generally recognized as problematic and rectified through a tightening of monetary conditions. On the other hand, asset price inflation is both celebrated and venerated. There is simply no constituency calling for a tightening of conditions to ward off the deleterious effects of rising asset prices, Bubbles and attendant economic maladjustment. And as we’ve witnessed, the bigger the Bubble the more powerful the constituencies that rationalize, justify and promote Bubble excess.
About one year ago, I was expecting a securities markets sell-off in the event of an unexpected Donald Trump win. A Trump presidency would create disruption, upheaval and major uncertainties – political, geopolitical, economic and social. Instead of a fall, the markets experienced a short squeeze and unwind of hedges. Over-liquefied markets and a powerful inflationary bias throughout global securities markets won the day – and the winning runs unabated.
We’ve come a long way since 1992 and James Carville’s “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or as a .400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.” New age central banking has pacified bond markets and eradicated the vigilantes. These days it’s the great equities bull market as all-powerful intimidator.
The President admitted his surprise in winning the election. I suspect he and his team were astounded by the post-election market rally. I’ve always held the view that prolonged bull markets foster a portentous concentration of power – not only in the financial markets but within the financial system more generally.
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