Is the world headed for a catastrophic financial meltdown? Will it be bigger than the GFC? Will it rival the great depression?

Given the gloomy nature of some commentary lately you could be forgiven for thinking the financial system is on the brink of collapse.

The 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse certainly prompted some highly pessimistic reflections.

And yet this week financial markets shrugged off concerns about emerging market debt and trade wars.


Should we be nervous?

"Yes," says JBWere investment strategist Bernard Doyle. And that's a good thing.

As we head into the 10th year of what - by some measures - is considered the longest bull run in history, it is important that we keep the risk top of mind and stay alert for signs or reckless financial behaviour, he told The Economy Hub.

But not only is a major crash not imminent, its not inevitable, said Doyle.

"Nervousness doesn't mean that we're at some risk of a repeat of the GFC, it's about getting that balance right."

Doyle said he saw three distinct risks to the current period of economic growth: rising interest rates, trade wars and a market bubble (as investor exuberance drive valuations beyond earning potential).

Of those Doyle saw rising interest rates as the most likely to end the market boom.

The signs of a market bubble just weren't there yet, he said.


"If you think back to the tech bubble when valuations were at much greater multiples than they are today, or ahead of the GFC where lending behaviour was irresponsible in many cases - we just haven't seen that level of disregard for risk that preceded the end of those bull markets."

Doyle also saw markets coping reasonably well with escalating trade war risk - as evidenced by the calm reaction to new tariffs imposed this week by the US and China.

"Whatever you say about Trump he has followed a playbook through these trade disputes. So the trade risk does seem to following a rational path," he said "Obviously markets would love to see some sort of truce with China."

But with the economy now surging the risk that rising rates killed off the bull market was very real, he said.

"The US economy is breaking records, for example they had a business confidence number out last week that was at 45 year high," Doyle said. "It absolutely has momentum."

There was a risk that inflation accelerated to the point where the US Federal Reserve had lift rates higher than expected.


"That would absolutely be something that changes the game."

However the end of the bull run did not have to mean a major a financial crisis.

"Unfortunately the last two ends to a bull market have been crises. We had the tech bubble which resulted in very deep nasty recession, we had the GFC which took us to the brink of a depression," he said. "So investors have been trained to think a bull market ends in some sort of apocalyptic event. It doesn't have to be that way."