The Covid-19 pandemic viciously accelerated the dangerous levering up of the global economy that unfolded during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Central banks printed ever more money and took policy rates close to the zero bound in all developed economies. The policy of near infinite liquidity provision and easing financial conditions at all costs has pushed global sovereign and investment-grade corporate yields to historical lows and forced investors to take positions in riskier assets.
As 2021 gets under way, the merciless march of lower yields has left yield-seeking investors sitting on a pile of low-yielding junk debt with terrible reward-to-risk profiles, as zombie corporates teeter on the brink of default, having only survived the pandemic months with handouts and the lower refinancing costs. The investors’ risky stance is justified by the prospect of an effective vaccine bringing a new boom in economic growth. But reality doesn’t prove so kind, as the vaccine roll-out and the removal of Covid-19 restrictions and normalisation leads to a sharp spike in inflation. In perfect hindsight it turns out the economy was vastly over-stimulated during the pandemic, and the ripping post-vaccine recovery rapidly overheats the economy. Inflation rises and unemployment falls so rapidly that the Fed allows long treasury yields to spike higher, taking the yield on riskier debt with it.
The Fed ends up making a policy mistake by allowing financial conditions to tighten too rapidly via higher longer rates, having never implemented yield curve control as they were too distracted by the sudden spectre of 4-5% annualised inflation and 6-8% annualised wage gains by Q3. Corporate defaults rise to their highest in years, with the first to go the most over-levered companies in the physical retail space that were already struggling in the solid, pre-Covid economy. For the first time in economic history, a strong recovery sees rising defaults.
Trade: Short HYG and JNK High Yield corporate ETFs
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Outrageous Predictions 2023: The War Economy
- The constantly growing global need for energy drives the world's richest to huddle up and launch a R&D project in a size the world hasn't seen since the Manhattan Project gave the US the first atomic bomb.
French President Macron resignsThe political stalemate in France and the rise of Marie Le Pen following the 2022 elections corners President Macron, forcing him to give up on politics and resign from his position. At least for now.
Gold rockets to USD 3,000 as central banks fail on inflation mandateAs markets and central banks realise that the idea that inflation is transitory is wrong, and that prices will remain higher for longer, gold is sent through the roof, hitting a price tag of USD 3,000
EU Army forces EU down path to full unionWith continued challenges in the region and a US military that isn't aggressively enacting its former role as global policeman, the European Union agrees to create its own armed forces, bringing the whole region closer.
A country agrees to ban all meat production by 2030In an effort to become one of the global leaders on the path to net-zero emissions, one country decides to not only put a heavy tax on meat, but to ban domestic production entirely.
UK holds UnBrexit referendumFollowing a recession and domestic pressure, the United Kingdom is thrown into political turmoil that will end with a vote to wind back Brexit.
Widespread price controls are introduced to cap official inflationHistory tells us that with the war economy comes rationing and price controls. And this time is no different, as policymakers introduce strict price controls that lead to a range of unintended consequences.
OPEC+ & Chindia walk out of the IMF, agree to trade with new reserve assetSanctions against Russia have caused widespread turmoil due to US Dollar moves in countries across the globe that don't consider the US an ally. To relieve themselves from this, they leave the IMF and create a new reserve asset.
USDJPY fixed to the USD at 200 as Japan overhauls financial systemFollowing the challenges that faced the Japanese Yen in 2022, the Bank of Japan attempts to keep the currency from sliding. Unsuccessful on the long-term, Japan will launch a reset of its entire financial system.
Tax haven ban kills private equityWith the war economy comes an increased focus on national interests and sovereign nations' ability to assert themselves. In that regard, the OECD countries turn their attention on tax havens and pull the big guns out, banning them altogether.