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Posts Tagged ‘treasury bond’

Merely Gaining Steam

April 28th, 2022 by Kurt L. Smith

Last month I discussed whether the bond bear market had finished its first leg down or was it merely gaining steam. Over the past few weeks, we got an answer to that question.

I also discussed the importance of stocks moving to new highs or there is a risk for a larger correction. What is a larger correction? I believe we can place Netflix (NFLX – NASDAQ) as the new poster child for the definition of larger correction. At its recent price of $193.50 on April 27, 2022 (all prices and yields per Bloomberg), Netflix is down 72% from its all-time high of $700 set just five months earlier on November 11, 2021. Again, merely gaining steam.

The “What, me worry?” crowd continues to fiddle while Rome burns. The losses in bellwether US treasury notes and bonds over the past several months is unprecedented. The losses in the NASDAQ for April 2022 may be among the worst months ever. 3% mortgages are now 5% mortgages and inflation is, pick a number, 8%?

My get-out-of-bonds mantra for the past two years has now morphed into get-out-of stocks. Normalcy was exceeded months ago and is now moving toward extreme, yet capitulation evades us. Instead, we are looking at wave after wave of continued downward prices for financial assets.

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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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Bonds Continue Their Roll (Role)

December 29th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Another year, another dollar. Certainly explains the bond market.  As no-to-low yields continue to dominate the bond market, a dollar is about what many new bonds will pay you. And with little volatility, like stocks, total returns were positive. In other words, bonds fulfilled their role.

Only the US Treasury Total Return was negative this year, with Corporate Bonds and Municipal Bonds positive per Bloomberg’s indices. The US Treasury performance, while a loser, didn’t lose much year-over-year. With the melt-up of 2019 culminating in March 2020, US Treasury bond (past) performance looks stout. Again, bonds did their job.

But at current no-to-low yields, past performance is priced in. Many investors will look at the year and probably make few, if any, changes.  Why change what is working? There is no need to dump bonds as they have seemed to do their job, fulfilling their role.

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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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Low Rates Are Not Enough

September 27th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

For almost forty years interest rates have moved lower and for many of us we will forever regard today’s rates as low. This is nothing new. We have lived in a low interest rate environment now for many years.

Not content with relying solely on the economic drivers of low interest rates, the Federal Reserve has, at various times these past many years, decided it also needed to buy bonds. Evidently low rates are not enough.

Buying bonds might spur you or your brethren to also buy bonds. After all, bond prices can move upward just like other asset prices and in 2020 the prices for US Treasury notes and bonds soared.

Despite continued Federal Reserve bond buying, US Treasury notes and bonds climaxed in 2020. Investors know that down forty percent in price represents quite a climax. What happened Fed? Why aren’t investors continuing to buy US Treasury notes and bonds and following your lead?

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What Is An Investor To Do?

August 24th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

For forty years you have known the answer to this question. You buy and you buy more. Hindsight is wonderful and it also can give you great confidence. Stay the course, invest with us…turn on the television and follow the financial ads. So easy.

Except the world changed eighteen months ago. Not the pandemic; the bond market top-ticked almost forty years of a bull market. As a reader of this letter, you know the bellwether US treasury bond had a final run-up of forty points and then lost all of that. The bond bull market is over.

You may question, or continue to question, the relevance of such a situation. Obviously stock investors do not care, judging by the corresponding market move in stocks. But what is eighteen months in the scheme of things?  We are talking about your retirement or managing money (yours or others)?  These are long-term concerns. Besides, what if the run-up in stocks is merely the stock version of what we saw in bonds in 2020? What happens when stocks top-tick?  The status of the bond market is relevant, regardless of how or when it chooses to assert itself.

I do not need higher interest rates to find worthwhile bonds. I can do it in a low-to-no-interest rate environment as I have for the past ten-plus years. My interest in following the bond market, particularly the movement of US Treasury bellwether’s is because it matters.

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Correction Over!

July 28th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Now that I have your attention, I hope I do not lose it by saying I am talking about long-term treasury prices. The March 2021 letter, Should We Be Traders? noted how the thirty-year bellwether treasury bond had lost all of its forty-point gain from the March 9, 2020, bond market top. The bond market moved from bull to bear, and I expect this bear to be a long one.

The bellwether bond we watch is the 2.375% of 11/15/49, trading at 141 on March 9, 2020 (all prices per Bloomberg, rounded for simplicity). The low since then was March 18, 2021, when it traded at 98. Over the past four months prices have bounced upward, trading at 113 last week on July 20th. This upward bounce in price is the correction that is now over.

When prices fall about 43 points over twelve months the expectation is for a bounce to occur, here about 15 points, over a shorter period. This price action also can be seen in yields, in the opposite direction, with yields rising from 1.00% in 2020 to 2.44% in March 2021 and back down to 1.82% last week.

Similar price/yield action has occurred in the ten-year treasury yield. The 1.50% of 2/15/30 traded at .31% on March 9, 2020, and 1.67% on March 31, 2021 and 1.04% last week on July 20th. Low to high then a bounce; this is the correction!

What does this mean? The idea of lower for longer (i.e., low interest rates) was shattered with a forty-plus point move and reversal. Interest rates have moved back down but this is not indicative of where interest rates “should be”, but rather a prelude to the next move which is to new interest rate highs (and price lows).

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Why Municipal Bonds?

June 23rd, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

The obvious answer to the question “Why municipals?” is they are tax-free. That is a good reason, especially if the benefit is greater than the alternatives. From the days of double-digit yields of the early 1980’s the added benefit of the tax-free feature has almost always been worthwhile to investors in the highest tax brackets.

Of course, an almost forty year bull market for bonds helps as well, but that is over. Bond performance no longer has the wind to its back; bond performance now faces many headwinds. Selection is key no matter the market, but in today’s new bond market, selection is paramount.

The final stages of the bond bull market have wreaked havoc with investment managers and their investor clients. Where is the yield and what has performed well in these final throes of the bull? You know it is junk, or high yield. For municipals this means prisons, nursing homes, dormitories and other housing or land-based, new projects. For corporates, well you can find lower rated credits across industries.

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Return To Normal?

May 25th, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

Vaccines are wonderful and it is great to get together with friends and family again. The feeling of hope and sharing good times are wonderful.

Last week we vacationed with the family in the mountains of North Carolina. Beautiful mountains, near the Appalachian Trail and, oh yeah, without any gasoline. Someone at the Colonial Pipeline thought it would be a good idea for a sixty-year-old pipeline to be on the internet. A group of Russian hackers looking to make an easy $5 million dollars agreed.

Before we left North Carolina we were re-routed off Interstate 40 in Memphis because the bridge across the Mississippi River was discovered to have quite a crack. I guess we were just lucky to make it across the bridge just a few days earlier on our way to the gasoline desert of North Carolina.

My February letter led off with the tragedy Texans faced losing electricity and later water service. While the cause was not Russian hackers, it might well have been. At least the Russian hackers apologized for their actions regarding the pipeline. Texans on the other hand, got to see their state legislature in action (yes, inaction).

Our infrastructure sucks. You do not have to be in the infrastructure business (like municipal bonds) to know this. We get to experience it…regularly. This is nothing new.  No one wants to be responsible and yet we are all responsible. We like to think we are immune here in Texas because so much of what we have is new: new highways, new airports, or at least terminals all over the state.  Yes, growth is better than the non-growth I see across the country but, as we experienced in February, we are not immune to infrastructure problems.  We are not even lucky.  Texas is a great place to be if you do not want to be responsible. Companies are moving here in droves as a result.

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An Ever Changing World

April 22nd, 2021 by Kurt L. Smith

High prices may be a time to celebrate, but they may also be a time for decision making. Nothing illustrates this better than the market for the U.S. Treasury bond bell whether trading at the highwater mark of highwater marks last year and losing all its gains since.

Last month we discussed the bellwether bond, the 2.375% of 2049 losing it’s 140 price premium, selling at a discount one year later in March 2021. For owners of this bond, it may be a case of easy come, easy go or we may hear “I bought it for the yield (seriously?)” as they continue to own the asset.

All owners of stocks should take notice. Gains do disappear, though stock investors also may take comfort in making the statement “I bought it for the yield” and continue to buy and hold. Everybody wanted to (and seemingly did) own General Electric, the darling of the 1980’s and 1990’s bull market, but then life happened, and it was not pretty.

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NEWS FEED

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