Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Markets at risk of overheating as investor sentiment hits bullish extreme

A story in Bloomberg suggests that credit markets are at risk from overheating, thanks to the Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Yields on a record 38 percent of the $1.1 trillion of notes sold by the neediest U.S. borrowers were trading below the 10- year average rate for investment-grade debentures last month, Barclays Plc data show. Investors poured a record $1.3 billion into U.S. leveraged loan funds last week as covenants on the debt weaken the most ever.

The central bank’s policy of keeping benchmark borrowing costs at about zero for a fifth year is pushing investors into riskier debt, even as Fed Governor Jeremy Stein warns that the market for speculative-grade debt may be overheating. While U.S. prosecutors are suing Standard & Poor’s for deliberately failing to provide warnings against losses on collateralized debt obligations before the credit crisis, the government’s stimulus is fueling demand for similar products now.

Meanwhile, Business Insider brings us a report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch that says that investor sentiment is at a bullish extreme.

The current B&B reading is 9.6 (on a scale of 0 for max bearish and 10 for max bullish). It suggests investor sentiment is currently more bullish than 99% of all readings since 2002. Extreme bullishness is characterized by robust inflows to EM equity funds, overbought high-yield credit markets relative to treasuries and aggressive hedge fund positions for a weaker yen and stronger oil prices.

Although the Fed's monetary policy is being blamed for causing markets to become overheated, it appears unlikely to change soon. From Reuters:

The Federal Reserve's aggressive easing of monetary policy is warranted given the still-battered state of the U.S. labor market, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen said on Monday...

"The gulf between maximum employment and the very difficult conditions workers face today helps explain the urgency behind the Federal Reserve's ongoing efforts to strengthen the recovery," Yellen said.

"We have taken, and are continuing to take, forceful action to increase the pace of economic growth and job creation."

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