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Posts Tagged ‘Inflation’

Goldman’s Hatzius v Morgan’s Kasman: “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble”

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 30th, 2009 11:20 AM |

I love a good debate. Much like a prize fight, a healthy debate can ebb and flow as those ‘in the ring’ bob and weave while trying to score points. I so enjoyed a debate highlighted by The Wall Street Journal between the chief economists from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan that I highlighted it in the Newsworthy section of Sense on Cents. For those who don’t visit that section of my site, I am compelled to replay this debate here.

In the inimitable words of Michael Buffer, “let’s get ready to rumble” as Goldman, J.P. Morgan Economists Debate Shape of Recovery:

The recession might be over, but how goes the recovery?

We posed that question to two prominent Wall Street economists with two very different views of 2010. Bruce Kasman, chief economist at J.P. Morgan, sees the U.S. growing at about a 3.5% pace for most of next year. That appears optimistic compared to Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, who sees gross domestic product growth of 2% or so at the start of the year tapering off to just 1.5% by year-end.

The following is an edited transcript of their remarks during a recent conference call with The Wall Street Journal.

Looking ahead to 2010, what kind of recovery do you see? (more…)

Jobs + Housing = Consumer Confidence

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 27th, 2009 3:05 PM |

Market analysts and government officials would attempt to define overall confidence in the economy utilizing a variety of data. In my opinion, consumer confidence is ultimately a function of two factors: employment and housing.

While Uncle Sam has spent trillions of dollars backstopping various sectors of the financial markets and billions in economic stimulus, the size and scope of our employment and housing markets vastly overwhelm Uncle Sam’s ability to ‘prop them up.’ As a result, I am not surprised to see the monthly data on consumer confidence reflecting real weakness.

Bloomberg provides further insight on this topic in writing, U.S. Economy: Consumer Confidence Drops On Unemployment Concern:

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly fell for a second month in October, reinforcing the views of Federal Reserve policy makers who say household spending will be restrained by rising unemployment.

The Conference Board’s confidence index dropped to 47.7, trailing the lowest economist forecast, from a revised 53.4 in September, a report from the New York-based private research group showed today. A measure of employment availability slid to a 26-year low. (LD’s highlight)  (more…)

October 24, 2009: Month to Date Market Review

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 24th, 2009 7:32 AM |

Did the market merely take a breather this week or is the ‘little engine that could’ getting tired? Are we distinguishing the winners from the laggards? Are the cracks in our economic foundation repairing or are some just too large to hold back the flow of red ink, i.e. embedded losses? Perhaps we are experiencing all of the above as we continue our journey along the new and varied trails of our economy. Let’s review the major economic statistics for the week, along with the month to date returns across a wide array of market segments.

I thank you for reading my work, and now let’s collectively ‘navigate the economic landscape,’ the mission of Sense on Cents. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

ECONOMIC DATA

I largely discount positive news on the housing front as I view them largely manipulated by Uncle Sam while delinquencies, defaults, and foreclosures move ever higher. This may be an oversight on my part, but so be it.

Aside from that, I believe the most meaningful news this week was the GDP report from the UK. Please see my Friday morning commentary highlighting how the UK remains mired in recession.

Let’s move along to market performance. The figures I provide are the weekly close and the month-to-date returns on a percentage basis:

U.S. DOLLAR

$/Yen: 92.08 versus 89.68, +2.7%
Euro/Dollar: 1.500 versus 1.4635, +2.5%
U.S. Dollar Index: 75.44 versus 76.72, -1.7%

Commentary: the overall U.S. Dollar Index declined marginally this week. The dollar has improved versus the Japanese yen, but remains decidedly weak versus the Euro. The U.S. Dollar Index did break below 75.00 at one point early Friday. The correlation between the U.S. Dollar Index and the equity markets remains quite high. Both markets ended the week close to unchanged. Have too many people bought equities and commodities while having sold the U.S. greenback? I have been asking that question for the last month so no reason to stop now. The biggest impact of the weak dollar is seen in the commodity markets and long term interest rates. Commodities continue to trade with a firm tone while interest rates move higher.

I reiterate my comment from previous weeks: while I think Washington is not disappointed in a relatively weak dollar, although they should be (“Dollar Devaluation Is a Dangerous Game”), other countries are not overly keen about further dollar weakness. Why? A weak dollar puts those countries in a marginally less competitive position in international trade. On this topic, please read “Brazil Wants A ‘Real’ity Check.”

COMMODITIES

Oil: $79.65/barrel versus $70.39, +13.1% REMAINS VERY FIRM
Gold: $1055/oz. versus $1008.2, +4.6%
DJ-UBS Commodity Index: 137.32 versus 127.683, +7.5%

Commentary: I repeat from last week, unless you grow your own crops or have your own source of energy, you should expect to get increasingly squeezed as prices at the supermarket and gas station are likely to head higher. While Washington will not address this development, these price moves are directly correlated with Washington’s weak dollar policy. The banks and others able to borrow cheap money for trading and investing benefit from the weak dollar. American consumers and savers get stuck with the bill.

The  Baltic Dry Index once again moved higher and got back above the 3000 level. Is the improvement in the non-Japan Asian economic bloc for real? Certainly the economies in Europe and North American remain decidedly challenged.

I continue to believe these commodity tea leaves are an indication of inflationary expectations in these ‘inputs,’ while we encounter deflationary pressures in wages and real estate. (more…)

It’s the Economy, Stupid!!

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 16th, 2009 9:05 AM |

The American public is becoming increasingly wise to the ways of Wall Street and Washington.

Many Americans were duped by financial practices and products emanating from Wall Street. Where was Washington? I would assess Washington’s involvement and responses in the following fashion:

1. At worst, Washington was complicit given a wide array of failed public policy programs, especially in housing. These public policies were largely ‘greased’ by lobbying dollars and campaign contributions.

2. To a large extent, Washington was negligent in terms of oversight, especially on the financial regulatory front.

3. At best, Washington was naive given a general lack of understanding of markets and finance.

The American public is now responding in appropriate fashion. How so? In increasing numbers, they are choosing not to play the Wall Street game. What game is that? Active trading and investing. While the numbers of pure day traders may have increased, the American population at large is focused elsewhere. Where is that focus? On the economy at large and on their individual pocket books.

Washington’s focus on Wall Street and its selling of the market rebound as reflective of a return towards prosperity is a product that will not fly . . . try as they might. Why?

It’s the economy, stupid! Reports this morning indicate that wages will likely show the greatest decline since 1991. Even in the face of declining wages, consumers’ purchasing power is being further eroded by the continuing decline in the value of the dollar. That decline is inflationary which hurts consumers but it continues to present a very cheap funding vehicle for those who want to use the greenback to employ leverage in the markets. Who has the advantage in that process? The large banks. Do they spread that wealth in terms of increased credit and higher savings rates? Now why would they do that?

The American saver and consumer shouldered the cost of the bank bailouts in 2008. They are now shouldering the cost of the wealth transfer to the banks in 2009. While Washington would like to sell this dynamic differently, the American public gets it.

Washington will continue to sell this dynamic at its peril.

LD

Can We Add Some Inflation to Some Deflation and Claim Overall Prices Are Stable?

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 15th, 2009 11:03 AM |

Inflation? Deflation? What is it going to be? As we continue to navigate the economic landscape, that question – perhaps more than any other – is of paramount concern. As I assess the economy and the markets, I envision the following:

> Ongoing deflationary pressures in real estate. Foreclosures hit a record level based on a report this morning.

> A likely increase in deflationary pressures from wages as unemployment continues to increase, hours worked do not pick up, and average hourly earnings are stagnant. How are corporations reporting earnings? Not from growth in top line revenue, but from cutting costs, including headcount.

I firmly believe these two overriding forces most concern the Fed and the threat that the deflationary forces could grow if not counteracted. How does the Fed counteract these pressures? Keep the liquidity pump running via a 0-.25% Fed Funds rate and now increased speculation of perhaps more quantitative easing in the form of purchasing more mortgage-backed securities.

What has been the result of all this liquidity running into the system? A significant decline in the value of our dollar. What does that create? Inflation. That’s good, right? A little inflation will provide some pricing power which supports our equity market. Not so fast. The inflation is not directly addressing the deflationary pressures in real estate and likely deflationary pressure in wages. The inflation is being generated primarily in commodities. What does that mean? Prices for food, gas, oil, and other raw material inputs will increase. As those prices increase, the cost of living in America will increase. Regrettably, that increase in cost of living will not be offset by an increase in wages.

Daily Finance provides a preview of the coming rise in food prices in writing, Sticker Shock at the Supermarket: Food Prices Poised to Rise:

If there’s any silver lining to a recession — albeit a thin one — it’s that consumer prices typically go down. Make no mistake, deflation is a sign of a sick economy, but at least the net effect of cheaper prices for the basic necessities — food, clothing and shelter — helps folks get by when they are struggling to make ends meet.

But consumers should brace themselves for things to change, especially at the supermarket. As the global and U.S. economies emerge from the downturn, economists predict that there is going to be some sticker shock at the checkout line. Food prices, they say, are heading higher and when you combine that with an unemployment rate that’s expected to linger near a three-decade high for at least another year, it’s even more unwelcome news.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects overall food prices to rise as much as 4 percent in the U.S. by the end of 2010. Yet, some economists think they could climb by as much as 5 percent. Even using the government’s more conservative numbers, the price for eggs is forecast to rise 3 percent and beef is seen increasing 2 percent. Lamb, seafood and fish? All three categories are expected to jump as much as 5 percent.

A 5 percent boost in your grocery bill may not seem terribly devastating, but consider this: If you spend $300 a week on groceries now, you’ll need to squeeze a raise of about a thousand dollars a year out of your boss (don’t forget withholding tax) just to keep up with higher chicken, beef, pork and dairy prices. Good luck accomplishing that little feat with a 9.8 percent unemployment rate and companies looking into every nook and cranny in order to cut costs.

Why again are these prices poised to increase?

the weak U.S. dollar means we will be exporting more of our homegrown food overseas, causing prices to rise at home.

The consumer will continue to get squeezed, but the wizards in Washington will be able to pronounce that the overall level of inflation is stable. Really?

-3 + 3 = 0 is not the same as 0 + 0 = 0 !!!

What a world.

LD

October 10, 2009: Month to Date Market Review

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 10th, 2009 10:12 AM |

We are reaching a point in our new “Uncle Sam” economy where rhetoric from Wall Street, Washington, and global financial centers seems to be having greater impact than true market and economic fundamentals. Why? Our financial and political ‘wizards’ are working overtime to reconnect the great ‘disconnect’ between Wall Street and Main Street. While we receive glimmers of hope in certain economic statistics, the dark clouds in employment and housing remain daunting.

Are the ‘Washington wizards’ (Bernanke, Geithner, Summers) providing hints of support for our greenback while truly hoping for a manageable decline? I believe they are, and I believe this financial engineering is a very dangerous game.

I thank you for reading my work, and now let’s collectively ‘navigate the economic landscape,’ the mission of Sense on Cents.

ECONOMIC DATA

Non-manufacturing Institute of Supply Management: this report rose above 50 (an indication of growth) with a positive development in new orders (this is clearly good), but with no signs of improvement in employment and pricing power by manufacturers.

Redbook: indications of slight improvement in same store sales although next week’s Retail Sales report will likely look exceptionally weak as it incorporates an end to the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program. Overall signs point to what is expected to be a weak holiday retail season.

Jobless Claims: overall claims declined, which presents a sign of stability within employment. That said, it is hard to be optimistic on the employment front on the heels of the employment report released on October 2nd (embedded within the Equity section of this commentary).

Trade Deficit: this deficit surprisingly narrowed, with a slight increase in exports combined with a slight decrease in imports. All other things being equal, this report would be positive for our dollar but the noise surrounding our currency is overwhelming the focus within this one month reading.

I would typically lead my review with focus on the equity and bond markets, but those sectors are actually following developments in the currency and commodity markets so let’s shift our focus accordingly.

How did the markets handle the Fed-speak, the data, and technical flows? Let’s continue navigating. The figures I provide are the weekly close and the month-to-date returns on a percentage basis.

U.S. DOLLAR

$/Yen: 89.78 vs. 89.68
Euro/Dollar: 1.4709 vs. 1.4635
U.S. Dollar Index: 76.35 vs. 76.72

Commentary: the overall U.S. Dollar Index has declined by approximately .5% this month, but the volatility and focus on movements in this space have been tremendous. Precipitated by an increase in rates by the Australian Central Bank midweek, the U.S. Dollar Index plunged below 76 which represents multi-year lows. The dollar weakness led to a move higher in global equities as traders, investors, and speculators were emboldened to enter into more ‘positive dollar carry trades.’

While I think Washington is not disappointed in a relatively weak dollar, although they should be (“Dollar Devaluation Is a Dangerous Game”), other countries are not overly keen about further dollar weakness. Why? A weak dollar puts those countries in a marginally less competitive position in international trade. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet voiced his concerns on this topic. Rest assured, the Asian nations feel the same way although they are careful in their comments. Adding further fuel to dollar weakness was speculation that the trading of oil and a basket of other commodities, which are currently transacted in U.S. dollars, would shift trading away from being dollar-based. On that note, let’s review the action in commodities.

COMMODITIES

Oil: $72.29/barrel vs. $70.39
Gold: $1050.1/oz. vs. $1008.2   !!!! THE BIG WINNER !!!!
DJ-UBS Commodity Index: 129.177 vs. 127.683

Commentary: I view this segment of the market to be the STRONGEST indicator of the global economic pulse. Additionally, the price action in commodities is likely a strong indication of the ‘positive carry’ trade put on by hedge funds and other traders.

The overall commodity index has moved higher by approximately 1.2% on the month, but the movements within specific commodities is gaining the real focus. Gold specifically has soared by over 4% this month. Why? Market speculation about a potential further slide in the greenback would be inflationary.  Oil and other commodities also benefited from the story I referenced above. The conundrum I find in this space revolves around overall levels of international trade. Are these commodities moving higher truly because of an increase in demand or merely because of speculative investing and trading? Where do we go to get a pulse on that? The Baltic Dry Index. How is our friendly indicator of global shipping activity doing?

The  Baltic Dry Index continues to move marginally lower. Can global equities in general and commodities specifically increase in value if the major indicator of global trade, that being the BDI (Baltic Dry Index), is in a downtrend? I think not for the long haul, but for a period of time a cheap funding vehicle, that is the U.S. dollar, can override market fundamentals.

I read these commodity tea leaves as sign of inflationary expectations in these ‘inputs’ while we encounter deflationary pressures in wages and real estate. What a world.

EQUITIES

DJIA: 9865, +1.6%
Nasdaq: 2139, +0.8%
S&P 500: 1071, +1.3%
MSCI Emerging Mkt Index: 946, +3.6%
DJ Global ex U.S.: 197.6, +1.5%

Commentary: equities regained momentum after last week’s selloff. Recall how just one week ago, we faced a remarkably weak and disappointing Unemployment Report which culminated a week in which equities had given up approximately 2%. Well, we not only recaptured that decline but rallied further by another 1-2%. This past week accounted for the strongest advancement in equities since early July. Are we poised for a breakout past 10,000 on the Dow? Well, we need to remain focused on what is driving the market . . . and that is the weak greenback.

Indications of economic strength in Australia compelled the Australian Central Bank to raise rates which drove the Aussie higher and the dollar to new lows. In the process, the ‘dollar carry trade’ gained momentum propelling global equities higher.

The initial earnings reports released continue to show no real signs of improvement in top line revenue generated by increased sales while the bottom lines have improved given ongoing cost cutting progams. If a company cuts ALL its costs, will its stock still go higher? Rising stock values ultimately need to be driven by ‘growth.’

BONDS/INTEREST RATES

2yr Treasury: .97%, an increase of 2 basis points or .01% 
10yr Treasury: 3.39%,
an increase of 9 basis points

The yield curve steepened (longer maturities underperformed shorter maturities) under the weight of another Treasury refunding (3yr, 10yr, and 30yr). The 30yr auction on Thursday was disappointing which precipitated the selloff. The bond market has been trading in sync with equities for the last few months. That price action is an anomaly as typically bonds will trade in an inverse relationship with equities. Comments by Bernanke in the latter part of the week about an eventual and timely increase in rates by the Fed did take the wind out of the bond market’s sails.

COY (High Yield ETF): 6.64, +3.8%
FMY (Mortgage ETF): 17.85, +0.3%
ITE (Government ETF): 57.77, -0.3%
NXR (Municipal ETF): 14.46, +0.1%

Commentary: while interest rates did move marginally higher over the week, overall they remain at remarkably low levels. The high-yield market remains on fire as that sector is benefiting from a lot of hedge funds allocating capital via the ‘dollar carry trade’ referenced previously.

Summary/Conclusion

The game continues. The disconnect between the overall domestic economy and the price action in the markets presents what one noted investor described as ‘the greatest experiment’ in modern finance. To the extent that people are putting money to work, I would focus on buying quality and utilizing ‘dollar cost averaging’ techniques.

Thanks for your support. If you like what you see here, please subscribe via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, or an RSS feed.

Thoughts, comments, questions always appreciated.

Have a great day and weekend.

LD

What Are Credit Suisse Clients Doing and Saying?

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 9th, 2009 11:30 AM |

High five to a good friend for sharing with us tremendous insights just released by Credit Suisse. While individuals can and should develop opinions on the economy and markets, the global flow of capital from investors (obviously central banks now count as investors given massive quantitative easing programs) will determine overall market levels. Let’s navigate and assess how Credit Suisse’s client base has positioned themselves and decipher what it all means.

Credit Suisse research analysts report the following:

We are close to finishing our marketing trip in the US and Continental Europe—and take a look at the main issues our clients are focused on at the moment.

1. Caveated bullishness: Hedge funds appear optimistic (focusing on Q3 earnings as the next catalyst). Long-only funds seem cautious, while retail investors are buying bonds rather than equity. We feel there is enough scepticism to leave us bullish.

LD’s comment: CS means bullish on equities.

2. Many asset allocators still prefer credit (bonds) to equity, so there is switching potential.

LD’s comment: Asset allocators are money managers, investment advisors, et al. This comment translates into the fact that money which has been allocated to the bond market could move into equities causing a move higher in equities and a move down in bonds.

3. Investors’ main dilemma: Why have margins stabilised at such high levels? Most feel the reason is cyclical (leaving limited upside in earnings), but we suspect it could be more structural.

LD’s comment: Margins refer to corporate profit margins. The fact that CS believes that profit margins are being supported by structural developments in companies and the economy is a VERY positive assessment as it indicates a change in the foundation of the global economy which would drive equities higher.

4. Economy: Very few clients are positioning themselves aggressively on a macro view. There is little confidence on final demand given the level of excess household leverage. A third of investors are bearish on US housing (too many, in our view). Clients still see inflation, not deflation, as the main risk.

LD’s comment: investors would appear to be more cautious than optimistic with concerns that there is excess liquidity from central banks which will ultimately lead to inflation.

5. Consensus catalyst for next leg down is severe dollar weakness (LD’s highlight), leading to a US bond funding crisis or government tightening fiscal policy too early. Two areas of worrying consensus: 99% of investors appear to be dollar bears and nearly everyone believes the Fed will be very slow to raise rates.

LD’s comment: if 99% of investors are dollar bears and are positioning themselves that way in one way, shape or form, then the dollar will find support. Why? When too many people are on one side of a boat, that boat tips. If the dollar does rally, then many ‘dollar carry trades’ may enter the ‘pain chamber’ and risk-based assets would likely sell off.

6. Regions: Strong consensus to be long of emerging markets (NJA is felt to have large upside potential if US retail sales recover and the dollar remains weak). Clients are more positive on Europe than they have been for the past two years. Investors have quickly capitulated on a tactically positive call on Japan. Renewed focus on domestic plays in dollar-linked countries (especially the Middle East).

LD’s comment: NJA is non-Japan Asia

7. Sectors: We believe most clients have a bar-bell type strategy. Consensus longs are tech and commodities/gold. We found far too many oil bulls for our liking. There is a huge variance of views on banks. Sectors where there is still doubt: life companies (too opaque), media, telecoms, steel and pharma. There were very few questions on defensives.

8. Style: Clients are looking for quality growth, shifting away from the credit-related plays.

Overall, I view this report as decidedly constructive on the economy and markets, albeit with plenty of reasons for caution.

Thoughts, comments, questions always appreciated.

LD

Dollar Devaluation Is a Dangerous Game

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 8th, 2009 9:24 AM |

Can we ‘devalue’ our way back to our days of economic ‘wine and roses?’

Many debt-laden countries throughout economic history have chosen to implicitly or explicitly pursue a devaluation of their currency as a means of improving their economies. Are the ‘wizards in Washington’ taking this approach? Aside from a few perfunctory comments in defense of the greenback, Washington has been largely silent on the topic of the declining value of the dollar. Many believe Washington very much favors a weaker currency as a means of supporting our economy. I believe this of Washington, as well. Let’s navigate.

Going back to the G20 in London last Spring, the Obama administration has attempted to curry political favor with emerging economies, especially the BRIC nations, by ceding dollar sovereigncy as the preeminent international reserve currency in return for support of global economic stimulus programs. Why does Washington believe a weak currency serves our economic interests? A weak currency generates and supports the following:

1. Promotes inflation as imports decline. Washington would like some inflation, given the massive deflationary pressures presented by falling wages and declines in the value of commercial and residential real estate.

2. Promotes exports for corporations with a multi-national presence.

3. Supports labor by making it more attractive for companies to keep jobs here as opposed to opening factories or sending work overseas.

So, in light of our current economic crisis, why wouldn’t we want a substantially cheaper dollar to maximize these benefits?

Recall that economists always need to keep certain variables static in order to study the impact of a change in another variable or multiple variables. This approach, known as ‘ceteris paribus,’ is not quite as easy as some may think. Why? Variables are NEVER static, or ‘ceteris is NEVER paribus.’ (more…)

U.S. Markets Play “Follow the Leader”

Posted by Larry Doyle on October 7th, 2009 9:40 AM |

Yesterday’s rise in rates by the Australian central bank is a bellweather sign of the global shift in the balance of economic power. While the rise in rates by the Aussies is the first central bank move, it certainly will not be the last. Why did the Aussies raise rates and what does it mean both in the short term and for the long haul? Let’s navigate.

The Australian economy did not have near the level of debt that burdens the U.S. and Europe and thus they did not need near the amount of monetary stimulus to weather this global recession. Additionally, Australia has benefited from extensive trade in the Asian hemisphere.

The knee jerk reaction in the markets was focused primarily on a selloff in the greenback which supported a move higher in commodities and global equities via the ‘positive carry trade.’ The commodity which garnered the greatest focus was gold, which moved toward $1040/ounce.

What do these moves mean? I see cross currents on the economic landscape, including:

1. The dollar may not necessarily continue to weaken, but given its current weakness it will support those companies which garner a greater degree of sales overseas.

2. A weak dollar is usually affiliated with inflation. I do not think we are in a position to look at prices in terms of one overall index. Why? Given the technical and fundamental factors in our economy, certain price components will likely project increased inflation while others will not.

To be more specific, given the labor situation in our country, I do not see any appreciable increase in wages anytime soon. In fact, I think it is likely wages will trend lower.

Given the glut of supply and vacancies in both the residential and commercial real estate markets, I have a tough time believing these prices will move appreciably higher anytime soon.

Commodities may very well move higher. Why? High five to MC for sharing with me that there is increased dialogue in the international trade community to move oil away from trading in dollars. In fact, that story likely had a big impact in yesterday’s trading. Even if there is not an immediate shift in this market dynamic, the mere fact that it is being discussed will support oil specifically, oil-based products broadly, and other commodities as well.

Given that these commodities are primarily inputs, the prices for the outputs will likely move higher. This development is clearly inflationary.

3. What happens to interest rates here in the United States? While on one hand we have some deflationary forces at work which would keep rates low, we have the tug of other factors pushing them higher. How does it play out? My gut instinct tells me that overall pools of capital will be flowing away from the United States and, as such, people and private corporations will have to pay more to attract capital here in our country. I think those entities which focus the bulk of their economic activity here in the United States will be forced to pay higher rates to attract funding.

4. What about our equity markets and the Fed? While the Fed will want to keep our rates low for an ‘extended period,’ they may not have that luxury. If other nations follow Australia in raising rates, the U.S. may need to withdraw some liquidity sooner rather than later. Kansas City Fed chair Thomas Hoenig made this very assertion yesterday.

What would higher rates mean or even the thought of higher rates mean? Slower growth and a tough road for equities going forward.

Thoughts, comments, questions always appreciated.

LD

Related Sense on Cents Commentary

Dollar Carry Trade Drives Global Equities (September 16, 2009)

Navigating the Bond Market

Posted by Larry Doyle on August 3rd, 2009 12:16 PM |

Where should people invest these days?

Are we to believe the price action in the equity markets?

With short term rates on CDs and money market funds ridiculously low, where does one turn to make a safe investment with limited risk?

Prior to putting any money to work, always make sure you look at an investment in the context of an overall portfolio. Diversity and prudent risk management never go out of style and should be the cornerstones of any portfolio.

Sense on Cents recommends short to intermediate bond funds.  I am concerned about longer maturity interest rates moving higher (in fact they have moved considerably higher this morning). As such, I would stay away from bond funds with longer maturities in the underlying investments.

What are some of the road signs investors should look for in navigating the bond market? The Wall Street Journal provides a very handy overview this morning, The New Bond Equation:

As the financial crisis heads into its third year, investors in bond funds are facing some difficult choices.

Investors usually turn to these funds for safety. But bond funds are facing a host of pressures that are driving down returns, raising long-term risk—and making it tougher to settle on the right investment strategy.

Let’s navigate!

1. Default Risk
Do not be presumptuous and think the portfolio manager is carefully managing individual exposures in a bond fund. Investors need to look into the actual portfolio of bonds and ask brokers or financial planners on questionable credits.

2. Interest Rate Risk
In the presence of a massive fiscal deficit and the likelihood that the deficit will grow, interest rates are likely to head higher. A rising rate environment means declining bond values, which is why I recommend short to intermediate maturity bonds which will be less impacted.

3. Passive Investing via Index Funds
Maximize diversity and minimize expenses.

4. What About the Perils of Inflation?
Gain some exposure to TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) and commodity funds.

5. Should Investors Try to Time the Market?
Sense on Cents ALWAYS recommends a dollar cost averaging or value averaging approach, in which an investor puts in a set amount of money every month. NO investor or portfolio manager is so good as to pick the top or bottom in a market, despite what you may hear.

Discipline is critical every step of the way. Do your homework prior to investing. Make sure the execution at point of investment is handled properly. Monitor your investments as you move forward.

LD






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