Markets Start to Ponder the $13 Trillion Gorilla in the Room

Bloomberg/Enda Curran, Liz McCormick & Eric Lam/04-18-17

After heading into the uncharted territory of quantitative easing, the world’s central banks are starting to plan their course through the uncharted waters of quantitative tightening.

How the Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and — eventually — the Bank of Japan handle the transition could make the difference between a global rerun of the 2013 “taper tantrum,” or the near undetectable market response to China’s run-down of U.S. Treasuries in recent years. Combined, the balance sheets of the three now total about $13 trillion, equating to greater than either China’s or the euro region’s economy.

“You know what they say about mountaineering right? The descent is always more dangerous than the ascent,” said Stephen Jen, London-based chief executive of hedge fund Eurizon SLJ Capital Ltd. “Shrinking the balance sheet will be the descent.”

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