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Posts Tagged ‘Federal Reserve’

Worst Quarter Since 1973

March 30th, 2022 by Kurt L. Smith

Bloomberg published this line on March 22nd as their US Treasury Index had lost 5.55% since year end, surpassing the 5.45% loss at the beginning of 1980, the biggest quarterly decline since their index was created. In the middle of the bond bear market’s first move, this type of poor performance is to be expected.

Some people look at the bond market’s performance as the tortoise versus the stock market’s hare. Every day, bond investors look into the mirror (at bond performance) and it looks as if little has changed. Here, in the early stages of the bond bear market, nothing could be further from the truth.

The yields on the risk-free US treasury bellwethers we track have soared over the past two years. The 1.5% treasury note of February 15, 2030, sold at a .31% yield (111-19) on March 9, 2020 (all yields/prices per Bloomberg). This past week that note traded at 2.52% (92-23). This is an almost 19-point loss or 17% on the bellwether ten-year treasury note. Longer maturities fared far worse. Our bellwether is the 2.375% of November 15, 2049, and it sold at .70% or 140-17 on March 9, 2020. Last week this bond sold at 2.67% (94-09) for a 46-point loss or 33% of value.

Bond bear market? I do not recall reading that headline in the New York Times or splashed across magazine covers of late. But a dribble here and a dribble there while looking in the mirror has eroded significant values in the risk-free-rate US treasury market.

Almost all this price erosion happened before the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates. That did not happen until March 16th. So much for fed leadership; how’s that for Fed response?

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More of the Same

January 31st, 2022 by Kurt L. Smith

No, I did not delay writing this letter until we heard from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday afternoon. When was the last time the Fed surprised? Indeed, this Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, is more of the same.

In the mold of the maestro, Alan Greenspan, Powell serves up optimism with the confidence that the Federal Reserve has “our tools and we will use them” to get the job done. Not only does he have the tools, but he also has experience using them. Whereas former Fed chair Bernanke questioned whether he had the authority to act and act boldly, Chair Powell suffers no such hesitation. He has already been there and done that.

Chair Powell has decisions to make. Inflation is the worst in 40 years, interest rates are rising without his involvement and the Federal Reserve balance sheet now stands at $9 trillion ($8.867TR, per Bloomberg). Thankfully everyone is working…everyone that hasn’t retired, quit, or been sidelined by COVID

This past month things are beginning to break down. Our beloved bond market, the one I continue to shoo you away from, continues to deteriorate. One should not own bond mutual funds which has been my stance for almost two years now. Benchmark yields such as the two-year US treasury note or the ten year note have risen substantially, yet Fed Chair Powell continues to wait.

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Streaks End

November 30th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Streaks don’t last forever. This past weekend in college football proved that. The college football playoffs this year will not include Clemson, Ohio State or Oklahoma. Despite all reason, the best talent, and the fact we all love winners, the playoff runs for these schools has ended. Only Alabama’s hope remains. 

Time will tell whether this is but a minor setback for these perennial powerhouses or one of long-lasting stature. I know the differences. I am a (now) long suffering Texas Longhorn fan. 

I also called the end of the bond bull market as March 6, 2000. An almost forty-year winning streak for the bond market is now over, yet many do not share my certitude, even after twenty-one ridiculously long months. 

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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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Our World Has Changed

June 17th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

Most of us come to realize that change is inevitable and adapting to change is a part of life. Sometimes change is like aging in front of a mirror:  it isn’t until you look back several years that you realize, yes, I have changed…I mean aged.

This, of course, is not what I am talking about. Today we have a sea change (literally), as well as one massive change after another. The world has changed and adapting to it will be key to our survival.

My focus here is on the bond market, which just happens to be the primary tool of our monetary authorities: The Federal Reserve and the central banks of the world.  Fiscal authorities are also joining the bond rush as governments issue bonds to finance their response to our changed world.

The fundamental change that happened in the bond market occurred in early March and was the subject of my April letter. US Treasury securities traded at yields of 0.70% and lower across all maturities from a few days out to the longest thirty-year maturity per Bloomberg. This extremely low (or no) yield means longer term bond prices were at their highest prices ever as the price of the bond includes, effectively, almost all of the income you would receive in the days, years or even decades to come for the bond.

But it is not just treasury bonds. Other bonds such as mortgages, corporates and municipals also benefitted by the high bond prices as the yield spread on those bonds in early March were at or near historical lows. Historically low spreads, together with the low (no) yields of the treasury base means bond prices on almost all bonds were their highest prices ever.

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Not Lower For Longer

May 7th, 2020 by Kurt L. Smith

Last month’s letter highlighted the opportunity available in managed fixed income funds. March 6th was a pivotal moment with record low US Treasury bond yields and historically low spreads for other bonds, such as municipals, that I believe fixed income fund performance may be negative for years to come.

The high prices for bonds on March 6th, I believe, are the bond corollary for the record highs in stock prices in February. The dramatic swoon down in prices in early March affected both asset classes. Diversification between the two offered little safety.

Now, approximately six weeks from the March lows, prices have bounced back strongly. Taking a long-term approach, both stocks and bonds remain near their record highs. Looking backwards, the patient investor appears to be sitting in a good place atop decades of bull market bond and stock performance.

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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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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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Top of Tops

November 6th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

Relish in all of the good news? Certainly you must be joking? All-time highs for stocks and bond yields seemingly at low-forever yields (meaning high forever prices) and I want to rain on this parade? In a word, just one word, yes!

The reason why I have been keeping you apprised of the albeit slow changes in the bond market is because the trend change is beyond important: it is generational. Who knew that the next and most impactful move in the bond market would also occur at the all-time high for stock prices?

We have been keeping score vis-à-vis the ten year US Treasury note. Indeed the note did hit a low of 2.01% on September 8th and yields hit 2.47% on October 27th. Not the radical change I had predicted last month, but not bad and moving in the right direction.

I am focused on bonds and the bond market as reflected by yields on the ten year treasury. We can also look at the bellwether thirty year which should be at a low here at 2.85% up from 2.63% on September 8th. These low yields certainly fit the narrative of low yields. They will not remain low for much longer; certainly not forever. (more…)

Capitulation

June 14th, 2017 by Kurt L. Smith

It is not often that followers of the all-too-staid bond markets get to use the word capitulation. Usually things don’t move fast enough (or far enough) to warrant the use of the word. We, however, having declared the end of a three decades long trend, see a significant change taking place.

We marked late 2012 as the end of the bull market in Bonds, though the hockey-stick final mania in the longest maturing bonds didn’t occur until last spring, culminating July 6, 2016. Shorter term bond yields had risen since 2012 while the 10 year US Treasury bottomed at 1.32%, a significant turning point in trend.

The second half of 2016 saw yields spike to 2.64%, such that by year-end (December 2016 Letter) we called for a correction of this first move in the long-term bear market for long-term bonds. Indeed yields moderated back down to 2.13% early in June. So far so good and right along our projected path.

Which brings us to today. Actually it was a June 9th Bloomberg headline that used Capitulation, saying “Investors betting on rising bond yields just threw in the towel in a big way, according to Bank of America.” Citing the “biggest inflows to bonds in well over two years”, BofA concluded the performance of credit equities are “highly correlated.” (more…)

NEWS FEED

The $247 trillion global debt bomb washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-2…