Trend: Central banks are creating money at an unprecendented rate, using "policies" like Quantitative Easing to try to boost economies and neutralize deflation.
James Bianco at Bianco Research said:
2011 was so difficult because all stocks seemingly moved together. It was as if every S&P 500 company had the same chairman of the board that knew only one strategy, resulting in a high degree of correlation between seemingly unrelated companies.
Massive central bank involvement in the markets risks returning us to a de facto centrally planned economy. Those S&P 500 companies all have the same chairman; it is Ben Bernanke because his policies are affecting everybody. That is what makes money management so difficult. Correlations will ebb and flow; they always do. But what makes them go away? This will only happen when governments and central banks go away.
But if they go away, then does that not mean things get ugly? Maybe they do get ugly, but it also means that we sort out the excesses in the market. We reward the people that do the right thing and we punish the people that do the wrong thing. And we have an adjustment process that may be ugly, but then we have a period of long expansion.
Central banks are ruling markets to a degree this generation has not seen. Collectively they are printing money to a degree never seen in human history.
So how does this process get reversed? How do central banks pull back trillions of dollars of money printing without throwing markets into a tailspin? Frankly, no one knows, least of all central banks as they continue to make new money printing records.
Until a worldwide exit strategy can be articulated and understood, risk markets will rise and fall based on the perceptions and realities of central bank balance sheets. As long as this is perceived to be a good thing, like perpetually rising home prices were perceived to be a good thing, risk markets will rise.
When/If these central banks go too far, as was eventually the case with home prices, expanding balance sheets will no longer be looked upon in a positive light. Instead they will be viewed in the same light as CDOs backed by sub-prime mortgages were when home prices were falling. The heads of these central banks will no longer be put on a pedestal but looked upon as eight Alan Greenspans that caused a financial crisis.
The tipping point between balance sheet expansion being bullish for risk assets versus bearish is impossible to know. Given the growth rate of central bank balance sheets around the world over the past few years, we might not have to wait too long to find out. Enjoy it while it is still bullish. Source: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2012/01/living-in-a-qe-world/
Apparently the housing crash took the Federal Reserve completely by surprise. Let's hope the current Fed won't get any ugly surprises down the road.