Saturday, 22 December 2012

In a World Full of Risk, Why Are Investors So Calm?

Leuthold’s monthly Risk Aversion Index, which bakes together various credit and swap spreads, commodity and currency prices, and relative asset returns to offer a broad gauge of skittishness, is at a record low going back to 1980. That span includes the Crash of ’87, the rolling emerging-market contagions of the 1990s, and the multiple human and financial calamities of the past decade.

How does this overwhelming calm jibe with the prevailing uncertainty of our times?
“The so-called Bernanke put—or, more accurately, global central bank put—is suppressing most of the risk and fear gauges,” says Leuthold’s Chun Wang. “And just about all asset classes, risky or risk-free, have been bid up.” Wang finds that low-fear backdrops like this historically last much longer than high-fear ones, and that increasing signs that housing and China are on the mend only add to the general chill-out.
It’s been a paradoxical climate for investors, who have seen the rather unique confluence of low economic growth with double-digit global equity returns—something that normally doesn’t happen in the absence of post-recession relief rallies and/or significant interest-rate declines.
Some are already conflating all this calm with complacency, warning that danger lies ahead.

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