Assuming the Fed is going into a major easing cycle and will come close to the rates in the EU and Japan then what should U.S. investors do? Increase bond portfolio duration but only with bonds that offer significant call protection and only with investment grade bonds. Avoid BBB rated corporate or BBB rated Muni bonds. If you own bonds subject to a call provision (mortgage backed bonds, typically) be sure not to own them if they trade over par as they may be called and paid off at par thus depriving you of the bond premium. Be careful not to have too much duration as no one knows what the future will be like; there is no guarantee
The Federal Reserve’s recent dramatic shift from tightening to implied loosening is the fastest shift of Fed behavior in 50 years. Some people have leapt to the conclusion that Fed chief Powell simply caved into pressure from Trump, betraying good hard money policies, and changed to easing because of Trump. The real reason for the easing is because Fed employees have researched and realized that the Fed and other central banks made many mistakes, including being too optimistic about economic recovery since the crash of 2008, so they want to be truly prepared for the coming recession. It is highly likely that economic cycles can’t last more than ten years. The current cycle was modestly extended by Trump’s tax
Today the Federal Reserve held a two-day meeting and released a statement. They didn’t change their rates but the marketplace changed the rates dramatically downward. The ten year Treasury bond yield dropped from 2.61% to 2.525%, a drop of 8.5 basis points, several times a typical day’s movement. The technical traders who follow chart patterns have felt the rate might never go below 2.62% and would instead go above 3% and stay above that, thus the decline significantly below 2.62% is a shocking technical indicator matter, implying the “Invisible Hand” of the market “knows” that a recession will soon come. The futures market estimates a 50% probability of an eventual Fed easing of the Fed’s official rate. The drop
Yesterday bond guru Jeff Gundlach gave a scary lecture, warning about the danger of rising federal deficits which in turn could trigger a decline in the value of the dollar and a significant rise in interest rates. I disagree. I lived through the scary inflationary 1970’s when some yields hit 21% in 1981 and inflation hit 14%. Many frightening things happened in the 1970’s where it was common for people to worry that we were doomed, but eventually inflation was brought under control and the economy grew out of its problems. First, the recent contribution to the rising deficit is the Trump tax cut signed on 12-22-2017. But this is a temporary law constrained by the ten year time
The annual federal deficit budget is 5% of GDP, or 7% if count some one-time excluded items. The percentage has been growing. The government has relied upon foreign investors and central banks to buy U.S. Treasury’s. The Treasury Bills have been used as the world’s money, thus absorbing the funding needs of the U.S. If foreigners decide to stop this then the dollar would drop in value and the Federal Reserve would have to monetize the deficit, creating inflation. As long as the other major economies have so many significant contingent financial problems (the negative interest rates in the EU and Japan, the huge debts in China and Japan) then the world economy will continue operating the same way.
Don’t be fooled by the central bank’s ability to reflate the intangible financial economy and recover from a crash. If a crash occurs in financial assets then rhetorically speaking one can allege that prices are somehow unknowable or shrouded in an undiscoverable mystery so it’s somehow OK for central banks and governments to manipulate markets and artificially prop up asset prices. When stocks, bonds, real estate, and banks collapse, the central bank can print money and buy these assets at artificially high prices while the government and legislature can decree that “mark to market” accounting is suspended and that people must use the high water mark for valuation purposes. This ability to create a miraculous “recovery” has fooled investors