Negative bond yields dominate the globe, and US yields are headed inexorably lower. The bond rally that has unfolded year is hard to over-state, with the 30-year Treasury at an all-time low. However, all those gains look likely to reverse sharply, as signs are on the horizon that US inflation is about to jump. The trend in CPI looks likely to show a bump after a series of lower annual highs. The movement is exactly the same as the one that preceded gold’s big jump this year. According to the data, CPI looks likely to rise to 2.5%, which would virtually eliminate the possibility for negative yields on the 30-year bond.
FINSUM: While calling higher inflation is a dangerous game in the post-Crisis world, the general analysis here is reflective of the fact that yields are way too low for how healthy the economy looks in data.
Bank stocks are probably not a good bet right now. They suffer when rates fall and they are quite exposed to economic slowdowns (in other words, ignore the new idea that banks are safe dividend producers like utilities). However, there are some banks and financial stocks that look likely to win in the near- to medium-term. Three names to consider: JP Morgan, Amex, and Discover. JP Morgan is basically just a very healthy bank with increasingly competitive pricing which looks likely to grow EPS nicely over the next few years. Amex is an interesting pick because it has a very high quality customer base, and its unique charge card revenue base is not so exposed to falling interest rates, making it much more defensible in a low rate/recession environment.
FINSUM: The Amex pick is quite unique. Their customer base is higher end, so less affected by recession. And their unique revenue model (for a card company) means they have lower interest rate exposure.
The muni market has traditionally been a safe haven for investors seeking steady returns. However, things are beginning to change. The huge drop in yields is fueling some very risky behavior in certain corners of the muni bond market. With yields on even the riskiest munis down to about 4%, highly speculative borrowers, such as those building risky mall developments or far-away housing projects are raising muni money through governmental agencies.
FINSUM: Investors need to look out for these kind of deals. However, what could be more troublesome is how they will inevitably end up in many popular funds without investors even having awareness of them.
Bloomberg has published a very insightful article about the current state of the market. In particular, it offers a view of how the big run up in bonds is likely to end. The fears that are driving the bond market—mostly that de-globalization will cause a recession—can only end two ways. Either the recession and de-globalization never materialize, in which case yields shoot back up, causing big losses in bonds. Or, the breakdown of global trade does happen, In this scenario, goods likely become significantly more expensive (especially in west) because there is no more labor and cost arbitrage. In this scenario, inflation then jumps, again sending yields much higher and sparking losses. In other words, the current bond market can only end in tears.
FINSUM: This was a very insightful argument in Bloomberg today. While there are some nuances that might cause some different outcomes, the basic contention is quite astute. Stocks seems a much better bet.
The inverted yield curve has investors feeling down on their luck at the moment. What is the best way to play the turmoil and volatility? The answer may be in two seemingly unlikely places. The first is in energy ETFs, especially oil. Energy stocks have traditionally done very well during inverted yield curves, so an ETF like XLE seems like a good bet right now. Additionally, tech ETFs such as Vanguard’s VGT could be a good play, according to Bloomberg. Tech has often done well during inversions in the past.
FINSUM: Recommending a tech ETF right now is the height of contrarianism. Tech is basically caught in the middle of the trade war, and frankly, seems like a bad buy.