Displaying items by tag: bonds
So those following the news will have noticed that Bank of America’s key stock market indicator, the “Bull & Bear”, has been flashing red for the last couple of weeks. Now, the brightness is getting stronger. The recent rush out of Treasuries and into stocks has been the fastest ever, which has BAML worried that markets are about to crash. The rotation amounted to $102 bn flowing into stocks in January alone, which BAML calls “massive”.
FINSUM: The move has been more of a stampede than a flow, but then again, there are a lot of reasons to be worried about rising rates, especially as new Fed leadership is coming in.
Any financial advisor will tell you that most of their clients love muni bonds. The asset class has been very popular for many years among the wealthy because of the bonds’ tax exempt status. Therefore, advisors need to pay attention, as there is a little discussed, but very real ticking time bomb in the asset class. That big time bomb is unfunded pension liabilities. The projections made fifteen years ago may have been plausible, but with a financial crisis and then years of rock bottom rates, many think state and local pensions have reached a point of no return which will lead to major defaults. Barclays’ munis team recently noted “We are increasingly wary of high pension exposure, especially among state and local credits”, continuing that “short-term investment gains won’t be sufficient to plug liability gaps”.
FINSUM: There is bound to be a big wave of defaults in the muni space. This is a big and slow-moving crisis that nobody, especially the federal government, wants to deal with.
Well it finally happened yesterday. The big selloff in bonds finally managed to legitimately spook the equity market. Stocks in the US were down big as the yield on ten-years jumped mightily. The ten-year yield is now 2.73%, the highest in three years, which was a significant mental threshold. Investors are worried that with the world economy doing so well, inflation may again rear its head, causing central banks to raise rates quickly. The S&P 500 fell 0.7% on Monday.
FINSUM: Okay here is the big question we have—why would the world economy doing well and higher rates be negative for stocks? If anything, equities are a good inflation hedge.
A lot of analysts and market gurus are currently talking down the high yield sector. Credit spreads have been rising and it does look like we are headed into a higher rate environment, so the arguments seem reasonable. However, Barron’s says there is still time to get in on high yields. One of the best parts of the market right now is that only 10% of it is comprised of CCC rated bonds, way below its average of 15-20%. That means credit-worthiness is better. Additionally, junk firms have been refinancing for years at ultra-low rates, which will keep default rates pinned. Finally, oil and gas firms, which comprise a high share of the market, are in better shape as prices have been recovering.
FINSUM: There are definitely some strong points here, but it would be a highly contrarian view to say that the prospects for the sector look good after surging for so many years. At best, the fundamentals look solid, but the macro environment looks poor.
Goldman Sachs is going on the record warning of “extreme” optimism in markets after stocks’ torrid start to the year. The bank says its cross-asset measure of risk appetite is the highest it has been since 1991 (!). The bank says the risk of losses is higher now, but that in their experience, signals from the macro economy tend to trump signals from risk appetite. Therefore, given that the world’s economy is moving nicely, the market may have more room to run. That said, Goldman is nervous about markets, saying “Risk appetite is now at its highest level on record, which leads to the question of what future returns can be”.
FINSUM: We think this grey-haired bull market still has some juice in it, but our big fear is how hard a recession might hit the markets (given high valuations), not just the economy.