Sorry, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

So who looks more right now, President Trump or Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell? Based on the market’s reaction to last week’s Fed rate increase, we’d have to say it isn’t Powell.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t right, at least looking at the situation objectively and what Powell is supposed to be doing as Fed chair. While it’s certainly arguable that the Fed does need to take a pause from raising interest rates for a few months to fully digest the recent economic data, which is showing the economy slowing some – but nowhere near a recession – it is right to continue tightening, no matter how unpalatable that is to the market.

Quite frankly, most of the calls for the Fed to refrain from raising interest rates are blatantly self-serving. Of course, investors don’t want the Fed to ever tighten policy, because, as we’ve seen, higher rates mean lower stock prices. Not many people like that, especially when it’s been ingrained in them over the past 10 years that stock prices only go one way – up – and that “buying the dips” is a no-lose strategy to make up for past losses.

Welcome to reality, folks. Continue reading "Sorry, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus"

Is The Fed Done Tightening After December?

It’s beginning to look a lot like the Federal Reserve is done tightening, at least after next week’s monetary policy meeting, when it’s expected to raise interest rates another 25 basis points, to 2.5%, its fourth rate hike this year. After that, however, it’s looking less and less likely that it will raise rates at all next year, certainly not four times, which seemed to be the market consensus not all that long ago.

As we know well, Fed chair Jerome Powell told the Economic Club of New York late last month that interest rates are “just below” the so-called neutral rate, a retreat from his comments less than two months earlier that the fed funds rate was a “long way” from neutral. That sparked a big, but short-lived, rally in both bonds and stocks, as it left investors with the idea that Powell and the Fed are going to be a lot less hawkish moving forward in light of still somnolent inflation and now signs of a weakening economy, exacerbated by the recent inversion of some Treasury bond yield curves, which traditionally have been a sign of impending recession.

As CNBC’s Jim “Mad Money” Cramer noted on Monday, the Fed "risks its credibility" if it doesn’t raise rates next week, a move it has been telegraphing for several months. Failure to do so risks setting off a market panic because, as Cramer said, the Fed could create the impression that “there's something really wrong that we don't know about.” So the Fed has largely backed itself into a corner and must go through with it, whether it wants to now or not.

But what about next year? Continue reading "Is The Fed Done Tightening After December?"

Dimon Says: Get ready for 5% 10-year yield

If you don’t believe me, believe Jamie Dimon.

“I think rates should be 4% today,” the JPMorgan Chase CEO said this week, referring to the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note. And if that wasn’t strong enough, he added, “you better be prepared to deal with rates 5% or higher — it's a higher probability than most people think.”

The question shouldn’t be, “Is he right?” Instead, it should be: “Why aren’t rates that high already?”

The 10-year yield ended last week at 2.95%, about unchanged from the previous week, although it did cross over into 3.0% territory for about a day before falling back. It started this week at 2.93% -- after Dimon made his comments.

Just about every Federal Reserve comment and economic and supply-and-demand figure screams that the yield on the 10-year should be at least 100 basis points higher than it is today. Yet the yield remains stubbornly at or below 3%. Continue reading "Dimon Says: Get ready for 5% 10-year yield"

Don't Bet On Crises To Keep Bond Rates Lower

Despite the recent dip in the 10-year Treasury note yield back below 3%, don’t count on it staying there. Lately, it seems, the only thing keeping the rate below that level is some sort of international crisis – Italy, North Korea, trade wars, etc. But the basic fundamentals determining that rate – economic growth and supply and demand, in other words – are calling for even higher rates, well above 3%.

On the supply side, more Treasury debt is coming to market all the time, like an incoming tide in the Pacific Ocean. On the demand side, there are fewer buyers – and I mean big buyers. More about that in a minute. At the same time, the economy is growing stronger, which by itself is going to put upward pressure on rates.

In other words, if you’re betting that the 10-year yield is going lower, or will stay around or below 3%, you’re really only holding it as a safe haven. Nothing wrong with that, lots of investors do that. But if you’re hoping to profit when something in the world goes wrong, you may be playing a losing game.

First the economy. Last week on CNBC’s Squawk Box, the gold dust twins, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon, tried to outdo themselves in how great the U.S. economy is performing. Continue reading "Don't Bet On Crises To Keep Bond Rates Lower"

Uncle Sam's Bargain Bonds

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates - Uncle Sam's Bargain Bonds


According to a widely reprinted and circulated report in the Wall Street Journal, for the first time since 2000, U.S. government bonds now yield more than all of their developed world counterparts. Looking just at the 10-year security, the yield on the benchmark Treasury note now yields more compared to a record number of countries, and the yield differential between the U.S. government note and its German bund counterpart is its widest in almost 30 years.

Basically, this means that the arguably safest investment available anywhere in the world – the one American business schools still hold up as a “riskless” benchmark – yields way more than most other sovereign debt, including Italy’s, Canada’s and Australia’s – but no, not Greece’s, although they’re not too far off.

Let’s look at the numbers. Continue reading "Uncle Sam's Bargain Bonds"