Another week, another two interest rate cuts from central banks across the world.
In the past five days, both the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the Bank of England cut interest rates to new record lows, with Australia dropping to just 1.5%, and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street taking rates to 0.25%, its first move since 2009.
It seems like not a week goes by when a central bank somewhere on earth isn’t taking rates closer to zero, or even below. But with the two rate cuts this week, something slightly ominous has happened.
As analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch point out, the number of interest rate cuts undertaken by global central banks since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 has now reached 666 — the number most associated with Beelzebub himself. Whether or not this is some sort of divine signifier of where the global economy is headed in the near future remains to be seen, but it’s certainly unnerving.
BAML’s satanic interest rate factoid comes as part of the bank’s weekly Flow Show note, a look how much money has flowed in and out of different assets in the past week. Bond funds had a huge week according to BAML’s data, attracting $10.2 billion of inflows, the highest level since February of 2015, and the 16th out of the past 18 weeks that bond funds have seen inflows. Investors are flocking to bonds in times of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, sending yields to record lows, and pushing prices skywards.
The flight to safe havens also means that gold funds also enjoyed a solid week, drawing $1.8 billion of inflows. By contrast, riskier equities saw $4.6 billion pulled out of them last week.
It may be slightly troubling that there have been 666 rate cuts in eight years, but given the speed at which central banks are slashing rates, don’t expect the Number of the Beast to stick around for much longer.