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Posts Tagged ‘long-term trends’

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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We Are All Traders Now

September 23rd, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

Over the past couple of months, we have witnessed what it is like to be winners. Investors of stocks and bonds have watched their portfolios move higher with interest rates at or near historic lows, bond prices are unbelievable high. And the effects of high bond prices have reverberated across asset classes.

I pick on bonds because they are “fixed income”. There is only so much income a bond generates (it’s coupon amount) and for only so long (it’s maturity). So, when interest rates are near zero, the price of the bond is approximately, or near, the sum of all of its cash flows (coupons plus maturity or par amount).

A 1% ten year noncallable bond that sold at 100, would be priced at 110 if interest rates moved to 0%. At .50%, the bond would be priced at approximately 105, still a nice 5% gain from no-or-low interest rates to even lower rates.

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Protect Yourself

July 15th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

In my opinion, markets perform like markets. Narratives may try to explain them, but the narrative is a lie. The market did not go up because of ‘X’ or ‘Y’, the market just went up.

For the past several years I have been writing about the end of something, specifically the end of asset (stock, bonds, gold) prices rising trend. This was the case at the beginning of the year, as well, before we learned to spell corona.

Six plus months into this lousy year, just where are we? Let’s start with bonds because it is easier, or should be, to recognize a top or the top in bond prices when the price of a bond is just about the sum of all cash flows to be received throughout the life of the bond because the yield isn’t worth noting as a discount.

Look at this month’s bond sale from Tarrant County College District, Texas (below). Are those yields just not ridiculous? Would you entrust your money to a governmental entity for any length of time at those low (no) yields?

As discussed in my March 6th letter, earlier this year, whether you buy these yields or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is these are the yields that are used to price mutual funds and other portfolios of bonds. These low (no) yields, along with their treasury and corporate counterparts mean tens of trillions of dollars of fixed income portfolios are priced so fully as to negate future upside.

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Bonds Rolled Over (Again)

November 18th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

From the front pages this summer, the story on bonds is they are no longer a story. Prices have rolled over as yields have risen and investors who bought on the price dips lately may be rethinking their commitment.

I have spent most of the last few years, as well as the last few months telling you this was the end of the run, not the beginning of a new one. The performance of the bond market over these years fits my description.

After several years of higher yields and lower bond prices, the bond market began a price correction late last year. But it was the performance of long-term treasury bonds in July and August of this year that received the out-sized attention. One of the longest treasury bonds, the 2.875% of 2049, rallied from about 100 in May, to 105 in July and 122 in August (source: Bloomberg, with prices rounded for conversation sake). Quite a move for a bond yielding less than 3%.

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The Bigger Picture

October 15th, 2019 by Kurt L. Smith

Summer was extended down here in Dallas. Ninety-plus degree days almost every day in September. Seemingly the same thing every day, like the markets these past many months. Change will happen, though it seemingly hasn’t yet.

When we drew our line in the sand, almost two years ago, that the next move for stocks would be down, little did we know how long the wait might be. Obviously I stand by my call because I bring it up often. More importantly it still holds up well. What have you missed in stocks?

But if you haven’t sold some of your stocks you haven’t built up your cash and you haven’t increased your commitment to The Select ApproachTM. Unlike every other investor, you have The Select ApproachTM as an alternative to stocks, bonds, gold, commodities, real estate, private equity and whatever other mash up you may or may not have tried.

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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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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…)

Treasuries Tank; Any Followers?

June 1st, 2018 by Kurt L. Smith

When it comes to interest rates you know we rejected the “lower rates for longer” mantra from the beginning. Largely this was due to the fact that we believed interest rates were bottoming and the new long-term trend of ever increasing rates, which we called in November 2012, was just beginning.

The chart below details significant interest rates over the past five-plus years of our journey. Longer-term rates on ten year and thirty year notes and bonds challenged our premise briefly in 2016, allowing the “lower rates for longer” mantra to swell, but the results, or shall I say, performance, speaks for itself.

 

All-Time Low Yield            June 2017  Low                       Recent High

0.14%      9/20/11                1.26%    6/2/17                   2.60%    5/17/18

0.53%      7/25/12                1.67%    6/14/17                2.95%    5/17/18

1.32%      7/6/16                   2.10%    6/14/17                3.13%    5/18/18

2.09%     7/11/16                 2.68%    6/26/17                3.26%    5/18/18

-Source: Bloomberg

 

Owners of ten year US Treasuries in July 2016 have watched the yield on their note increase an astonishing 181 basis points, for a 13 percent price decline in the note’s value (vis-à-vis the Treasury 1.625% 5/15/26). For owners of the bellwether thirty year bond, the 117 basis point increase in yield has lowered the bond’s value about 23 percent (vis-à-vis the Treasury 2.50% 5/15/46).  All treasury prices per Bloomberg.

Double digit loses in longer-term treasury prices over the past two years are huge. Yet even at the most recent high yields lately of 2.60% to 3.26%, they continue to look low by historical standards.  With double digit price damage occurring at what many folks consider “low yields,” it should prepare bond investors for continued and greater carnage as yields continue their (so far) slow movement to more “normal” interest rates. (more…)

NEWS FEED

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