• 266 days Could Crypto Overtake Traditional Investment?
  • 271 days Americans Still Quitting Jobs At Record Pace
  • 273 days FinTech Startups Tapping VC Money for ‘Immigrant Banking’
  • 276 days Is The Dollar Too Strong?
  • 276 days Big Tech Disappoints Investors on Earnings Calls
  • 277 days Fear And Celebration On Twitter as Musk Takes The Reins
  • 279 days China Is Quietly Trying To Distance Itself From Russia
  • 279 days Tech and Internet Giants’ Earnings In Focus After Netflix’s Stinker
  • 283 days Crypto Investors Won Big In 2021
  • 283 days The ‘Metaverse’ Economy Could be Worth $13 Trillion By 2030
  • 284 days Food Prices Are Skyrocketing As Putin’s War Persists
  • 286 days Pentagon Resignations Illustrate Our ‘Commercial’ Defense Dilemma
  • 287 days US Banks Shrug off Nearly $15 Billion In Russian Write-Offs
  • 290 days Cannabis Stocks in Holding Pattern Despite Positive Momentum
  • 291 days Is Musk A Bastion Of Free Speech Or Will His Absolutist Stance Backfire?
  • 291 days Two ETFs That Could Hedge Against Extreme Market Volatility
  • 293 days Are NFTs About To Take Over Gaming?
  • 294 days Europe’s Economy Is On The Brink As Putin’s War Escalates
  • 297 days What’s Causing Inflation In The United States?
  • 298 days Intel Joins Russian Exodus as Chip Shortage Digs In
  1. Home
  2. Markets
  3. Other

Roller Skating in a Buffalo Herd

The ECB fired its "bazooka" today, cutting official rates more into negative territory, increasing QE by another €20bln per month, expanding the range of assets the central bank can buy to now include corporate bonds, and creating a new 4-year program whereby the ECB will loan long-term money to banks at rates that could be negative (based on bank credit extended to corporate and personal borrowers).

My point today is not to opine on the power or wisdom of these policy moves. The main thing I want to observe is this: the inflation market is pricing in what amounts to success for global central banks, with consumer inflation averaging something between 1 and 2 percent per year for the next decade (a bit lower in Japan; a bit higher in the UK). Not only are inflation swaps prices much lower than would be expected from a pure monetarists' standpoint - but options prices are also very low. The chart below (source: Enduring Investments) shows normalized volatilities[1] over the last five years for a 10-year, 2% year-over-year inflation cap. That is, every year you take a look and see if inflation was over 2%. If it was, then the owner of this option is paid the difference between actual inflation and 2%; if it was not, the owner gets zero. So you get to look ten times at whether inflation has gotten above 2%, and get paid each time it has.

Normalized Implied vol 10y 2% USCPI caps

The chart shows that whatever inflation is expected to be, the price to cover the risk that inflation is actually somewhat higher is very low. So, not only is inflation expected to be low, but it is expected to be not volatile either.

Look, we're talking about bazookas, helicopters...does something not seem right about pricing in very little risk of screwing up?

Whether you believe my thesis in my freshly-released book What's Wrong With Money?[2] that the likely course of inflation over the next few years is higher and potentially much higher, or you agree with those who think deflation is imminent, shouldn't we agree that bazookas introduce volatility?

Central banks are attempting to do something that has never been done. Shouldn't we at least be a teensy bit nervous, as they line up to perform the first-ever quintuple-lutz, that no one has ever landed one before? That no one has ever landed a commercial passenger jet on an aircraft carrier?

Uncertainty is supposed to lower asset values, all else being equal. So even if you think stocks at these levels are "fair," in an environment with earnings and interest rates where they are now and projected earnings following a certain path, an increase in the volatility of those outcomes should lower the clearing price of those assets since the buyer of the asset (which has positive value) is also assuming the volatility (which has a negative value).

But the market also says that uncertainty right now is low. Yes, the VIX is well off its lows and seems to suggest greater short-term uncertainty (see chart below, source Bloomberg) - but I would argue that the long-term volatility of the economic fundamentals has rarely been this high.

VIX

Supposedly you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd,[3] but we also have never tried to do it. There's a reason we haven't tried to do it!

But the Fed, and the rest of the world's central banks, are not only roller skating in a buffalo herd - the world's markets seem to be suggesting that investors are sure they're going to succeed. Regardless of whether you're optimistic about the outcome, I would argue it's nearly impossible to be both optimistic and highly confident!

 


[1] This means something to options traders but can be glossed over by non-options traders. Essentially the point is that you can't use a regular Black-Scholes model to price options if the strike and/or the forward can have a negative value!

[2] #1 on Amazon in "Economic Inflation," thanks largely to all of you!

[3] Roger Miller

You can follow me @inflation_guy!

Enduring Investments is a registered investment adviser that specializes in solving inflation-related problems. Fill out the contact form at http://www.EnduringInvestments.com/contact and we will send you our latest Quarterly Inflation Outlook. And if you make sure to put your physical mailing address in the "comment" section of the contact form, we will also send you a copy of Michael Ashton's book "Maestro, My Ass!"

 

Back to homepage

Leave a comment

Leave a comment