Much Ado About Something

The last two months have been choppy for stocks. The S&P 500 is down about 8% and has given up its gain for the year. Emerging markets have outperformed since October, relatively speaking, but remain the biggest loser YTD, down about 16%. As usual, the financial media is searching, desperately, for something to fear. Does … Continue reading Much Ado About Something

Japan’s Footsteps

After improving economic prospects earlier this year, Japan has abruptly reversed course.  A third-quarter annualized GDP reading of negative -.8% puts Japan back in a technical recession (defined as two quarters of negative GDP growth). Following stimulative policies (aka "Abenomics") by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a blossoming recovery from 2014's technical recession, many assumed … Continue reading Japan’s Footsteps

Has Janet Lost Her Patience?

Speculation has been rampant about when Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve will finally begin raising interest rates.  Last month all the buzz was focused on whether Yellen would drop the word "patient" (with respect to rate increases) from her scheduled Fed policy statement.   She did, and ever since strategists and traders all up … Continue reading Has Janet Lost Her Patience?

A Complicated Relationship

Many people talk about how interest rates can affect bond prices.    However, rates can also affect stock prices.  Here's a quick summary of the reasons behind that relationship Interest Expense: Interest rates represent an expense for any company that uses credit. As interest rates rise so do the costs of borrowing. All else equal, … Continue reading A Complicated Relationship

No Free Yield

Interest rates have moved up this year but are still near historic lows.  This is especially true at the front end of the yield curve where people are basically earning nothing on their savings, money market, and even short-term CD accounts (and even losing money net of inflation). Demand from yield-starved investors and the opportunistic … Continue reading No Free Yield

Dangers of High Yield Hunting

Fixed income investors that were accustomed to earning 5% on a portfolio of government bonds are now getting 2% for the same securities. The steep drop has interest starved investors hunting for yield. As usual, the easiest way to increase yield has been to increase risk, and investors have taken the path of least resistance. … Continue reading Dangers of High Yield Hunting

Twist and Shout

The markets are quivering in anticipation of what the Federal Reserve may or may not announce later today.  The consensus is that it will decide on implementing "Operation Twist."  In this situation, the Fed would maintain short-term rates while reaching out to lower long-term rates, effectively "twisting" the yield curve. The idea is that lowering long-term rates will encourage borrowing, spending, and investment. However, … Continue reading Twist and Shout

Bernanke Put

The markets seem to be hoping that good ol' helicopter Ben will come through with another round of quantitative easing (QE) tomorrow.  Doing so would extend the legacy of  the "Greespan Put" and probably ignite a speculative risk-on rally.  Analysts like Dave Rosenberg and Bill McBride have pointed out how equity markets seem to be dancing around the Fed's QE activities, shown for … Continue reading Bernanke Put