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Mark Mobius has a left-field theory on why volatility in global stock markets is so low.
Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg
“Social media is having a huge impact,” the executive chairman of the Temple Emerging Markets Group said in an interview during a visit to Tokyo. “It’s creating confusion with a lot of false news,” he said. “You’re getting a situation where a lot of information is discounted immediately because people are afraid that maybe the information they’re getting is not true.”
The VIX Index, the so-called fear gauge for U.S. stocks, fell earlier this week to its lowest close since 1993, as record-low turbulence plays out in markets across the world. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen’s defeat in French elections was the latest development imbuing calm among investors.
Along with sowing doubt about the veracity of news, social media is shortening people’s attention span, according to the 80-year-old fund manager. That’s softening the impact of events like Tuesday’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, he said.
Mobius, who’s spent four decades watching global markets, says U.S. President Donald Trump’s action amid the agency’s investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election will meet a similar fate: people will brush it off. That was true in trading on Wednesday, with MSCI’s global shares index up a tenth of a percentage point as of 12:45 p.m. in New York.
“No, I don’t think” it will impact U.S. stocks, Mobius said of the Comey news, which broke early in the morning Tokyo time. “There’s so much controversy around Trump in many directions that this is one more page in this whole history of changes,” he said. “I think it’s in the background, because it doesn’t have any economic impact.”
Mobius has a Twitter account, but says he doesn’t administer it himself. He says hedge funds can pay for analysis of the quality of information on social media, but most people can’t, which is why they tend to dismiss news that they’re unsure about. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, sells social media analysis tools.
“Ironically, it’s having a calming effect,” he said. “If you have all this confusing information, and you don’t know which one is true and which one is false, you say, OK, the heck with it, I won’t do anything.”