February 16, 2015

What flight to quality? To dangerously overpopulated safe havens?

Jonathan Wheatley quotes Stuart Oakley, global head of EM foreign exchange trading at Nomura: “The point of QE is to inflate the real economy. But instead of driving growth it is creating asset bubbles”, “Emerging bubble”, February 16.

How could it be otherwise? The growth of the real economy depends much on allowing the real economies’ “risky” risk-takers, like SMEs and entrepreneurs, to do their job. And that has been blocked by capital requirements for banks that force equity scarce banks to hold more equity when lending to the “risky” than when lending to the “safe”.

And the article speaks about “Flight to quality”. What quality? The usually safe havens, those usually used by widows and orphans, are now being dangerously overpopulated by banks following the instructions imparted by regulators.

Wheatley also refers to “while the yield on the benchmark US Treasury bond has fallen from 6 per cent in 2000 to less than 2 per cent today, the returns sought by many US public pension funds have barely changed at about 8 per cent.” And Sir, if you consider that “less than 2 per cent”, in light of a by the Fed declared inflation target of 2 per cent, then buying those bonds would amount to a sort of prepaid pre-accepted haircut, which could be something prohibited for pension funds to do.