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Posts Tagged ‘bond bull market’

Should We Be Traders?

March 24th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

One year ago, I wrote my March 6th letter highlighting the risks of bond market investing when treasury securities all yielded less than 1%. It was a watershed moment and one I believed would be a reference point for years to come.

We have been following the bellwether treasury note and bonds as they continue to lose value as interest rates move higher. The ten-year note, 1.50% of 2/15/30, traded this past week below par at 98-22, down from 111-19 on March 9, 2020 or 11.5% lower (all prices from Bloomberg). The thirty-year bond, the 2.375% of 11/15/49 traded at a discount of 97-11+ versus 140-17 on March 9, for a 30.7% loss.

From a trading perspective, original buyers of these treasuries have watched their portfolio values surge and then come back to earth. A forty-point gain in the long bond is now wiped out. This is the nature of buying into a late-stage bull market. How high is high? Will you know it when you see it? Will you act or freeze?

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Bonds (Don’t) Move

January 20th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Everyone can agree bond yields are low. Another way of saying that is, everyone can agree bond prices are high. But unlike the unhinged high prices of stocks, bonds are tethered to a maturity. The assumption of course being that the bond will be paid at time of maturity.

This risk of being paid (or not) is usually compared against what many consider to be the risk-free rate of US Treasury securities. Thus, Treasuries represent a non-credit risk option as they are assumed to be paid; the government will simply print more money to redeem them. All other (US) bonds do not have this feature of printing additional money; therefore, they are considered spread products.

As you know I recommended selling your bond products (mutual funds primarily), marking March 6th as the high-water mark for bonds. To say that March was a volatile month borders on understatement, but we witnessed US Treasury notes and bonds trade at their all-time highs in March.

The ten-year, Treasury note receives the most attention in the marketplace. For most of 2020 the note yielded less than 1%, again, a low yield in anyone’s book (and a high price). But recently the yield has moved over 1% leading to, well, the focus of this letter.

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Never Sell Anything

December 16th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

Years ago, and I mean many years ago, it became apparent that bond portfolio managers rarely sold bonds in their portfolio. Sure, active managers might sell something to keep their active manager label active, but rarely did a bond manager sell bonds in the portfolio to meaningfully move the needle on their holdings. If a manager did not like the market, she could enter a derivatives trade to place her bet instead.

Another reason for the never sell mentality in bonds was the fact that more money usually came in the door. When bonds perform well, investors tend to stick with it or even add funds. Combine all this with the other fact that bonds do mature, and bond portfolio managers are usually in the position of deciding where to invest cash rather than the prospect of selling bonds to raise more cash.

This has been the case for decades, though there may have been some managers slow in the 1980’s and early 1990’s to warm up to the fact that we were in what would become a multi-decade bond bull market. While the rise in the bond market has not been straight up, I would argue, from a portfolio management standpoint, it might as well have been. Bond portfolio managers have largely been reluctant to sell even prior to the large swoon in the financial crisis of 2007. If anything, the recovery since has largely reinforced the idea of never sell anything.

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Time Marches On

August 7th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

Unfortunately, there is no finish line for investing. If there was, we could now declare stocks a winner, bonds a winner, gold a winner, real estate…well, you get the idea. But there is tomorrow to deal with, not to mention next year and years from now.

Investing is a longer period endeavor. Bond investors know this as every bond you buy reminds you with a maturity date. What will happen over the next year, or two, five or ten or more years? Bond investors confront this reality with every purchase.

Wherever you want to draw the line, financial assets have been winners. Year-to-date, last year or two, last five…they, for the most part, have been good times for you as an investor of financial assets.

All of that is in the past; investing is about the future. If investing were a race, it would be an endless one as time marches on. Decisions made can be worthwhile as well as decisions not made. Second-guessing can be debilitating and is to be avoided. That is why it is important to make sound decisions.

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March 6th

March 30th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

I pray this letter finds you and your loved ones healthy. My prayers are with the first responders and the healthcare professionals on the front-line saving lives and protecting ours.

This is the most important letter I have ever written. My hope is you will pass it along to your loved ones and friends because I believe the message is very important.

I have spent my entire career, over thirty years focused on the bond markets. Long-time readers know I have been writing that the latest move in financial assets (stocks, bonds, gold) is the end of something, namely the end of their long-term bull markets. As tens of billions of dollars is now being poured into cash in the form of money market accounts, it appears some may agree, and they may be scared as well.

I know you have a choice with your money, and I appreciate your trust in me and my abilities especially in these volatile times. I believe it is important for you to more fully understand bonds as well as sharing this letter with others who may find it helpful.

In the United States, bonds account for about $33 trillion dollars in assets: US Treasury securities make up about $17 trillion, corporate bonds $10 trillion, mortgages $10 trillion and municipals $3.9 trillion (all courtesy of SIFMA.org). The Federal Reserve has recently increased its balance sheet to $5 trillion, primarily in US Treasuries and mortgages (courtesy federalreserve.gov) leaving a lot of bonds in other’s hands with the bulk either professionally managed including in mutual funds.

Mutual funds, with their quoted net asset values (NAV) and performance data available on the internet may appear to be similar as both can easily be reallocated with a point and a click.  Both have the same disclaimer: “Past success does not guarantee future performance.”  But they are as dissimilar as a stock is from a bond.

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Prepared?

March 5th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

From record high to worst week since the financial crisis in October 2008, stocks ended thirty-plus years of bull in dramatic fashion. The top bull in the better than best of recent asset pricing is taking the leadership role in the great deflate.

From a high of 29,568 on February 12 to an end of month low of 24,681, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost over 4,000 points with 3,600 of it in one week (source: Bloomberg). This is not your normal pull back. This is not the buy the dip (one more time!). This is the end we have been talking about since November 2017 in my letter, Top of Tops. In that letter I noted 23,500 as the all-time high turning point for stocks. The extra run since then was a bonus.

You all know I have been writing about asset prices being at the end of something. From the depths of the financial crisis in March 2009 to February 2020, it was quite a ride. A ride I believed would be over (in November 2017) but continued through Groundhog Day (after Groundhog Day) 2020.

Consequential? Unbelievably so. This isn’t even the worst part. From my point of view stock investors “haven’t lost anything” as they are still ahead of November 2017. No, the worst part is ahead of us because it involves the bond market.

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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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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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Depths of Summer

August 6th, 2018 by Kurt L. Smith

Heady days and bond markets rarely go together. Nor do the terms ‘bond market’ and ‘news’. Add summer and vacations into the mix and the bond market becomes French. Absent.

I may exaggerate but not much. Thankfully we are not looking to keep up (or primarily down) with any bond index, we are not burdened by scale or the inability to find worthwhile bonds. Every day I get to practice and build my skills and every day things come together. Except in the summer, things come a bit more slowly.

Last month I discussed how the markets are poised for a fall. One more month without the Bond Crash of 2018, but the first of August brought ten year US Treasury note yields back to 3% for the first time in several months.  Most of 2018 has so far been a correction of the dramatically higher yields (and double-digit price losses of longer bonds). Whether we begin the next phase of higher rates and lower prices immediately or whether it takes a few more months, is not important. What is important is you are prepared and you are prepared because you own the proper asset, chosen by The Select ApproachTM. (more…)

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