As I talk to seasoned EM veterans who have been focused on this asset class for 15-20 years through a myriad of political, economic and global macro cycles I am increasingly hearing more and more pessimism on whether investors are finally losing their interest in EM.   Hard to believe that people who sat in remote locations around the world in 1998 after the Asian crisis moved into the Russian crisis and LTCM blowing up, are NOW in need of trip to the psychiatrist to review their calling in life. After horrendous data in China over the weekend, deeper divides in the Russia/Western relationship continue, and the MSCI EM today has taken its fresh 2 day plunge to almost -3% it’s tough to see light at the end of the tunnel.  China is the greatest risk out there for markets directly.  Russia layers in the longer term political uncertainty factor and potential re-shaping of east (to include China)/west dynamics.  None of these riddles will be solved in in the next three months. …Thus the existential dilemma as this all comes after 3 years of massive underperformance by EM to developed markets.    

Markets are irrational until they are rational.  Thus there is always a price where investors will step back to the table.  China broke 2000 on the Shanghai comp and copper looks ripe to test $3.00/lb.  Are these levels that will inspire investors to say now this is interesting?  Doubt it.  Goldman is out this AM pointing out China trades a record 45% discount to the MSCI world Index (MXWO).   Is this cheap enough?  Are 19 straight weeks of investor outflows from EM equities a pivot point?  I doubt it.   

What is clear is that we see a whole new kind of “risk off” going on out there in the world.  The world is far from a tranquil place in terms of geo-politics or macro-economics.  This AM I am seeing a fresh host of strategists and market pundits starting to read tea leaves and they appear to be getting queasy.  Those who have been tuning to Fast Money and listening to my ideas on know that I have been mostly half full in my glass to this point.  Right now I would characterize my glass as being right in the middle.  I cant ignore both market data points and also sentiment.  US sentiment is too high and EM sentiment is too low but could get lower.

How can the US market be ignoring the global turmoil when volatility in Europe has been consistently unnerved in last few sessions?  There is always a price for assets and specifically equities but is 17.5x on the S&P a place to feel complacent with all that is happening around the world?   

Watch the US corporate bond market and see where spreads in high grade and high yield bonds may start to diverge.  This may be the place you start to sniff out the broader signs of much greater market panics to come.  Risk off is always played first in the debt markets. And when we are talking about “risk off” we are not talking about one day, one week, or even one month trades…we are talking about the stuff that takes years to work through.   

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