The global equity party
The buzz is getting louder. Even as economists and fundamental analysts worry about recession, inflation and price bubbles, stocks and indices across the world are soaring to new heights. In Asia, Latin America, Europe and even the US where the biggest fundamental concerns abound. This has been one long, uninterrupted global party. There have been minor blips along the way but these corrections have been so short-lived that they have ended even before the doomsayers could spell correction. In fact, what looked like resilience a while ago resembles outright momentum at this point.
Emerging markets are leading the charge. While China is in a zone of its own, the rest of Asia is not exactly sulking. South Korea is 33 per cent higher than the previous top it made before the Feb-March correction, Indonesia 27 per cent, Thailand 23 per cent, Taiwan 20 per cent, China 30 per cent and even Brazil 25 per cent. India is only about 4 per cent higher than its previous top. When markets make new highs with margins as large, something special is going on. Earlier, this emerging market strength was being read as a sign of decoupling from the US market. But look at the US now; despite fears of the sub-prime mortgage situation worsening the Dow is marching towards 14,000 even as the S&P 500 hits new peaks. The market is feeding on every new deal like the Rio Tinto-Alcan one or the rumoured Unilever-Colgate one to forge ahead. Bond yields above 5 per cent do not seem to be bothering equity investors much anymore.
It is indeed amazing how much potentially damaging news global markets have absorbed without blinking. The rise in US bond yields, tremors from the US housing market, crude oil at $72, occasional meltdowns in the Chinese market--yet equities continue to rally and hit new highs. One wonders, is this just the weight of money or is there something we cannot see at this point? Is this simply blind euphoria headed for another sell-off or a structural adjustment to some global economic realities that are not apparent today. Unfortunately, like most people, I can only ask the question. Time alone will provide the answer, hopefully it will be the latter.
(The writer is Executive Editor, CNBC-TV 18)