Central banks were behind the complacency in markets, now investors are spooked: Economist

Key Points
  • Central banks created an artificial environment that took out "all the volatility, all the uncertainty" from markets, said Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin.
  • Tax policy changes in the U.S. also added to the euphoria in markets, Junius said.
  • "Then come things like inflation," the economist said, adding that investors are now spooked by signs of stronger inflation pressures.
Things are not as 'smoothly' as before

As the sell-off in markets continues into Tuesday in Asia, one economist blamed central banks for "micro-engineering" an environment that is now spooking investors.

Speaking with CNBC Tuesday morning amid the market tumble, Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin, said the last year had been "extremely strange" and that market performance was "artificial."

"It was artificial because we had central banks trying to micro-engineer markets: they were coming up with forward guidance on monetary policy where they basically tell us in advance what they're doing in the next 18 months," Karsten Junius, chief economist at Bank J. Safra Sarasin, told CNBC Tuesday morning.

"And then they're trying to engineer our expectations how this forward guidance might change — this was taking all the volatility, all the uncertainty out of markets," he added.

The Republican tax policy changes added to the euphoria in markets, and such a climate left many ill-prepared for a potential upswing in inflation, Junius said.

Last Friday's better-than-expected jobs report in the U.S. gave rise to concerns that stronger inflation pressures could force the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates at a faster pace. Inflation has stayed subdued globally even as growth picked up, resulting in an environment that continued to support markets.

"Then come things like inflation, some inflation indicator picking up and in the end everyone is getting scared that this environment does not hold," Junius explained.