Keep an Eye on the Yuan & Corporate Spreads
Since the March 23, 2020 low, when the Federal Reserve announced basically unlimited liquidity via a variety of programs, corporate spreads have narrowed, and the stock market has risen substantially. In the chart below, I overlay US investment grade spreads over the S&P 500 Index.
Ready for Action?
Fed funds futures are on the move today, with longer dated futures now pricing in now two 25bps rate cuts by the end of the year. However, the market does not seem to be pricing in, yet, any material chance that the Fed cuts at its March meeting.
A JOLT to Job Openings & Asset Expectations
This morning the monthly job openings and labor turnover (JOLTS) report was released, and it came in significantly shy of expectations. While Bloomberg’s consensus estimate was for 6.925 million job openings, the actual number came in at 6.423. It is important to keep in mind that this is December data, so it doesn’t yet reflect the impact of the coronavirus on business operations.
Short Anatomy of a Sell-Off
Sell-offs can start for any number of endogenous or exogenous events. A mentor used to tell me, “There are a million reasons to sell a stock, but one reason to buy.” What he meant was that there are always personal reasons to sell...
What is Driving US Treasury Rates Lower in 2020?
10-Year US Treasury yields are down about 30bps so far this year, continuing the trend of lower rates that began in the fall of 2018 and confounding investor expectations for rising rates which would validate a turn up in economic activity.
Mid-Quarter Update: Spotlight on US Corporate Profits
US corporate profits are down from the 2014 peak. In this mid-quarter special report, we dive deep into corporate profits, taxes, profit margins and the increasing government debt levels that have propelled stock and bond prices higher, in our view, leading to rising equity and government bond valuations.
Consequences of an Inflection in the Chinese Yuan
As hopes for a trade deal fade, similar to May and August, the CNY is devaluating against the USD again. In our work there are a handful of fairly mechanical relationships that should follow if the CNY continues to devalue.
Confirmation of the Deterioration in Consumer Confidence
In our mid-quarter update, we highlighted the plunge in the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence indicator, suggesting that “good feelings” among consumers were starting to fade. Often surveys offer a leading glimpse into economic activity. A more confident consumer is more likely to make those big-ticket purchases, like homes and cars, as well as consuming more services.
A Deep Dive into Consumer Confidence
In this mid-quarter special report, we do a deep dive into the University of Michigan survey and discern what it may mean for the vigor of the consumer moving forward, prospects for a recession and consequences for asset allocation.
Beneath the Surface of China’s CSI 300 Index is Kind of Boozy
On January 3, 2019, Chinese stocks made a v-shaped bottom and surged into a peak on April 19, 2019. Since then, stocks have corrected by about 7%, dropping, recouping about 6% of the peak to trough decline that ended on June 6, 2019.
Could This Be a Brutal Earnings Season? If So, How Should One Be Positioned?
Yesterday BASF, the largest chemical company in the world, announced its earnings would fall well short of analyst estimates in the second quarter. Earnings season in the US begins in a few weeks. So, we ran through our charts to harvest any insights about how corporate earnings may play out.
Are We on the Same Page Yet? Tailwind for US Treasuries
The IMF made news yesterday by announcing its latest updates to 2019 GDP growth around the world. It guided global growth down and made an especially large cut to Eurozone growth estimates, bringing them down 30bps since January to 1.3%.
Throwing Cold Water on the Excitement Around Foreign Economic Data
Yesterday’s stocks reacted to a raft of overnight foreign economic data that it perceived positively. In this note, I’ll run down the data and my doubts about that reaction. The hits began with China’s Markit manufacturing PMI jumping to 50.5.
The Credit Markets Have Stalled
Credit markets often move before the equity markets, and this can offer helpful information about the near-term path of equity prices. In general, I like to see credit confirming what the equity markets seem to be saying. When credit stalls, like it is now, I take notice.
Currency Markets & Knightian Uncertainty
Knightian uncertainty is named after University of Chicago economist Frank Knight (1885–1972), who distinguished risk and uncertainty in his work Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit. The concept of a separation between risk and uncertainty is an important one right now given how severely politics are driving markets.
A New Year, New Expectations in the US Treasury Market
The slide in oil prices in October accounted for most of the move in 10-Year US Treasury bonds via the inflation risk component of the term premium. The two series are always highly correlated and this is a mechanism through which oil price changes are incorporated into US Treasury pricing.
Santa’s Gift to Investors: Global Oversold Conditions Present Buying Opportunity
The S&P 500 experienced a waterfall decline in December, something rarely seen. Measuring the decline using a 30-day Wilder Relative Strength Index, it is clear the extremes recently experienced.
There is a Huge Disconnect Between Energy Credit and Equity
Oil prices have swung drastically over the last couple months. The market was unprepared for the US to grant waivers amounting to nearly one million barrels/day to fill the void expected to be left by the drop in Iranian exports. Instead of Iranian exports plunging to almost zero by November...
Energy Sector Performance in Context
Energy is the best performing sector in four of six market-regions. (From two market groups, Developed and Emerging, and three regions, Americas, EMEA, Asia, we get six market-regions.) Among Developed Market sectors, energy is 5th YTD, down about 5% less than the MSCI All Country World Index.
Trade War is Boosting US Economic Activity … in the Short-Term
Overnight, new data released in China suggests businesses are having a tough time lately. Cheung Kong University produces an alternate PMI Business Conditions Index in association with the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing. The latest data point plunged more than 10 points from its end of July reading and is currently sitting at 41.88, deep into contraction territory.
Three Hints on the Direction of Chinese Assets
The Chinese stock market is closed this week for the Golden Week holiday. On this side of the Pacific the markets have been busy this week with US Treasury bond yields breaking out and stocks selling off—especially technology—based on the revelation that China implanted devices in technology products shipped to the US.
Small Caps Fail to Break Out
Among the major groups of stocks around the world that we follow, US small-cap stocks have been the best performer over the last decade as the USD experienced a strong bull market. US small caps have outperformed our mid/large group of developed companies by almost 40% over the last 10 years.
Thoughts on the Term Premium
As many have documented, the main channel of transmission for the Fed’s quantitative easing policy was via the term premium component of US treasuries. As the Fed’s balance sheet doubled from 2010 to 2015, the term premium embedded in US Treasuries fell from 2.5% to -75bps. The Fed is now shrinking its balance sheet, which on the surface would seem to suggest a rising term premium.
Are Commodities Signaling a Shift Away US Equity Leadership?
Most commodities have suffered lately with the backdrop of tariffs and China’s devaluation. But some have fared worse than others, and there is information content to the relative move in commodities. While copper catches many of the headlines (i.e. Dr. Copper, the metal with a Ph.D in economics) the most significant decline has occurred in lumber.
Tale of the Tape: Equity Investors More Concerned About Rising Inflation Than Slowing Growth
We calculate statistics for all developed and emerging equity markets around the world. For our mid/large cap indexes, we take the top 85% of all stocks in a given region or country and convert all prices into US Dollars.
Has the Storm Passed in the Emerging Markets?
Stock and currency markets often take their cues from the credit markets, so we find it instructive to keep a close eye on credit spreads and credit default swaps (CDS). Looking at the credit markets in the emerging markets, we think there may be initial signs that the storm that has engulfed emerging market assets may be over.
Yield Curve Inversion: Not What it Appears
There has been considerable discussion lately about the slowly inverting yield curve and what it may signal for growth prospects going forward. Commonly used as a proxy for the yield curve is the spread between 10-Year US Treasury yields and 2-Year US Treasury yields.
Project Independence: Possible this Year if US Petroleum Production Continues to Ramp
The US shale boom has led to a surge in the production of crude oil, and much of this production has been exported in recent years. In the chart below, I plot the gross exports of crude oil from the US. Beginning with almost nothing several years ago (in part because crude exports were banned until December 2015), US daily crude exports have eclipsed two million barrels per day.
Which is More Impactful to the US: Crude Oil or China Trade? Can Someone Tell Currency Traders?
Talk of a trade war with China has recently dominated the discussion in financial markets, overshadowing the other major story playing out in the US economy—normalization of the energy markets. I thought I would answer the question of whether trade with China or oil was a bigger economic issue.
A Reflationary Inflection in Oil Inventories
Venezuela has experienced a collapse in oil production this year as the country sinks into chaos. Daily production is down from 1.7M barrels/day at the end of last year to just 1.44M barrels/day at the end of May. Year-over-year production declines are even larger, down about 500k barrels/day.
Semiconductor Leadership Highlights the Rotation Into Value Stocks
Semiconductor and semiconductor capital equipment stocks have been stellar performers lately, a trend we have been a bit slow to recognize. So, I decided to do a deep dive on semis and semiconductor capital equipment stocks to see if there is opportunity left to capture.
Divergent Path of US Corporate Profits
Yesterday we got the latest glimpse into US corporate profitability. Depending on the series observed, corporate profits are either flat-lining or rising. Before-tax corporate profits, the blue series in the chart below, are actually net down by $32 billion from the peak in 2014.
John Williams Takes the “Under” on Expected Rate Hikes
John Williams, one of the newest members of the Federal Open Market Committee, wrote an article titled “The Future Fortunes of R-star: Are They Really Rising?” where he summarized his views on real neutral interest rates.
Treasuries Signaling Full-On Inflationary Boom in the US
Ten-year US treasury rates broke out this week on the back of news that looks unequivocally like an inflationary boom. Earlier in the week the Atlanta wage tracker ticked back up to 3.3% year over year. Wages moving higher, check. Oil prices broke above $71/barrel. Commodity prices higher, check.
USD Hedging Getting More Expensive: LIBOR-OIS Spread Heading Higher
There are two basic drivers of the London Interback Offered Rate (LIBOR): 1) policy rates and 2) a variable premium. Starting with the policy rates component, in the chart below I compare the interest rate on excess reserves (IOR) and USD LIBOR.
The Unappealing Yield of US Treasuries for Foreign Buyers & US Dollar Strength
With the European Central Bank dragging its feet to begin the monetary tightening cycle, the difference between US and German rates has opened up to record levels. In the chart below, I show the yield on 10 Year US Treasury Bonds and 10 Year German Bunds.
Bitcoin Rebound Suggests US Dollar Bear to Return Soon
Bitcoin made a closing high on December 18, 2017 at $18,764 and then proceeded to fall to the closing low for the year, $6,604.48 on April 6, 2018. Since then, it has rebounded almost 50% to today’s level of $9,670, having broken back through the 50-day moving average.
Quarterly Strategy Update: Volatility Shocks & Dollar Bears
Price excesses have built up over a long bull market. Stocks are expensive, and the volatility shock wave is traveling the globe. This quarter, we discuss the risks correlated with the current volatility, potential new sources of instability, and the sectors that could be the performance beneficiaries of these trends.
New Lows YTD in Chinese Stocks & Highs in Latin America Stocks/Bonds
Last night the China Shanghai CSI 300 index fell a bit more than 1.6%, taking out February lows and setting a new YTD low for the index. This is important since the global equity markets have a very high correlation to Chinese stocks.
Energy Stocks Are Starting to Flow
Energy stocks are looking lively today, with energy the best performing sector in the US and second best performing sector in Europe. The likely reason for the buoyant performance is a continued improvement in fundamentals. Inventory data released yesterday showed a steady decline in crude and refined product (ex-SPR) in the United States.
Pairs Trade: Bullish Energy Sector & Bearish Financial Sector
As of this writing, WTI crude oil is back above $65/barrel, closing in on the recent $66.33 high on January 26. While oil and US equities have been in a “wedge” formation where, hemmed in by the January 26 high and the February 90 low, crude oil has broken out from its wedge.