PA Opinion: Finding the line between the 'new normal' and the not normal

Added 6th May 2016

The news this past Wednesday that Barclays is once again offering 100% LTV mortgages, albeit with significant strings attached and hoops to jump through, brought memories of the financial crisis flooding back.

PA Opinion: Finding the line between the 'new normal' and the not normal

But, it also got me thinking about mean reversion; about the cyclicality of markets and the dangers that lurk within the phrase “this time is different”.

There is no doubt the world we now inhabit is very different to the one we knew back in 2008. At a macroeconomic level commodity prices were higher, as was wage growth. In the financial sector, banks’ proprietary trading arms were much bigger, their capacity to make markets (particularly within the bond arena) was greater and high frequency trading was yet to hit its straps. In the political sphere, extremism was less pronounced and decidedly less powerful and, at a social level, the dispersion between rich and poor was not quite as large.

And that is without mentioning the significant disruption technology has brought and continues to bring to all manner of industries.

The question for investors is, how much of this is here to stay and how much of it will eventually return to its previous form? In other words, how much of the world in which we now live is not normal, and how much is the ‘new normal’?

It is a particularly pertinent question in the context of the growth/value debate that continues to rage.

"There are few things that are cheap and there is no guarantee that the remaining pockets of value don’t have holes in them."

As Ben Whitmore, manager of the Jupiter UK Special Situations Fund said recently, “If you can’t find value in the current market, you are never going to be a value investor.”

But, he added, part of the reason for its underperformance in recent years have been the actions of central banks, that have propped up companies that perhaps shouldn’t have been propped up.

That value investors have underperformed for the past seven of so years has been well documented. What is less certain is exactly when, if ever, that trend will change.

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About Author

Geoff Candy

Group digital editor

Geoff Candy joined Portfolio Adviser as News Editor in May 2014. He has been a financial journalist and broadcaster since 2005 and, in that time has worked in both South Africa and the Netherlands, covering everything from high street retailers and construction companies to mining and insurance.



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