Central banks have been pumping money into the global economy without a whole lot to show for it other than sharply higher stock prices, and even that has been on the downturn for the past year.
Growth remains anemic, and worries are escalating that the U.S. and the rest of the world are on the brink of a recession, despite bargain-basement interest rates and trillions in liquidity.
It's all part of a phenomenon that Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, terms "quantitative failure," or the flip side of the quantitative easing policy the Fed and others have been employing to stimulate growth.
"Whether the recent tipping point was the Fed hike, negative rates in Europe and Japan, or simply the growing market disclocations and macro misallocation of resources and wealth, the deflationary theme of 'Quantitative Failure' is stalking the financial markets," Hartnett said in a note to clients. "A multiyear period of major policy intervention and 'financial repression' is ending with weak economic growth and investors rebelling against QE."
Harnett offered a thumbnail of just how prolific global central bank intervention has been:
- 637: Rate cuts since Bear Stearns imploded in March 2008.
- $12.3 trillion: Asset purchases through global QE programs.
- $8.3 trillion: Global debt yielding zero percent or less.
- 489 million: Population of countries with official policy rates of less than zero.
- -0.93 percent: Yield on the two-year Swiss bond, the lowest-yielding government debt in the world.