Are We Really In A Bond Bear Market?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


The U.S. bond market took it on the chin again last week. The question is: Was this is a harbinger of even higher yields to come or just an overreaction to some potentially scary headlines – some of which turned out to be fake news – and therefore a potential buying opportunity?

“Bond King” Bill Gross started the fun on Tuesday when he tweeted out these ominous words: “Bond bear market confirmed.” He did tone that down in his market commentary to his Janus Henderson clients, saying, “We have begun a bear market although not a dangerous one for bond investors. Annual returns should still likely be positive, although marginally so.”

Still, that’s not a whole lot to be happy about, unless you’re heavily invested in stocks, where the returns may be even worse, i.e., negative. The other so-called Bond King, Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital, predicted that the S&P 500 Index would end the year with a negative return. He also said that if the 10-year Treasury yield pushes past 2.63% – which it almost did last week – it will accelerate higher.

The news got worse after that. Continue reading "Are We Really In A Bond Bear Market?"

The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


In February Jerome Powell takes over as chair of the Federal Reserve, succeeding Janet Yellen. His first order of business should be to get the Fed off its silly, outdated and nonsensical monetary policy target of 2% inflation. He and the other members of the Federal Open Market Committee should at the very least change the inflation target number, or, better yet, find a different measuring stick altogether.

One of the Fed’s mandates, we know, is to keep inflation “stable,” as noted on the Fed’s website, citing the Federal Reserve Act (the other two mandates are achieving maximum employment and moderate long-term interest rates). The current Fed has taken to defining price stability as 2% inflation. Given that the Fed already basically believes it has accomplished the other two objectives, and price inflation has been nothing but rock-solid stable for several years, it’s not clear why it’s still so determined to get inflation up to that 2% target rate, and letting that dictate its monetary policy. If prices are stable at about 1.5%, rather than 2%, doesn’t that meet the mandate, as long as prices are stable?

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the lack of inflation – more accurately, deflation – was a big problem, feeding the downward spiral in the economy for more than ten years. Since then, economists, both on the Fed and elsewhere, have been absolutely terrified of that happening again, even though we haven’t come close to it, not even during the depths of the recent Great Recession. Now that we have seemed to have finally pulled out of the last financial crisis, it’s time to put that deflation obsession to rest. Continue reading "The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution"

Trump: Bad Bankers Beware

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


So now President Trump has thrown himself into the discussion about Wells Fargo. Maybe now the bank will get the justice it deserves. And maybe now the message about Trump’s intentions about financial regulation will become less fake.

First a little background. Three months ago Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen made some pretty startling comments for a Fed chief, publicly criticizing Wells’ behavior toward its customers as “egregious and unacceptable.”

She was talking, of course, about the bank’s years-long practice of signing up its customers for checking accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and other products without asking their permission or even telling them. But since then there have been reports and admissions by the bank of several other excesses, such as charging auto loan customers for insurance they didn’t ask for, dunning mortgage customers for interest rate-lock extension fees when the bank itself caused the delays, overcharging military veterans on mortgage refinance loans, and allegedly closing customers’ accounts without telling them why it did so.

You would think that the Fed – which regulates Wells and other big banks – would have come down on the bank by now. Yet nothing’s happened since Yellen made those comments.

Then last week the president injected himself into the fray. Continue reading "Trump: Bad Bankers Beware"

Fleeing The Fed Ship

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has become the latest senior Fed official to announce his retirement. He follows Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, who announced his intention to resign in September, and Daniel Tarullo, the central bank's top financial regulator, who announced his resignation back in February.

Of course, the biggest departure at the Fed was one that wasn’t voluntary, namely President Trump decision not to renominate Janet Yellen for another term as Fed chair, ignoring 40 years of precedent to reappoint a sitting Fed chief. Instead, of course, he nominated Fed governor Jerome Powell to replace her when her four-year term ends in February. Still, Yellen is entitled to finish her 14-year term as a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, which doesn’t expire for another seven years, on January 31, 2024, although her staying on would also be unprecedented.
All told, there are now three open seats on the seven-member Board of Governors, which of course may rise to four if Yellen elects to leave.

It’s pertinent to ask, then: What are all the departures at the Fed, both voluntary and involuntarily, signaling? Is it simply senior officials graciously moving aside to let a new president get a chance to pick his own people? Or is there something more sinister afoot, namely, do they indicate that a big change in the market is about to occur and they want to get out before the chickens come home to roost? Continue reading "Fleeing The Fed Ship"

Trump To GOP: Drop Dead

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


As much as I don’t like the fact that President Trump had to make a deal with the Devils – i.e., Democrats – to reach a temporary budget agreement, he did the only sensible thing he could do to avoid a government shutdown. He was able to increase the government’s borrowing limit and get emergency aid for Hurricane Harvey victims, all in one fell swoop.

Rather than wait around for the do-nothing Republicans in Congress to, well, do nothing, Trump agreed to a deal with the likes of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to at least get something done that needed to be done quickly. Was it the deal he really wanted? No. Was it the best deal? Probably not. Was it the best deal he could get right now under the circumstances? Probably. That’s politics.

But it might lead to bigger, better and more important agreements down the road, most immediately tax reform, and that was more likely Trump’s primary goal. He knew he couldn’t rely on Republicans for that. Continue reading "Trump To GOP: Drop Dead"