Old civilisations believed that weird natural or astronomical events were signals of disasters or even the end of the world. A modern version of those myths could be the evolution of some financial references: oil, gold and rates. Their behaviours are far from being rational. Why? There is a lot of uncertainty and fear amongst investors.
Gold is the traditional safe haven in times of high inflation. This is not the case now, because we experience very low inflation or even deflation. The Depression that we have lived pressured the wages, something that have a direct relationship with the price evolution (in both as a production cost and consumption capacity). Why is the price of gold going up? Because investors buy the precious metal to preserve capital. Currently, there are not many options to obtain good performances: neither fixed income, nor equities (not to mention traditional products as deposits…). Gold is a way, at least, to avoid losing value.
Oil dropped in January to the lowest price for years: Brent was around 30 dollars. However, the market sentiment was not positive at all. The fall of the price was linked with excess of supply from several producers pumping and fighting for a largest market share that demonstrate suicidal. On the hand of demand, the economy does not grow as wished, mainly in Europe. Low demand, large supply: the traditional equation gives as a result a decline in the oil price. Usually, investors smiled, when oil reduced the prices, but it is not the case now. Prices are recovering around the 50-dollar threshold, but it is not enough to calm down the markets.
Finally, rates are in negative figures. The world turns upside down. Creditors have to pay debtors. German 10-year-bund has negative interests and Euribor is negative since 2014. The extreme would be that banks, pressured under the current situation, asked customers for fees or interests for their fixed-term deposits. Central banks intervention is creating a weird situation in which there are no rational behaviours in markets. Another sign is that wealth managers are holding more cash than ever since 2001 in their portfolios.
The Brexit poll, the uncertain US presidential election, China’s deceleration, the absence of strength in the European recovery… too many uncertainties. Investors are always frightened and money looks for security. Gold, oil and rates are indicators that markets are not working. What will be the solution? Will the markets recover their proper operation when central banks end the intervention? But when will they end it? Uncertain questions for an uncertain world.