Markets’ Rational Complacency

A century ago, financial markets priced in a very low probability that a major conflict would occur, blissfully ignoring the risks that led to World War I until late in the summer of 1914. Back then, markets were poor at correctly pricing low-probability, high-impact tail risks; they still are.

NEW YORK – An increasingly obvious paradox has emerged in global financial markets this year. Though geopolitical risks – the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the rise of the Islamic State and growing turmoil across the Middle East, China’s territorial disputes with its neighbors, and now mass protests in Hong Kong and the risk of a crackdown – have multiplied, markets have remained buoyant, if not downright bubbly.

Indeed, oil prices have been falling, not rising. Global stock markets have, overall, reached new highs. And credit markets show low spreads, while long-term bond yields have fallen in most advanced economies.

Yes, financial markets in troubled countries – for example, Russia’s currency, equity, and bond markets – have been negatively affected. But the more generalized contagion to global financial markets that geopolitical tensions typically engender has failed to materialize.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/J2ErQXq;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.