Saturday, October 10, 2015

10/10/15: What, When, If the $7 trillion SWFs Gorilla Moves?

Remember this bit about Central Banks' reserves taking a dip globally? And now consider this, about Sovereign Wealth Funds shrinking their income/assets. The alarmism is premature, as the article explain, since SWFs are (1) big, (2) likely to see return to inflows of funds once oil and broader commodities prices recover, and (3) longer-term investment vehicles with broad mandates. Which implies there is not so much panic looming from SWFs downsizing their holdings (selling assets).

But the key is in the second order effects: as long as oil prices remain low, SWFs are not going to be active buyers of assets in the near term (so demand base for assets is taking a knock down, currently being obscured by the Central Banks' demand in some areas - e.g. Euro area, and/or by leveraged plays and carry trades still available on foot of Central Banks (more limited) adventurism. Which means that any 'normalisation' in monetary policies today is likely to coincide with a period of subdued demand from the SWFs for assets. And that is pesky enough of a problem to worry anyone in the markets.

Beyond this concern, note two other problems arising from the current oil price slump:

  1. SWFs, having parked their buying for now, are becoming less predictable per strategy they might take when prices do recover (the longer the period of oil prices slump, the higher is uncertainty); and
  2. How the future balancing between liquidity risk and returns going to play across the SWFs strategy (again, the longer the period of low oil prices, the more likely exit from the oil price slump will entail SWFs pursuing less risk-loaded assets and opting for greater safety - a sort of precautionary savings motive for the SWFs).

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