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Market Commentary: Issues 2019

Market Commentary: Issues 2019

When I began posting the CBB some twenty years ago, I made a commitment to readers: “I’ll call it as I see it – and let the chips fall where they will.” Over the years, I made a further commitment to myself: Don’t be concerned with reputation – stay diligently focused on analytical integrity.

I attach this odd intro to “Issues 2019” recognizing this is a year where I could look quite foolish. I believe Global Financial Crisis is the Paramount Issue 2019. Last year saw the bursting of a historic global Bubble, Crisis Dynamics commencing with the blow-up of “short vol” strategies and attendant market instabilities. Crisis Dynamics proceeded to engulf the global “Periphery” (Argentina, Turkey, EM, more generally, and China). Receiving a transitory liquidity boost courtesy of the faltering “Periphery,” speculative Bubbles at “Core” U.S. securities markets succumbed to blow-off excess. Crisis Dynamics finally engulfed a vulnerable “Core” during 2018’s tumultuous fourth quarter.

As we begin a new year, rallying risk markets engender optimism. The storm has passed, it is believed. Especially with the Fed’s early winding down of rate “normalization”, there’s no reason why the great bull market can’t be resuscitated and extended. The U.S. economy remains reasonably strong, while Beijing has China’s slowdown well under control. A trade deal would reduce uncertainty, creating a positive boost for markets and economies. With markets stabilized, the EM boom can get back on track. As always, upside volatility reenergizes market bullishness.

I titled Issues 2018, “Market Structure.” I fully anticipate Market Structure to remain a key Issue 2019. Trend-following strategies will continue to foment volatility and instability. U.S. securities markets rallied throughout the summer of 2018 in the face of a deteriorating fundamental backdrop. That rally, surely fueled by ETF flows and derivatives strategies, exacerbated fragilities.
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