Mr Market is never wrong

I am one of the strongest advocates of free markets among people that I know. When I hear of the left, the cronies, the globalists and the common or garden rent seeker claiming the need for state coercive intervention owing to ‘market failure’, my response is invariably “there is no such thing as market failure, but there are outcomes that you don’t like: don’t get those two confused.”

Really?

In this case, without proclaiming the market is wrong, I can’t see how it can be right. Ordinarily, higher interest rates will not curb inflation until the real interest rate is positive. So, we’ll see if Mr Market is merely sorting cards on the table and still making up his mind.

In the business pages

It’s sometimes refreshing to get a laugh out of the business press, especially when much news is rather gloomy. 

First up today is James Glynn (writing in the Australian) who attempts to defend the Reserve Bank of Australia. His headline says it is unfair to rage against the RBA. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have been a harsh critic of the RBA for many years, so I naturally expected this piece to start my day on a humorous note. James did not disappoint. 

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Aren’t these guys meant to know better?

Way back in June 2020 when Guy Debelle was still employed by Australia’s Reserve Bank (RBA), he made a speech in response to market jitters over the unprecedented expansion of bank credit. He said it would not lead to inflation.

In November 2021, the RBA Governor Lowe said he wasn’t expecting inflation to hit the 2% to 3% pa target range until late 2023 and so there would be no interest rate increases in 2022 but maybe there would be in 2023.

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Stock markets

Price inflation data for May 2022 was released yesterday in the US. Over the full year to end May, the consumer price index increased by 8.6%. The AFR reports that this is the highest 1 year increase in 40 years. The stock markets reacted badly. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 2.7% and the NASDAQ lost 3.5% in value.

That stocks have been broadly overvalued is well accepted. Part of the reason supporting high valuations was low discount rates. A year ago, the average P/E ratio on stocks in the S&P500 was over 37. Today, it is 21.5. That reduction will have been largely driven by recent market sell offs and revaluations with higher discount rates as yields on debt markets increase. But 21 still looks expensive. I’m not sure I want to pay $21 to buy a future earnings stream of $1pa. With the high likelihood of further increases in discount rates plus risks to underlying earnings owing to economic malaise, the P/E ratios are under pressure both on the top line and bottom line.

I’d expect there is more red ink to come.