As we headed into this past weekend, we talked about the threat that the oil bust poses to the global financial system (not too dissimilar from the housing bust), and we talked about the prospect of central bank intervention over the thinly traded U.S. holiday (Monday).
Both the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank did indeed go on the offensive, verbally, promising more action to combat the shaky global financial market environment.
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The result was a 9.5% rally in the Japanese stock market from Friday’s close. And all global markets followed suit. Within the white box in the chart below, you can see the central bank induced jump in the Nikkei (in orange) and the S&P 500 futures (in purple).
This is purely the influence on confidence by the two central banks that are now driving the global economic recovery (the BOJ and the ECB). However, the potency of the verbal threats and promises has been waning. Big words have marked bottoms along the way over the past several years for stocks, and the overall ebb and flow of global risk appetite. But it’s becoming more evident that real, bold action is required. And given that it’s cheap oil that represents the big risk to financial stability at the moment, we’ve argued that central banks should outright buy commodities (particularly oil). And we think they will.
In 2009, despite the evaporation of global demand, oil prices spiked from $32 to $73 in four months after China tapped its $3 trillion currency reserves to snap up cheap commodities. Within two years, oil was back above $100.
China’s role in the commodity market was a huge contributor to the recovery in emerging markets from the depths of the global financial and economic crisis. Brazil went from recession to growing at close to 8%. Many were saying emerging markets had survived the recession better than advanced markets, and that they were driving the global economic recovery. And Wall Street was claiming a torch passing from the developed world to the emerging world as the future of growth and leadership.
How are emerging markets doing now? Terrible. Not surprisingly, it turns out the emerging market economies need a healthy developed world to survive. And now with the additional hit of the plunge in commodity prices, Venezuela (heavily reliant on oil exports) is very near default. Brazil and Russia are both in recession. The longer oil prices stay down here, Venezuela will be the first domino to go, and others will follow. With that, we expect intervention to come. And as you can see in the response to the Nikkei overnight, it will pack a punch – and if it’s bold, a lasting one. Remember, as we said last week, historical turning points for markets often come from some form of intervention (public or private policy).
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