More than two months have passed since the August “flash crash.” Fragilities illuminated during that bout of market turmoil still reverberate. Sure, global markets have rallied back strongly. Bullish news, analysis and sentiment have followed suit, as they do. The poor bears have again been bullied into submission, as the punchy bulls have somehow become further emboldened. The optimists are even more deeply convinced of U.S., Chinese and global resilience (the 2008 crisis “100-year flood” view). Fears of China, EM and global tumult were way overblown, they now contend. As anticipated, global officials remain in full control. All is rosy again, except for the fact that global central bankers behave as if they’re utterly terrified of something.
The way I see it, underlying system fragility has become so acute that central bankers are convinced that they must now forcefully (“shock and awe,” “beat expectations,” etc.) react to any fledgling market “risk off” dynamic. Risk aversion and de-leveraging must not gather momentum. If fragilities are not thwarted early, they could easily unfold into something difficult to control. Such an outcome would risk a break in market confidence that central banks have everything well under control – faith that is now fully embedded in the pricing and structure for tens of Trillions of securities and hundreds of Trillions of associated derivatives – everywhere. With options at this point limited, the so-called “risk management” approach dictates that central banks err on the side of using their limited armaments forcibly and preemptively.
With today’s extraordinary global backdrop in mind, I’m this week noting a few definitions of “Hobson’s Choice”: