While valuations are still reasonable and liquidity still ample in global markets, there is going to be a confluence of events that could derail even decent or fair valuations. Global markets have been through a pretty bumpy ride so far this year, thanks to the Greece worsening on/off debacle. Every single time, the EU leaders would convene another hastily reworked package to stave the bleeding patient. Now we have not one bleeding patient but another coming into ICU (Spain), the hospital is running out of blood and nerves are shot.
To a large extent, we did not see the boil over yet because the US economy showed signs of recovery even though unemployment kind of stopped improving over the last two months, however retail spending and housing there showed signs of life in the lake of death.
Hugely uncertain political developments and big macro boil overs seem to be on the cards as the year winds down. If the US starts to look shaky again, all bets are off for a sustained markets recovery. OK, read the last sentence again, please.
We only need to bother to look at the itinerary of events, its all there for all to see. The US election will happen on November 6, 2012. WHOEVER is elected is not important. The start of 2013 will see a SEVERE FISCAL tightening owing to:
a) the expiry of $400bn in tax cuts
b) $200bn in spending cut which is mandated by law in the US
However you want to cut it, corporate spending and consumer spending will shrink out of caution, and you can expect unemployment to rise again as companies starts to hold off hiring owing to the fear factor.
Let me throw in another spanner into the works. Almost every single state in the US is having grave problems balancing their state budgets, and no credible solution is forthcoming from any of them.
Can the Fed help?
Bernanke has been warning time and again (twice in the last month) that the Fed cannot be shouldering the burden alone as they only have the taps to monetary policy. Bernanke is trying not to sound panicky but I believe he already is shaking in his boots. He said that any monetary policy has to be packaged with fiscal policies for it to work. Already if you look at the Fed's balance sheet, there is little room to further release liquidity. Even if the Fed does that, the money is just going straight to Treasuries and money market and not to the real economy.
Once the house of cards starts to wobble in the US, the EU situation will be magnified and compounded, no more excuses or hope. How will all this affect equities? Well, you can expect a dramatic pulling out of funds from all type equity investments, regardless of whether pockets of Asia or Latin America are doing well.
The silly thing is that the currencies of USD and yen will rise again as safe havens even though balance sheet wise, they are the most vulnerable and pathetic fundamentals. Brace yourself to be in cash 80% by the time US elections comes around. The global events will make the results of a Malaysian elections inconsequential.
This will drag the US and Europe into another bout of recession, and when the big boys are sick, the small fries don't do too well. Companies wanting to raise funds or list better do it before the year is over. Cyclical industries will kaput once again.