Deutsche Bank’s Peter Hooper:
Financial conditions appear to have worsened substantially in recent quarters based on our update of the broad index of US financial variables presented earlier this year at the US Monetary Policy Forum. In the wake of recent developments in Europe, increased stress in financial markets has pushed that index halfway back to its immediate post- Lehman crisis lows.
The index is built from an array of financial indicators such as U.S. treasury yields, the volatility index (VIX), the stock market, Broker-Dealer leverage, among others. It’s a bit of a black box, but it’s calculation is giving a similar reading to what we saw during the worst of the financial crisis.
The broad index shows a significantly larger net drop than other financial conditions indexes from most recent peaks partly because it gives greater weight to financial stock and flow variables and partly because it factors in the extent to which conditions have failed to respond positively to the recovery of GDP. The continued absence of private securitization of mortgages and subdued activity in ABS markets persists in weighing on broad conditions. Factors that have tended to give an offsetting lift to financial conditions have included a slowdown in the tightening of lending standards and more recently a drop in Treasury yields and associated easing of mortgage rates.
Deutsche believes this is a red flag for the economy, and explains why we should expect ultra-low interest rates from the Federal Reserve to continue for quite some time.
The worsening of financial conditions increases negative risks for economic prospects going forward and tends to delay the expected timing of Fed rate hikes. We will consider in more detail next week the implications for economic activity of the recent tightening of financial conditions.
Still, DB has a pretty benign U.S. GDP outlook going forward, so it seems they only believe the risk mentioned above is a low-probability event, or perhaps they haven’t downgraded their official expectations yet.