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Posts Tagged ‘bond bear market’

High Demand for (Low) Yield

December 16th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

Long-time readers are well aware of my call to the end of the thirty-plus year bond bull market in 2012. That’s seven years now behind us. For long-term bonds this period has been quite a topping process (in 2012, 2016 and again in 2019) with the primary result being the tremendous issuance of new debt.

Treasury debt has exploded from $4.3 trillion in 2006 to $15.9 trillion in 2019 (Q2). My debt figures come from a wonderful website, www.sifma.org, check it out.  Luckily the Federal Reserve has been there as the primary buyer, expanding their balance sheet in various quantitative easing programs.

Right behind treasuries in debt expansion is corporate debt, rising from $4.9 in 2006 to $9.5 trillion (Q2). Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in October that “leverage among corporations and other forms of business, private businesses, is historically high” –Bloomberg.

Indeed, not only are bond prices high (yields low) but there are more of them! As long as “lower-for-longer” holds, values should hold. Interest rates are low, so low it would appear that negative interest rates are a closer reality than higher interest rates.

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Sell Bonds

September 12th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

The Select ApproachTM believes the bond market correction of the past nine months is now over.

Last month we talked about the giddiness of bonds and that giddiness delivered bonds onto the front pages of the major dailies. The New York Times on August 28th probably marked the high prices with this headline “While Wall St. Talks of a Recession, Bond Investors Make a Killing. You should have bought bonds. They’re going great.”

The NY Times also included a nice chart of year to date returns. “Thirty year Treasury bond +26.4%, Long-term bonds +23.5%, Investment-grade corporates +14.1% and Ten Year Treasury notes +12.6%.” Indeed, stellar returns essentially describes the bond market correction of the past nine months.

In order to reap the rewards of this year’s bond market moves, one must sell. Not your Select ApproachTM bonds, but everything else. This market move was a trade, and a short-term one at that, and now it is over. The bond market is in a long-term bear market since 2012. Prices move down (yields rise) setting the trend and in order for the market to continue to lower prices, a correction needs to occur. Ebb and flow happens but the important part is the direction of the trend for bond prices is lower.

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The Topping Process Continues

August 8th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sold off almost 2,000 points in just a few days recently. The Dow now trades at the same level as it did back in January 2018.

Bonds meanwhile continue their move higher in price (lower in yield) as unlike stocks, their corrective move had added momentum. When it comes to bonds, we hear statements like highest prices (or lowest yields) since 2016. That’s because the current bond market rally is a correction of the downward price trend in bonds that dates back to 2016 (for me 2012).

Last month’s letter discussed how I expected asset prices of bonds, stocks and gold to soon complete. We have seen the initial move down for stocks and I look for similar strong downward moves to begin in bonds and gold at any time.

“At any time” is the operative word. Last month’s market focus was based on the movements of the asset markets over the past weeks as well as the past several years. Markets behave like markets, despite the actions of central bankers or presidents, war or peace. So last month’s giddy didn’t indicate a continuation of trend, but rather the end of a move.

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Correction Highs (And Lows)

July 11th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

For the past several months we’ve seen giddy up; now we are left only with giddy. Be it Stocks, Bonds, or even Gold, asset prices have generally had a nice 2019 bounce. To a large extent asset prices have peaked together. Unfortunately the rallies appear to be over, meaning lower prices from here.

How can that be? The news is great, prices are rallying and even the Federal Reserve appears poised to lower interest rates as yields have shriveled as US Treasury note and bond prices have jumped. The trend should be our friend and the trend is up, across the board for assets, right?

Wrong! The trend is not up. Despite nice gains for this year, assets are in the midst of finishing upward corrections. Gold, which peaked in September 2011 at $1921, bottomed in December 2015 at $1047 where it began a rally that may have recently ended at $1440 last month (all asset prices and dates per Bloomberg). While an additional advance may unfold, the next major move in my opinion is lower, to new lows rather than new highs.

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Bonds Are Markets Too

June 12th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

The bond market has been on quite a tear of late. With lower yields and higher prices, bond market articles have been on the front pages of The New York Times as well as other prominent articles in their business section.

Stocks on the other hand ended last month with their sixth consecutive down week. With bonds moving higher in price and stocks moving lower maybe there is something new going on. Perhaps your stock portfolio hasn’t been performing as it once did. Is something new happening?

From our vantage point, there is nothing new going on in the markets. The bond bear market began in 2012. Others may argue with me on this but that gives us a sense of how long a topping (or turning) pattern may take to develop or be fully recognized.

The bond (price) topping pattern or yield bottoming pattern has unfolded over many years already. Perhaps we will see something similar time-wise with stocks, but perhaps not. Perhaps the reason your stock portfolio isn’t performing the way you think it should is because we are in a similar topping pattern currently with stocks. If this is the case, which I believe, the key issue we need to address is one of risk versus reward.

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Size Matters

May 6th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

Through much of my career in the bond market bigger truly was better. Nobody was bigger or better than Bill Gross of PIMCO. His bond fund was mammoth and if you had something worthwhile to sell, one call to Big Bill was all that was needed to get the deal done. He was legend, true or not.

Big Bill also had quite a tail wind. As the bond bull market began to gather momentum in the early 1980’s, Big Bill was ready. He knew performance would drive growth in assets and he knew the kinds of bonds that would perform well. His record speaks for itself.

During a bull market there should be little reason to sell. I am sure Big Bill culled some of his mistakes from his portfolios through the years, but largely one can buy and hold and never need to sell. Worthwhile performance led to growing assets and more funds available. Eventually the bond matures and this will only add to the money he continued to attract for decades.

Scaling from a small operation to a multi-trillion dollar behemoth, Big Bill and PIMCO, had a plan and executed it. He is more than worthy of the title Bond King. Needless to say his success has been studied and will continue to be studied as a great success in money management.

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Another Milepost

April 4th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

Last month we talked inflation (there is almost none), unemployment (almost none of that either) and yields on treasury securities (very little, or let’s just call it historically low). The Fed has nothing to do except patiently wait. Last month something happened; the treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007. Egads!

Simply, the yield curve is called inverted when short-term rates are higher than long-term rates. This is usually not the natural order of things as investors usually prefer to be paid more yield to invest longer because something usually does happen later and it might not be good. Older people usually explain the difference using words like inflation (again, see last month’s letter).

I could write an unlimited number of narratives as to why the yield curve is inverted and anyone could write one regarding what it portends. Traditionally an inverted yield curve portends lower growth prospects, according to the Federal Reserve, so it made sense for them to lower their 2019 forecast to 2.1% from 2.3%. Or maybe one has nothing to do with the other.

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Inflation Worries?

March 4th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

In order to be worried about inflation I would presuppose you probably had to experience it rather than try to picture it from a textbook or figure out why economists keep talking about it. Ask your children or grandchildren to explain inflation, or better yet, ask them how important it is or whether they are worried about it.

Inflation, or the control of it, is the price stability part of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate. Maximum sustainable employment is the other piece. So it must be important since the financial press always seems to be tracking the Federal Reserve’s every move.

Defining inflation has never been easy, so don’t be too hard on your children or grandchildren if they can’t define it easily. One formula utilizes U.S. Treasury note and bond prices to help define future inflation. If U.S. Treasury securities are viewed as riskless securities then we can say that it is future inflation that accounts for the differences between short-term U.S. Treasury interest rates and long-term U.S. Treasury interest rates. As the current two year treasury is about 2.5% and the ten year is 2.65% and the thirty year is 3%, one might presume the outlook for changes in the inflation rate over the next umpteen number of years is probably very little. With the advent of Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, the calculation for the outlook for future inflation was made even easier. With the ten year treasury at 2.65% and the ten year TIP at .70%, expected inflation is 1.95% (all basis Bloomberg). That’s greater than nothing but, again, it shouldn’t elicit fear and constant monitoring either.

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Cash Outperforms

February 6th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

By any measure, 2018 was a tough year for investing. The one asset class that outperformed all others was Cash. That statement, in a world of tens of trillions of dollars of investments at stake, should be chilling.

Besides Cash, with a return of 1.8% for 2018 per S&P US Treasury Bill (0-3 month Index), there were a few small areas of positive performance. Municipal bonds per S&P Municipal Bond Index finished up 1.3%. We discussed municipal bond performance, or lack thereof, as suffering from lower prices. Prices fell on longer term municipal bonds, but not enough to drag coupon income into negative territory.

The predominant problem for 2018 investing was one of trend. We drew our line in the sand with our November 2017 ‘Top of Tops’ letter. Since then the winds of change are no longer at our back for stocks (they changed years ago in bonds), prices are trending lower. Both stocks and bonds are in bear markets now.

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Markets Move, Not In A Straight Line

January 3rd, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

If the stock market is reflective of social mood, and I believe it is, then we have experienced quite a mood change in the fourth quarter of 2018. From all-time stock market highs to the lows of the year, to what may be the worst December stock market since the Great Depression, the market, and mood, has changed.

Your mood may have changed as no one likes to see gains evaporate, particularly at historic clips. Markets, as I have preached for years, do go up and down after all, so this must be a part of it. Yes they do, but ups and downs do not reflect the true risk with this market.

The reason I find it important to forecast and call changes in trend is because with each later stage of the thirty-plus year (if not ninety year) bull market, I see the risks inherent in subsequent turns as much greater than we have previously experienced. We therefore should not be surprised when the unusual or extreme occurs because, like prior downturns, we are aware the surprising will probably occur.  Or in this case, take December as an example. (more…)

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