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Posts Tagged ‘TIPS’

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.


Sense on Cents On Economy and Markets: Lets Look Back to Look Forward

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 23rd, 2009 8:50 AM |

The developments in our global economy are so large in scale that it is of paramount importance to develop a macro view. David Swensen, Yale’s head of investments and widely regarded as the top portfolio manager within college and university endowments worldwide, says as much in an interview reported by Bloomberg:

“The crisis forces you to think top-down in ways that would, I think, be unproductive in normal circumstances, or absolutely necessary in the midst of a crisis,” Swensen said. “You have to think about the functioning of the credit system. You have to think about the potential impact of monetary policy on markets over the next five or 10 or 15 years.”

I concur. In that spirit, let’s look back at my outlook from last October so that we can more clearly look forward as we navigate the economic landscape.

Excerpts, with current commentary, from The Economy – What Lies Ahead (originally published October 14, 2008):

1. Global Increase in Long Term Interest Rates – the massive amount of debt that will need to be issued will cause rates worldwide to rise even in the face of a likely significant economic slowdown. 

I still maintain this premise. The move down in the economy last Fall led to an initial move lower in rates on government bonds. Our central bank and other central banks have subsequently supported the economy via quantitative easing (central bank purchasing of government and mortgage-related assets). That said, we are now entering the stage where the global demand for credit is swamping investors’ and central banks’ ability to provide it and rates are moving higher. I believe this move to higher rates, especially in the government and mortgage sectors, will continue. Rates for municipal and corporate bonds should also be forced higher although not as much.

2. Financial asset deflation while hard goods and asset inflation. Why??
I can already hear the printing presses at work churning out currencies worldwide. The rise in interest rates will depress bond values. With slower worldwide economic growth and increasing unemployment, GDP prospects are not pretty for the foreseeable future. I think there is a very strong chance that we will see “stagflation.”
While financial assets have limited upside growth potential and significant downside even from here, hard commodities and assets will likely increase in value, or perhaps I should write will hold their value as financial currencies and financial assets lose value.

I continue to believe we will experience stagflation. Comments by Bill Gross of Pimco highlighting the potential likelihood of the United States losing its implied AAA credit rating adds fuel to this fire.

Individuals, corporations, and governments still need to delever (pay down debts) and will be forced to sell assets in the process. As such, while I think selected sectors of the equity market may hold up, I remain concerned about the overall market. I think the U.S. dollar and other currencies of overlevered (big fiscal deficits) nations will suffer. These developments are inflationary. To defend one’s portfolio from inflation, gaining exposure to TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) is prudent. Mr Swensen addresses this point in the aforementioned interview.

3. Where do you put your money??

Take what the market is giving you, and right now they are giving you security and guarantees in deposits in large money center banks . . . this also provides flexibility to provide liquidity for those in desperate need and you will see more and more of that occur both at a personal level and a corporate level . . . BE PATIENT . . . buy QUALITY . . . this market is very quickly separating the wheat from the chaff . . . well managed institutions will gain market share and it will be reflected in the value of their stocks and bonds . . . one has to fully understand an entity’s ability to generate cash flow to meet their debt service and to grow their enterprise.

While rates on CDs and other short term deposits have come down, I still believe it is prudent to remain defensively positioned at this juncture. As the liquidity needs increase – and they are – opportunities will develop in a wide array of markets. While it may be prudent to buy short term bonds of highly rated companies, I still think people should keep plenty of dry powder. Within equities, companies with pricing power (ability to increase prices in an inflationary environment) will outperform.

4. Other Highlights . . .

If the government accedes to the pressure being applied to suspend the mark to market accounting principle, I would expect that move would only prolong the underperformance of the economy . . . I view a suspension of the mark to market as the equivalent of an agreement to officially allow one to “cook their books.”

I very much believe this and maintain this viewpoint.

SELL RALLIES . . . while financial institutions have been feeling the pain of overleverage for the last 12 to 18 months, that pain is just now coming to bear on the consumer . . . given that the consumer represents app 70% of our GDP, the expected precipitous drop in consumption across a wide array of products and industries will be very painful . . . you will see a litany of corporations announcing layoffs on a regular basis . . . Pepsi did just that this morning.

I also maintain this premise. I believe we will experience double digit unemployment this year given the problems in the automotive (production, parts, and dealers), and municipal sectors (forced cuts as tax revenues plummet. California is the poster child!!). Retail sales will remain low keeping domestic production and imports also depressed.

Please share your thoughts and opinions. Each and everyday is a microcosm, but we need to maintain the macro view as we navigate the economic landscape!!


I Have Some TIPS For You

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 6th, 2009 1:00 PM |

In the midst of the massive government intervention in the economy and markets, the Federal Reserve is providing measures of liquidity that are truly “off the charts.”  This liquidity, in the form of U.S. dollars, is flooding the economy. If and when the economy gains a little traction and the money multiplier kicks in, the growth in our money supply will skyrocket. What happens in the face of any market with increasing supply? Prices decline. In this case, the price decline in the value of the U.S. dollar spells INFLATION.

Many investors are questioning how to best position themselves for a potential increase in inflation. Various analysts are recommending commodities, real estate, and precious metals. However, while each of those assets can be a great store of wealth in the face of rising inflation, an investor is faced with a mix of fundamental and technical variables in determining the value of the asset. As a result, the correlation between rate of inflation and the performance of assets within those classes is not perfect. Is there an asset perfectly correlated with inflation? Come closer, I will give you a tip as to the asset class correlated to inflation.

 Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, yes TIPS, are U.S. government securities indexed to the rate of inflation.   (more…)

Let’s Meet David Darst

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 14th, 2009 6:00 PM |

David Darst may not be a household name for the general public, but for those involved in the world of finance he is held in very high regard. In fact, I think so highly of David that in the Sense on Cents Reading Room, I included his book:

The Complete Bond Book: A Guide to All Types of Fixed-Income Securities
by David Darst
– the Wall Street insider’s Bible to all types of fixed income securities.

David was interviewed yesterday on Bloomberg News. He touches on issues I have recently addressed here at Sense on Cents. I appreciated his commentary on the fact that the equity market rally this week was a “psychological” bounce in the context of a bear market. I addressed the particulars of the current market psychology in my piece, Is the Market Oversold? UPDATE.

Darst also offers enlightening color on overall market outlook, inflation, and places to hide amidst this turmoil.  I know you will not be disappointed in viewing Morgan Stanley’s Darst Sees Psychology Driving Stocks. It’s a 5 minute clip from a man with a lifetime of experience!! I am happy to bring it to you as we collectively navigate the economic landscape.


Where Can I Put My Money?

Posted by Larry Doyle on March 11th, 2009 5:06 PM |

With stock markets down 15-20% on the year and 50% over the last 14 months, everybody in the market is asking the same question, “where can I put my money?” While many asset managers are touting the equity markets as a great buy at these levels, cooler and calmer heads are stating that the economy and markets are likely to have a slow recovery. The question screams where to put one’s money to earn more than the pittance offered in bank checking and savings accounts.

I read a very informative piece in today’s WSJ, Locking In Returns You Like. First off, this piece is very user friendly. It provides a wealth of information and links to websites which will provide good market insight.

Over and above referencing some quality products (GNMAs, TIPS, municipals), it also broaches the topic of  laddering which I believe is a very valuable technique in building a bond portfolio.

Additionally, the article highlights FPA New Income Fund which is managed by one of our Economic All-Stars Bob Rodriguez. (I have no professional relationship with anybody on this site!!)

I think you will find this article a very valuable resource and I would recommend putting it in the “save” column for future reference. As you review the products highlighted and topics broached, please do not hesitate to ask anything you may not fully understand.


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