Archegos Drama Hardly Ruffles a Market That’s ‘Drunk on Risk’

A secretive money pool craters, causing billions of dollars of potential losses for global banks. Two storied names of American media post their worst days ever in the stock market. Securities regulators say they’re monitoring the situation.

And halfway through the afternoon on Monday, the S&P 500 Index was little changed.

For investors, the Archegos Capital Management blowup is proving to be just one more example of the uncanny resilience in the U.S. stock market, where neither pandemic nor hedge-fund tumbles can pierce the protective shield of Federal Reserve stimulus. Enjoy it while it lasts, warn the pros. The Fed can’t keep this fight going forever.

“When the Fed has rates at zero and QE is ripping, they are essentially the bartender that is handing out as much booze as possible,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer for Bleakley Advisory Group, referring to the Fed’s quantitative easing stimulus. “Many people get drunk on risk, like the fund on Friday, and they get into an accident.”

It’s a topic repeated throughout the pandemic: The Fed’s largesse has enabled more speculative risk-taking, which in turn has propped up dicier areas that otherwise might have been shunned.

Archegos Drama Hardly Ruffles a Market That’s ‘Drunk on Risk’

Bloomberg News reported that Archegos Capital Management -- the family office of Bill Hwang -- was behind a $20 billion spree of block trades on Friday, selling Chinese tech giants and U.S. media firms.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley were among those leading banking shares lower Monday on speculation an unwinding of the underlying positions could lead to losses for the industry. The group of stocks at the center of last week’s selling spree also sank. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 was up a bit att 3:25 p.m. in New York.

Here’s what market-watchers are saying:

Leslie Thompson, managing member of Spectrum Management Group:

“What we learned from last year -- the combination of the Treasury and the Fed working together in a very swift way -- the response was swift and so the expectation on a going-forward basis is that when the markets get in trouble by some event, whether the leverage becomes bigger or more systemic, that the Fed and the Treasury come in together and save the day. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but the precedent has happened in the past so the market tends to blow off some of these events.”

Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist Advisory Services:

“Having the Fed with so much monetary stimulus and support makes investors more confident this won’t become systemic, that if conditions become too tight the Fed would step in. That provides some confidence to investors that this isn’t something that will escalate. At this point, I think the Fed being in there, as an investor you want to be on the same side of the Fed. At some point, it’s too much of a good thing and the Fed is going to have to start to tighten policy -- but we’re just not there yet.”

Chris Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management:

“There’s a small chance there is an underlying problem that we just don’t know the extent of yet. It’s probably fine if it’s just one fund and we’re near the bottom. The concern is more a systemic problem, which I don’t think is going to happen, but I can’t rule it out,” he said. “It is comforting to know the Fed is standing by to offer liquidity if there is a more significant problem -- I would be happier if there were no problems. I’m hoping we don’t need the Fed.”

Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager for Globalt Investments in Atlanta:

“The Fed has obviously taken upon itself to widen the scope of its mandate. Because of that, if risk markets in general perceive there is a Fed that is the ultimate backstop across asset classes, that is a precursor for the mispricing of those assets if and when that backstop seems to have been overpriced.”

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