The Saudi Asset Grab May Be Forcing Selling Across Global Stocks, Bonds, Gold

By Bryan Rich

November 13, 2017, 4:00pm EST

BR caricatureInto the latter part of last week, we had some indiscriminate selling in some key markets. First it was Japanese stocks that followed a new 25-year high with a 1,100 point drop. Then we had some significant selling in junk bonds and U.S. Treasuries. And then four million ounces of gold was sold in about a 10 minute period on Friday.

Markets were tame today, but as I said on Friday, the potential ripples from the political shakeup and related asset freeze in Saudi Arabia is a risk that still doesn’t seem to be given enough attention. I often talk about the many fundamental reasons to believe stocks can go much higher. But experience has shown me that markets don’t go in a straight line. There are corrections along the way, and we haven’t had one in a while.

With that said, since 1946, the S&P 500 has had a 10% decline about once a year (according to American Funds research).

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The largest decline this year has been only 3.4%.

I could see a scenario play out, with forced selling related to the Saudi events, that looks a lot like this correction in 2014.

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This chart was fear driven – when the Ebola fears were ramping up. You can see how quickly the slide accelerated. The decline hit 10% on the nose, and quickly reversed. Fear and forced selling are great opportunities to buy-into. This decline was completely recovered in 30 trading days.

We constantly hear predictions of impending corrections, pointing to all of the clear evidence that should drive it, but corrections are often caused by events that are less pervasive in the market psyche. The Saudi story would qualify. And we’re in a market that is underpricing volatility at the moment – with the VIX sitting only a couple of points off of record lows (i.e. little to no fear). Forced liquidations can create some fear.

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