Is a slow-motion credit crunch already here?

Thanks, folks.

For weeks now I’ve been writing (especially in a series of special reports on my subscription site JubakAM.com) about an impending credit crunch that would produce a reset (a polite term for a big whoosh down the toilet) in global asset prices. The problem, I’ve noted, is that while a credit crunch seems likely, putting a time to its arrival is very difficult.

Now the market strategists at HSBC Holdings are saying that putting a time schedule to the credit crunch may be even more than difficult. The crunch may be developing so slowly that it’s, first, already here, and second, that it’s developing so slowly that it’s almost impossible to see at all.

HSBC’s bond guru Steven Major and his team see a long list of signs of a credit crunch set off, most immediately, by tighter dollar liquidity. The bank has cut its forecast for yields on the 10-year German bund, become even more cautious on emerging-market debt, and turned bearish on credit markets in general.

“Market participants are typically looking for validation of a forecast from cyclical data or one-off events but the reality can be different,” Major wrote in a research note at the beginning of July. “We appear to be in the midst of a slow-motion credit crunch.”

HSBC sees a diminishing global appetite for risk. That’s one reason that Major’s team has cut its forecast for yields on the 10-year German bund at the end of 2018 to 0.4% from 0.75%. Money flowing into German bunds in search of safety would drive up bund prices and drive down yields.

The bank isn’t alone in its call. For example, according to a Bank of America survey, in June money managers turned underweight European credit for the first time in seven years. The fall is likely to bring further trouble in Italy, more headlines on a tariff war with the United States, and an end to bond buying by the European Central Bank.