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LONDON - A new U.S. president with $1.9 trillion to spend, amateur traders taking on seasoned hedge funds, hot oil, digital art selling for tens of millions of dollars and grizzly bears in the bond markets. It has been an eventful start to 2021.
A year into the coronavirus pandemic and the focus has been on the vaccines vs variants battle crucial to getting some normality back into the world economy.
It has given oil its best start to a year since 2005, with a 25% gain. World stocks have hit a few new highs too but it's a very different story from last year's. Whisper it, but some of the fabled FAANGs and other stratospherically valued stocks like Tesla will end Q1 down.
Then there's been the bond bears, who have given the government debt markets their worst run since the 2013 "taper tantrum". U.S. Treasuries and German Bund have lost 6%-6.5%; emerging market currency debt holders are down 7%.
The Democrats' surprise clinching of the U.S. Senate in January cleared the way for a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. That has raised bets on growth and inflation, and some worry the Federal Reserve might be spooked into reeling in support.
BCA strategist Arthur Budaghyan said the Senate wins forced a change the view from investors and likened the market impact of the bumper stimulus plan to riding a tiger.
"Riding a tiger is fun," Budaghyan said. "The only hitch is that no one can safely get off a tiger."
Graphic: U.S. yields and inflation: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/ygdvzglkkpw/Pasted%20image%201617146544506.png
The knock-on effects have been widespread.
From their January peaks, funds, stocks or currencies linked to innovation – the ARK Innovation Fund, Solar Energy stocks, BioTech shares, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, and special purpose acquisition companies or SPACs – are down 20-25%.
The dollar has made the multitude of investment banks that predicted its fall look like fools by having its best Q1 since 2015 and any quarter since 2018.
Oil's hot streak has seen the Canadian dollar and Norwegian crown outperform. Britain's pound has too thanks to the UK's rapid COVID vaccine rollout programme, but emerging markets have been skittled.
Brazil's real and Turkey's lira have followed last year's 20% batterings with further 10% drops. Remarkably the lira was the world's best performer for the first six weeks of 2021. Then bond yields and energy prices kicked higher, and then President Tayyip Erdogan sacked another central banker.
"It is all been about the decoupling between the U.S. and the rest of the world," said Axa's chief economist Gilles Moec, highlighting that at over 6%, the U.S. is set to grow at its quickest rate since 1984 this year and faster than China for the first time in at least 20 years.