Spotting Safe and Risky Assets Isn’t So Easy

In today’s investing world, it appears that the search for safety is trumping risk. Although frequent commentary trumpets bubbles in riskier investments, that is not consistent with the hard data on money flows. The result of so much money chasing safety is quite the opposite of what we might want: So much money pouring into assets perceived as safe is actually making those assets riskier. Those riskier assets are attracting less money and fewer players, and as a result, may be safer than they appear. In short, today’s market presents a conundrum: There may be more risk in safety, and more safety in risk.

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Don't Fear Risky Assets

We live in a world that emphasizes risk. That is true in general, but is especially so in the financial world. Since the financial crisis of 2008–2009, financial professionals have been acutely attuned to risk—and for good reason. Too many felt they were caught off-guard and unprepared by the near-implosion of five years ago. That in turn followed volatile periods from the Internet bubble of 1999 into early 2000, through the events of 9/11, and then a sharp market contraction until October 2002. After nearly 15 years of drama, it is hardly surprising that the financial world is primed for risk.

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America and the New Financial World

Soon enough, America's financial crisis will wind down -- maybe in a month, maybe in a year. Yet regardless of when, this crisis marks the beginning of a new era for the U.S. For more than six decades, from the end of World War II in 1945 until now, the U.S. was the hub of global capital and capitalism. In the years to come, it will remain a vital center, but not the center.

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