BAML: The crazy week of political news is triggering ‘monster’ moves in markets

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IMDB / Universal

Just this week alone, a fired FBI Director testified on whether the US president tried to shut down an investigation, key Middle Eastern countries isolated Qatar, and the UK held an election.

The specter of political risk prompted investor flows into bonds at the fastest pace in over two years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The bank’s clients this week triggered a $16 billion inflow into bonds, BAML said in a note on Friday. Meanwhile, $0.8 billion flowed into gold, another asset that’s favored when investors want to pare risk, in anticipation of the uncertainties surrounding all the political events.

It was a “monster week of inflows” into investment grade and high yield bonds, with $11 billion pouring in, BAML said.

Also this week, flows into financial stocks slowed, although not by enough to reverse the bets that Wall Street has placed on banks, BAML said, in expectation of deregulation and higher interest rates. While Comey’s testimony got most of the attention on Thursday, the House passed a bill to roll back some of the strongest Wall Street rules from the financial crisis.

A sense of déjà vu

Investors’ cautious move into bonds has not yet been followed by a volatile and widespread market reaction to the political events that are being hedged.

Besides the 2.5% plunge in the pound, global markets were relatively calm after the British election ended with exit polls showing no clear winner. The pound stabilized overnight against the dollar as Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that she will form a new minority government including an informal alliance with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. May had called the election to boost her parliament majority.

Treasurys were in fact lower on Friday, with the benchmark 10-year bond yield was up by one basis point, at 2.211% around 8:49 a.m. ET. US stock futures were green.

Having absorbed Brexit and President Donald Trump’s election, the UK vote provided markets with a “sense of déjà vu,” said Lucy O’Carroll, the chief economist at Aberdeen Asset Management.

“That said, we could see a fair amount of volatility in the coming days and weeks unless Westminster’s response to this surprise result is remarkably smooth, which is unlikely,” O’Carroll added in a note.