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Have we passed peak protectionism? And if so, what’s next?

  • At a recent conference, Fathom Director Erik Britton asked our panellists and our audience whether we could now put geopolitics to one side, and focus instead on pressing macro-economic problems, such as negative real yields and excessive levels of both public and private debt.
  • Sadly, there was little conviction that Emmanuel Macron’s recent victory signalled an end to populist politics. The threat of growing isolationism was still very real.
  • There was widespread agreement that historically low long-term real rates of interest reflected structural rather than cyclical factors. There was no clear consensus regarding when, or how the normally close relationship between real growth and long-term real rates of interest would reassert itself.
  • Levels of debt across the developed world were widely perceived as being problematically high. While some favoured repayment, others felt that debt should be inflated away, at least in part. This might be achieved through a higher inflation target…

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