Ten years after the crisis, volatility and fear have disappeared from markets. A synchronous global expansion coupled with persistently loose monetary policy produced a Goldilocks era for asset prices, culminating in fantastic returns in 2017. Will it last for another year? The short answer is: we have reasons to be cautious. Several macro analysts have called this an environment of rational exuberance. Volatility and asset prices are justifiably low, they say, given healthy macroeconomic conditions. Instead, we believe markets may be in a period of irrational complacency.
The signs are widespread. Yields on European junk bonds have fallen below US Treasuries. Emerging market countries with a history of default, such as Argentina, have issued 100-year bonds. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Snapchat together are worth more than the whole German Dax. Banks are again marketing CDOs. Cash-park assets including property, art, collectibles and cryptocurrencies are soaring in a parabolic fashion, like life rafts in a sea of central bank liquidity.
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