Bob Janjuah On The Trigger For The Next 'Big And Painful' Bear Market

Bob Janjuah

Nomura’s Bob “The Bear” Janjuah says the market will enter a painful bearish period as soon as investors realise what he’s been saying all along. That is: post-financial crisis growth in developed markets is fuelled by debt, and emerging market growth is slowing too.

Aka “weak trend growth.”

He expects this by the end of September.

Via FT Alphaville:

Quite clearly I see the shorter-term tactical risk-on phase as also setting up a big and painful risk-off phase over the latter part of 2011 and 2012, as positioning and sentiment clearly need to get more bullish before we can get the kind of market weakness I am forecasting.

At this point it is worth repeating something to those looking for a ‘trigger’ to the risk-off phase. I think it’s as simple as 3 words: Weak Trend Growth.

Most policymakers and many in the market are still desperately hanging on to the view that trend growth rates in DM (and EM too) have not been impacted materially as a result of the financial crisis. To me the evidence is clearly ‘in’. The only way DM (and EM) policymakers have been able to deliver even barely acceptable trend growth has been through the use of unsustainable policies which put short-term gains first but which clearly create huge longer term risks to sovereign credit quality and which leave a deeply negative scar in the minds of the private sector, which is attempting to de-lever and which knows it is facing the mother of all tax liabilities going forward. The reality is that absent a private sector debt binge (the private sector is not that stupid) and assuming we are coming to, or are at the end of, the line with respect to policy, then DM trend growth over the next 3/5 years will be in the 1-1.5% range.

This I think is the key. Yes, there is too much debt in the balance sheets of the DM economies, particularly at the sovereign, bank and consumer levels. But if we all had confidence that DM trend growth rates could sustainably be 150/200bps higher than my expectation, then these debts would not be a major issue. However, at the kind of trend growth rates I expect to see, debt is a major problem, as are excessive risk asset values, as well as excessive ‘entitlement’ expectations. Once the market is able to see the limits of policy, and once the market is able to see through the excuses (of ‘soft patches’), then it is inevitable that we see a significant re-price lower of earnings expectations, of incomes, of asset values, and a genuine (rather than hypothetical) acceptance that living standards, especially in the DM economies, are going to be materially lower over the next 5/10 years than current consensus expectations/forecasts. EM economies will also see weaker trend growth, but they in general have strong balance sheets, huge flexibility in taxation and labour markets, and very low levels of entitlement expectations. Hence these (and similarly positioned DM economies) will ‘outperform’.

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