The bond market is the venue in which debt securities are traded prior to maturity. An investor in the bond market buys a debt instrument, which stems from what is essentially a loan to a corporation or government. In exchange for this money, the bond investor receives an interest rate. Debt instruments make interest payments at fixed intervals and for a fixed period of time; therefore, they are called fixed-income securities. The interest rate that the issuer pays is called a coupon. At maturity, the full amount of capital is returned to the investor. For investors in the bond market, two main criteria for buying a debt instrument is duration and credit quality. Duration for the bond market represents the length of the investment; credit quality refers to how strong the borrower is and how able they are to repay the full amount of debt.
The strong jobs market report last week started the chatter again that the Federal Reserve would start to reduce the pace of its quantitative easing program. Some have said the Fed will reduce the amount of its asset purchases as early as December, while others are saying the quantitative easing will start to diminish by March 2014.
I have a different opinion: I believe the Federal Reserve can’t stop quantitative easing, because the market has become so dependent on it. If the Fed does go ahead with a pullback on money printing, the consequences will not be pleasant.
I made a very similar prediction last time when we heard a significant amount of “noise” about the Federal Reserve pulling back on its asset purchases. My predictions were right, and nothing has changed since then. The Federal Reserve continues to buy $85.0 billion worth of U.S. bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) a month.
Please see the chart below to see why I believe the Federal Reserve just can’t walk away from quantitative easing without causing massive damage.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
In May, when the Federal Reserve hinted it might be reducing the pace of its asset purchases, we saw a spike in bond yields with the 30-year U.S. Treasury rising from about 2.8% to as high as 3.9% in a very short period of time. Then we heard the Fed would not be tapering as was expected and bond yields settled and started trading in a range. Now, with the jobs market report perceived as good (first time we created over 200,000 new jobs in months), bond yields started rising … Read More
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects the global economy to increase by 2.9% this year and 3.6% in 2014—forecasts which I believe are too optimistic. Why?
First of all, we have the Japanese economy, the third-biggest in the global economy, suffering an economic slowdown. Tertiary industry activity (activity in the service businesses) slowed in September from a month ago. (Source: Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, November 12, 2013.)
Then there’s Germany, the fourth-biggest economy in the global economy. Once believed to be immune to the economic slowdown in the eurozone, seasonally adjusted manufacturing output in the country declined 0.8% in September from August. As of September, year-to-date manufacturing output in the German economy has increased only 1.2%—a much slower growth rate than in the same period of 2012. (Source: Destatis, November 8, 2013.)
Earlier this month, in a statement about its monetary policy decision, the central bank of Australia said, “In Australia, the economy has been growing a bit below trend over the past year and the unemployment rate has edged higher. This is likely to persist in the near term… Public spending is forecast to be quite weak.” (Source: “Statement by Glenn Stevens, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision,” Reserve Bank of Australia, November 5, 2013.)
To fight the economic slowdown in the country, the Reserve Bank of Australia is using easy monetary policy measures. The central bank has reduced its benchmark interest rate in the country by more than 40% since the beginning of 2012. The cash rate, the overnight money market interest rate, sits at 2.50% compared to 4.25% in early 2012. (Source: Reserve Bank of Australia … Read More
There’s a notion among central banks of the global economy that goes like this: if you lower interest rates, you will get economic growth. On the surface, it makes sense; easy monetary policies by central banks are supposed to bring confidence to an economy—they’re supposed to encourage consumers and businesses to borrow, which should translate to more jobs created and an improvement in the standard of living.
This phenomenon of lowering interest rates to spur the economy has spread through the global economy like wild fire.
Interest rates at the central bank of Australia have been trending lower since the financial crisis. In December of 2007, the cash rate (the benchmark interest rate) there was 6.75%. Fast-forwarding to today, this rate is 2.5%. (Source: Reserve Bank of Australia web site, last accessed September 16, 2013.)
Brazil’s central bank has lowered its benchmark interest rate since the end of 2008. The interest rate dictated by the country’s central bank stood at 13.75% near the end of 2008; now it stands at nine percent. (Source: Banco Central do Brasil web site, last accessed September 16, 2013.)
The benchmark interest rate in South Africa is down almost 50%. The South African Benchmark Overnight Rate (SABOR) was above 10% near the end of 2007. Now it stands at 4.82% and has been hovering around this level for some time. (Source: South African Reserve Bank web site, last accessed September 16, 2013.)
While we’ve been watching this happen, no one is really asking the question how are interest rates being kept low? The answer: to keep the interest rates low central banks print more paper … Read More
Late last year, the concept of the “Great Rotation” became popular. The idea behind the Great Rotation was simple: the theory was that once the bond prices started to decline, investors would take their money out of bonds and put them into the equity markets.
The logic behind the Great Rotation made sense. When one asset class becomes too risky, the bond market in this case, investors usually run towards other assets. But the Great Rotation isn’t happening?
Yes, the bond market has certainly come down from its peak. If we look at the 30-year U.S. bonds as an indicator of the bond market, the yields on those bonds are up roughly 24% since the beginning of the year. The 10-year U.S. notes are in a similar situation, if not worse. It’s the biggest bloodbath for the bond market we’ve seen in years.
But investors are not fleeing the bond market for the equity markets. In fact, we are seeing the opposite. Investors are leaving both the bond market and equity market.
The chart below illustrates the inflows/outflows from U.S. long-term bonds and stock mutual funds.
While the chart above shows data from January to June of this year, in July, if you add the weekly outflow from the bonds mutual funds, they were upwards of $16.0 billion. In August, for the three weeks ended August 21, the long-term bonds mutual funds had an outflow of a little more than $17.0 billion. (Source: Investment Company Institute, August 29, 2013.)
If investors are not going to the equity markets as they run away from the bond market, where are they parking … Read More
This is a story of how the big banks pulled gold prices from under our feet, but why their plan for the stock market won’t pan out…
When gold bullion prices went into semi-crash mode in late spring of this year, some stories written by financial analysts suggest big banks colluding together to bring gold bullion prices crashing down. If you remember, The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE/GS) came out with a report saying gold bullion prices would go down…and magically, they did!
At about the same time Goldman Sachs gave a “sell” recommendation on gold bullion, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE/JPM) was selling gold bullion on the paper market. The plunge in gold bullion prices started in April—but JPMorgan was selling gold since the beginning of the year. From January to April, the big bank’s house account had a net short position of 14,749 100-ounce COMEX gold contracts—or about 1.47 million ounces of gold bullion. (Source: “Year to Date Delivery Notices,” CME Clearing, August 19, 2013.)
I’ll be the first to admit it: the gold bullion price takedown that started in April sure looks and smells fishy.
Once the sell-off in gold bullion began, no one cared about demand or supply (the reason why gold bullion prices increase or decline). The fundamentals were thrown out the window. Irrationality and emotions took over, and investors ran for the exit.
Gold bullion prices have started to climb back up. They are above $1,300 an ounce and marching towards the next big level at $1,400.
The gold “play” is over for the big banks; they’re onto something else—the stock market.
The … Read More
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