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Five Ps can help determine if the market has bottomed
BULLS and bears remain at loggerheads about whether risk assets have hit a bottom. The following five Ps may provide an answer: pandemic, production, policies, positioning and prices.
Investors have fled emerging markets in record numbers since the outbreak of the coronavirus, even though central banks and governments have piled on stimulus to counter the impact of the deadly pathogen. While strategists at companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co have concluded that most risk assets have seen their low points, others at firms like Deutsche Bank say it is too early to sound the all-clear.
The following factors may give an insight into the elusive turning point:
Markets have shown some signs of recovery now that the rate of change in the global caseload has begun to ease. Seven-day growth slowed to about 107 per cent as of March 31, from 123 per cent on March 27, going by data from Johns Hopkins University. One caveat is that these numbers depend on the availability of test kits and how infections are defined. A number of epidemiologists have also suggested that once lockdowns are relaxed, the world will be at risk of rates of infection rising again.
Markets appear to believe that global production has hit its nadir. During the global financial crisis, the MSCI World Index rebounded from its low even though the world economy was still contracting rapidly. The markets troughed when the JPMorgan Global PMI reading was around 36.8 on March 9, 2009. The key cause for optimism was that the rate of deterioration had abated. In the current situation, it does appear as if Chinese production is recovering more rapidly than economists forecast, for example.
The key difference now, though, is that there may be new waves of infection once production resumes, which could lead to additional shutdowns. This makes the identification of a trough less meaningful, because the global recovery may stutter rather than enjoy a clear take-off path as it did after March 2009.
Policy makers in Group-of-10 nations have already reacted on a greater scale and more rapidly than they did during the global financial crisis. But for emerging markets especially, further policy convergence from the People's Bank of China may be needed to stabilise the situation. The US and Chinese policy became aligned fairly quickly during the global financial crisis. On this occasion, however, China's macro response continues to lag behind that of the US.
The surge in foreign outflows from emerging Asian markets last month was unprecedented. The combined net foreign withdrawal from the stock markets of India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand climbed to a record. At the same time, the sales only amounted to around 44 per cent of the cumulative total reached during the period from August 2007 through February 2009, going by data compiled by Bloomberg.
As yet, stocks have not suffered the scale of declines seen in past recessions. The S&P 500 Index will fall to 2,000, but then rally to end the year around 3,000, said David Kostin, Goldman Sachs Group Inc's chief US equity strategist in New York.
A more simplistic benchmarking of the decline in the index against the drawdowns that took place after 2000 and 2008 makes it appear that further downside is still possible.
Looking at the situation as a whole, the overwhelmingly most-important measure - that of the rate of increase in the pandemic caseload - appears to vindicate the market's rebound. So too does the very aggressive actions taken by global policy makers.
That said, there remains a significant risk of further waves of infection. Such episodes are likely to be met with further lockdowns and interruptions in production, and probably lead to further reduction in risk positioning and a further decline in prices. BLOOMBERG
- Simon Flint is an emerging-market strategist at Bloomberg News. The observations he makes are his own and not intended as investment advice