Posts tagged ‘Yield Curve’

Risk of “Double-Rip” on the Rise

Ripped Money

Okay, you heard it here first. I’m officially anointing my first new 2013 economic term of the year: “Double-Rip!” No, the biggest risk of 2013 is not a “double-dip” (the risk of the economy falling back into recession), but instead, the larger risk is of a double-rip – a sustained expansion of GDP after multiple quarters of recovery. I know, this sounds like heresy, given we’ve had to listen to perma-bears like Nouriel Roubini, Peter Schiff, John Mauldin, Mohamed El-Erian, Bill Gross, et al shovel their consistently wrong pessimism for the last 14 quarters. However, those readers who have followed me for the last four years of this bull market know where I’ve stood relative to these unwavering doomsday-ers. Rather than endlessly rehash the erroneous gospel spewed by this cautious clan, you can decide for yourself how accurate they’ve been by reviewing the links below and named links above:

Roubini calling for double-dip in 2012 

Roubini calling for double-dip in 2011

Roubini calling for double-dip in 2010

Roubini calling for double-dip in 2009

If we switch from past to present, Bill Gross has already dug himself into a deep hole just two weeks into the year by tweeting equity markets will return less than 5% in 2013. Hmmm, I wonder if he’d predict the same thing now that the market is up about +4.5% during the first 18 days of the year?

Why Double-Rip Over Double-Dip?

Racing Car

How can stocks rip if economic growth is so sluggish? If forced to equate our private sector to a car, opinions would vary widely. We could probably agree the U.S. economy is no Ferrari. Faster growing countries like China, which recently reported 4th quarter growth of +7.9% (up from +7.4% in 3rd quarter), have lapped us complacent, right-lane driving Americans in recent years. But speed alone should not be investors’ only key objective. If speed was the number one priority, the only places investors would be placing their money would be in countries like Rwanda, Turkmenistan, and Libya (see Business Insider article). However, freedom, rule of law, and entrepreneurial spirit are other important investment factors to be considered. The U.S. market is more like a Toyota Camry – not very flashy, but it will reliably get you from point A to point B in an efficient and safe manner.

Beyond lackluster economic growth, corporate profit growth has slowed remarkably. In fact, with about 10% of the S&P 500 index companies reporting 4th quarter earnings thus far, earnings growth is expected to rise a measly 2.5% from a year ago (from a previous estimate of 3.0% growth). With this being the case, how can stock prices go up? Shrewd investors understand the stock market is a discounting mechanism of future fundamentals, and therefore stocks will move in advance of future growth. It makes sense that before a turn in the economy, the brakes will often be activated before accelerating into another fast moving straight-away.

In addition, valuation acts like shock absorbers. With generational low interest rates and a below-average forward 12-month P/E (Price-Earnings) ratio of 13x’s, this stock market car can absorb a significant amount of fundamental challenges. The oft quoted message that “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine,” from value icon Benjamin Graham holds as true today as it did a century ago. The recent market advance may be attributed to the voters, but long-term movements are ultimately tied to the sustainable scales of sales, earnings, and cash flows.

If that’s the case, how can someone be optimistic in the face of the slowing growth challenges of this year? What 2013 will not have is the drag of election uncertainty, the fiscal cliff, Superstorm Sandy, and an end-of-the-world Mayan calendar concern. This is setting the stage for improved fundamentals as we progress deeper into the year. Certainly there will be other puts and takes, but the absence of these factors should provide some wind under the economy’s sails.

What’s more, history shows us that indeed stock prices can go up quite dramatically (more than +325% during the 1990s) when consensus earnings forecasts continually get trimmed. We have seen this same dynamic since mid-2012 – earnings forecasts have come down and stock prices have gone up. Strategist Ed Yardeni captures this point beautifully in a recent post on his Dr. Ed’s Blog (see charts below).

CLICK TO ENLARGE Source: Dr. Ed's Blog

CLICK TO ENLARGE – Source: Dr. Ed’s Blog

What Will Make Me Bearish?

Am I a perma-bull, incessantly wearing rose-colored glasses that I refuse to take off? I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. When I see a combination of the following, I will become bearish:

#1. I see the trillions of dollars parked in near-0% cash start coming outside to play.

#2. See Pimco’s  Bill Gross and Mohammed El-Erian on CNBC fewer than 10 times per week.

#3. See money flow stop flooding into sub-3% bonds (Scott Grannis) and actually reverse. 

#4. Observe a sustained reversal in hemorrhaging of equity investments (Scott Grannis).

#5. Yield curve flattens dramatically or inverts.

#6.  Nouriel and his bear buds become bullish and call for a “triple-rip” turn in the equity markets.

#7. Smarter, more-experienced investors than I, á la Warren Buffett, become more cautious.  I arrogantly believe that will occur in conjunction with some of the previously listed items.

Despite my firm beliefs, it is evident the bears won’t go down without a fight. If you are getting tired of drinking the double-dip Kool-Aid, then perhaps it’s time to expand your bullish horizons. If not, just wait 12 months after a market rally, and buy yourself a fresh copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. There you can locate and learn about a new definition…double-rip!

Read Also: Double-Dip Guesses are “Probably Wrong”

New Normal is Old Normal 

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in Fiat, Toyota,  or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

January 19, 2013 at 11:01 pm 7 comments

Does Double-Dip Pass Duck Test?

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then chances are it is a duck. Regrettably, not everything passes the common “duck test” when it comes to judging the state of the economy. The prevailing opinion is the economy is on the brink of falling into another double-dip recession. Driving this sentiment has been the relentless focus on the softening short-term data (e.g., weekly jobless claims, monthly retail sales, daily dollar index, etc.). I’m no prophet or Nostradamus when it comes to picking the direction of the market, but if you consider the status of the steep Treasury yield curve, the perceived sitting duck economy may actually just be something completely different – perhaps one of those oily birds recovering from the BP oil spill.

Pictures Worth Thousands of Words

Despite all the talk of “double-dip”, the curve’s extreme slope is still near record levels achieved over the last quarter century. Here’s what the Treasury snapshot looks like now:

Graph source: The Financial Times

Does this look like an inverted yield curve, which ordinarily precedes an economy falling into recession? Quite the opposite – this picture looks more like a ramp from which Evel Knievel is about to jump. Maybe Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is actually the daredevil himself by setting artificially low interest rates for extended periods of time? If so, it’s possible the economy will suffer a fate like Mr. Knievel’s at Caesar’s Palace, but my guess is we are closer to the take-off than landing based on the yield curve.

I’ve recently harped on the wide range of “double-dip” guesses made by economists and strategists (see Probably” Wrong article), but if that was not enough for you, here are a few more cheery views taken from this weekend’s Barron’s magazine and a few other publications of choice:

Kopin Tan (Barron’s): “The Treasuries camp is expecting another recession… In reality, with retailers and customers alike eyeing a second recession this year, it’s a season of anxiety.”

John Crudele (NY Post): “We’ll get a correction that’ll put the words ‘double-dip’ back into the headlines… When the final figures are produced years from now, historians might just decide that this was just one long downturn — not a series of dips.”

Jeremy Cook (Chief Economist-World First): “This will further heighten fears that the US economy is careening into the dreaded double-dip recession.”

How can the double-dippers be wrong? For starters, as I alluded to earlier, we are nowhere near an inverted yield curve. The 10-Year Treasury Note currently yields 2.62% while the T-Bill a measly 0.15%, creating a spread of about +2.47% (a long distance from negative).

As this chart implies, and others confirm, over the last 50 years or so, the yield curve has turned negative (or near 0% in the late 1950s and early 1960s) before every recession. Admittedly, before the soft-patch in economic data-points, the steepness was even greater than now (closer to 3.5%). Maybe the double-dippers are just more prescient than history has been as a guide, but until we start flirting with sub-1% spreads, I’ll hold off on sweating bullets. Less talked about now is the possibility of stagflation (stagnant inflation). I’m not in that camp, but down the road I see this as a larger risk than the imminent double-dip scenario.

I’m not in the business of forecasting the economy, and history books are littered with economists that come and go in glory and humiliation. And although it’s fun guessing on what will or will not happen with the economy, I rather choose to follow the philosophy of the great Peter Lynch (see my profile of Lynch):

“If you spend more than 13 minutes analyzing economic and market forecasts, you’ve wasted 10 minutes.”

Along those same lines, he adds:

“Assume the market [economy] is going nowhere and invest accordingly.”

I choose to spend my time hunting and investing in opportunities all over the map. With fear and anxiety high, fortunately for me and my clients, I am finding more attractive prospects. While some get in the stale debate of stocks versus bonds, there are appealing openings across the whole capital structure, geographies, and the broad spectrum of asset classes. So, as others look to test whether the economic animal is a bear, bull, or duck, I’ll continue sniffing away for opportunities like a bloodhound.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in BP or any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

August 22, 2010 at 11:22 pm 5 comments

Cockroach Consumer Cannot be Exterminated

We’re told that cockroaches would inherit the earth if a nuclear war were to occur, due to the pests’ impressive resiliency.  Like a cockroach, the American consumer has managed to survive its own version of a financial nuclear war, as a result of the global debt binge and bursting of the real estate bubble. Although associating a consumer to a disease-carrying cockroach is not the most flattering comparison, I suppose it is okay since I too am a consumer (cockroach).

Confidence Cuisine

Cockroaches enjoy feasting on food, but they have been known to live close to a month without food, two weeks without water, and a half hour without air while submerged in water. On the other hand, consumers can’t live that long without food, water, and oxygen, but what really feeds buyer purchasing patterns is confidence. The April Consumer Confidence number from the Confidence Board showed the April reading reaching the highest level since September 2008. On a shorter term basis, the April figure measured in at 57.9, up from 52.3 in the previous month.

Where is all this buying appetite coming from? What we’re witnessing is merely a reversal of what we experienced in the previous years. In 2008 and 2009 more than 8 million jobs were shed and the fear-induced spiraling of confidence pushed consumers’ buying habits into a cave. With +290,000 new jobs added in April, the fourth consecutive month of additions, the tide has turned and consumers are coming out to see the sun and smell the roses.  Recently the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) revealed real personal consumption expenditures grew +3.6% in the first quarter – the largest quarterly increase in consumer spending since the first quarter of 2007.

Sure, there still are the “double-dippers” predicting an impending recession once the sugar-high stimulus wears off and tax increases kick-in. From my perch, it’s difficult for me to gauge the timing of any future slowing, other than to say I have not been surprised by the timing or magnitude of the rebound (I was writing about the steepening yield curve and the end of the recession last June and July, respectively). Sometimes, the farther you fall, the higher you will bounce. Rather than try to time or predict the direction of the market (see market timing article), I look, rather, to exploit the opportunities that present themselves in volatile times (e.g., your garden variety Dow Jones -1,000 point hourly plunge).  

Will the Trend End?

Can this generational rise in consumer spending continue unabated? Probably not. To some extent we are victims of our own success. As about 25% of global GDP and only 5% of the world’s population, changing directions of the U.S.A. supertanker is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Source: The New York Times (Economix)

However, more nimble, resource-rich developing countries have fewer demographic and entitlement-driven debt issues like many developed countries. In order to build on an envious standard of living, our country needs to build on our foundation of entrepreneurial capitalism by driving innovation to create higher paying jobs. With those higher paying jobs will come higher spending. Of course, if uncompetitive industries cannot compete in the global marketplace, and a mirage of spending is re-created through drug-like credit cards and excess leveraged corporate lending, then heaven help us. Even the impressively resilient cockroach will not be able to survive that scenario.

Read full New York Times article here

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

May 14, 2010 at 12:20 am 2 comments

Steepening Yield Curve – Disaster or Recovery?

Various Yield Curves in 2006 Highlighting Inversion

Various Treasury Maturities in 2006 Highlighting Inversion

Wait a second, aren’t we suffering from the worst financial crisis in some seven decades; our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is imploding; real estate prices are cratering; and we are hemorrhaging jobs faster than we can say “bail-out”? We hear it every day – our economy is going to hell in a hand basket.

If Armageddon is indeed upon us, then why in the heck is the yield-curve steepening more than a Jonny Moseley downhill ski run? Bears typically point to one or all of the following reasons for the rise in long-term rates:

  • Printing Press: The ever-busy, government “Printing Press” is working overtime and jacking up inflation expectations.
  • Debt Glut: Our exploding debt burden and widening budget and trade deficits are rendering our dollar worthless.
  • Foreign “Nervous Nellies”: Foreign Treasury debt buyers (the funders of our excessive spending) are now demanding higher yields for their lending services, particularly the Chinese.
  • Yada, Yada, Yada: Other frantic explanations coming from nervous critics hiding in their bunkers.

All these explanations certainly hold water; however, weren’t these reasons still in place 3, 6, or even 9 months ago? If so, perhaps there are some other causes explaining steepening yield curve.

One plausible explanation for expanding long-term rates stems from the idea that the bond market actually does integrate future expectations and is anticipating a recovery.  Let us not forget the “inverted yield curve” we experienced in 2006 (see Chart ABOVE) that accurately predicted the looming recession in late 2007. Historically, when short-term rates have exceeded long-term rates, this dynamic has been a useful tool for determining the future direction of the economy. Now we are arguably observing the reverse take place – the foundations for recovery are forming.

Treasury Yield Curve

Treasury Yield Curve (June 2009)

Alternatively, perhaps the trend we are currently examining is merely a reversal of the panic rotation out of equities last fall. If Japanese style deflation is less of a concern, it makes sense that we would see a rebound in rates. The appetite for risk was non-existent last year, and now there have been some rays of sunlight that have glimmered through the dark economic clouds. Therefore, the selling of government guaranteed securities, which pushed prices down and yields upward, is a logical development. This trend doesn’t mean the equity markets are off to the races, but merely reflects investors’ willingness to rotate a toe (or two) back into stocks.

June 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm 1 comment

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