Stocks around the world continued to push higher Monday, and U.S. indexes again hit records. Bond yields climbed.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 12.15 points, or 0.5%, to close at a record 2,328.25 and topped $20 trillion in market value for the first time ever. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 142.79 points, or 0.7%, to an all-time closing high of 20,412.16. The Nasdaq composite gained 29.83 points, or 0.5%, to a record 5,763.96.
Treasury yields also rose as the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.43% from 2.41% late Friday. Two-year and 30-year Treasury yields also notched higher.
Roughly five stocks rose for every three that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Financial stocks helped lead the way, and those in the S&P 500 rose 1.3%. That’s the largest gain among the 11 sectors that make up the index. Raw-material producers and industrial companies were also strong.
Stocks resumed their upward climb last week after stalling for a couple weeks. Strong earnings reports have helped drive the gains. The majority of companies in the S&P 500 that have reported fourth-quarter earnings so far, 69%, have beaten Wall Street’s expectations, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. It’s mostly come through companies keeping control of costs better than analysts were forecasting.
The Dow Jones industrial average erased its gain for the year on Thursday, part of a pullback for stock indexes as Treasury yields continued their upward march.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 72 points, or 0.4%, to 19,732.40. That puts the Dow down about 32 points for the year and will makes this the fifth straight day of losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.4% to 2,263.69. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.3% to 5,540.08.
Four stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
Stocks have slowed in 2017 following an electrifying jump higher since Election Day. Investors are waiting to see what a Donald Trump presidency will really mean for stocks. They’ve already seen the optimistic case, as shown in the nearly 6% jump for the S&P 500 since Donald Trump’s surprise victory of the White House, propelled by expectations for lower taxes and less regulation on businesses.
But on the possible downside, increased tariffs or trade restrictions could mean drops in profits for big U.S. companies.
Bond yields continued their march higher, and the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.47% from 2.43% late Wednesday. Yields have generally been climbing since Election Day on expectations that President-elect Donald Trump’s policies will spur more inflation and economic growth. The 10-year yield is still below its perch above 2.60% that it reached in mid-December, but it’s well above the 2.09% yield it was at a year ago.
Reports have shown that the U.S. economy has been improving recently, and the latest on Thursday showed encouraging signs for the housing and labor markets. The fewest number of workers sought unemployment claims last week in 43 years, a sign that corporate layoffs are subsiding.
The Bank of International Settlements is particularly good at two things in its periodic quarterly review update: i) stating the obvious, especially when it comes to summarizing the trader and market participants concerns at any given moment, and ii) having its constituent central bank members – after all the BIS is the “central banks’ central bank” – ignore all of its warnings.
In its just released, latest report, the BIS continues to excel in both, when it lays out what it dubs a “paradigm shift in markets” and points out that unlike previous VaR shock episodes, most notably the 2013 Taper Tantrum, financial markets have been remarkably resilient to rising bond yields and sudden shift in outlook following last month’s shock U.S. election result.
The Bank of Japan last week offered to buy bonds at a fixed yield to curb rising interest rates, playing what was seen as an ultimate trump card far earlier than many expected.
The BOJ announced its first-ever fixed-rate purchase operation on the morning of Nov. 17 to counter mounting fears of an upswing in interest rates. Yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds had climbed steadily since the U.S. presidential election, rising as high as 0.035% the day ahead of the move. The fixed-rated option was introduced only two months ago as part of a monetary policy overhaul in late September that set a target of around zero for long-term yields.
A call went out for two- and five-year JGBs to address the rapid surge in short- and medium-term bond yields, according to the BOJ’s Financial Markets Department. There were no takers: The offered yields were higher than going market rates, meaning the offered prices were lower, sending wise traders elsewhere. But the conditions of the operation sent a strong signal as to how high the central bank will let rates go before stepping in. Yields slid across all maturities after the move was announced.
Since then, “interest rates’ upward climb has been weakened somewhat,” Takako Masai, a member of the bank’s policy board, told reporters after a speech Monday. “I get the sense that the purpose of fixed-rate operations has been well conveyed to markets.”
When the financial media says that governments get paid to issue negative yielding debt, that is not exactly true: most sovereign issuers still pay out a cash coupon, a modest as it may be, while they pocket the negative amortization on a bond issued above par for the life of the bond resulting what ultimately ends up being a negative yield for the buyer net of all cashflows at maturity. However, the lower – or more negative – yields get, the less the need for an issuer to actually pay a cash coupon: after all with a negative yield, it is essentially superfluous.
Still, while no sovereign has issued bond with negative cash coupons yet, some are starting to issue zero-coupon ten years: bonds which pay no cash coupons at all.
This is precisely what Germany is about to do in a few hours.
According to Bloomberg, on Wednesday morning Germany will sell 10-year bonds with a zero coupon for the first time, as a rally in fixed-income securities pushes investors to forgo annual interest payments in order to hold the safest assets.
The nation is selling €5 billion of zero percent bonds due in August 2026 on Wednesday, after yields in the secondary market dropped to an all-time low of minus 0.205% last week.
We truly live in interesting times: what was once tinfoil conspiracy theory, namely that the Fed is entirely focused on propping up the stock market, has become not only mainstream thought, but overnight in a scathing essay by prominent PIMCO economists, including Mihir Worah, PIMCO blasted the Fed for constantly “flip-flopping”, and telling Janet Yellen that “the Fed should focus on rising wages, not the stock market.”
Of course, the Fed’s traditional response is a well-rehearsed one: record stock prices will eventually “trickle down” into higher wages. Yes, it has not happened so far in the past 7 years of unorthodox monetary policies, but the Fed is absolutely confident it will eventually… just not yet.
But going back to the punchline, what is most amazing is that we now live in a day and age, when the world’s biggest bond fund managers is telling the Fed to stop reacting to every downtick in the market, and actually regain some of its credibility. To wit:
The Fed’s periodic hinting at possible hikes followed by no hikes (with one exception) has many market observers believing the Fed has become myopically focused on the vagaries of the stock market, almost to the point where it ignores most other indicators of economic health. So with a strong payroll number today and the S&P 500 modestly higher on the year, people fear the Fed will once again start talking up the likelihood of a rate hike. Most bond market participants agree this would be a hawkish mistake; hence short-term Treasury yields have moved higher, while the 30-year is moving lower.
The good news for “market observers” is that they are allowed to do just that: observe. To everyone else who can participate in a centrally-planned economy in which the planner no longer knows how to communicate or has any idea if it is responding to the economy or the market, good luck.
In a somewhat shocking break from the age-old tradition of lying and obfuscation, Bank of Japan policy board member Takehiro Sato raised significant concerns about global financial stability in a speech last week. In addition to raising concerns aboutJapanese economic fragility, Sato warned that due to the impact of negative interest rates, he “detected a vulnerability similar to that seen before the so-called VaR (Value at Risk) shock in 2003.”
Financial institutions are facing the risk of a negative spread for marginal assets due to the extreme flattening of the yield curve and the drop in the yield on government bonds in short- to long-term zones into negative territory. When there is a negative spread, shrinking the balance sheet, rather than expanding it, would be a reasonable business decision. In the future, this may prompt an increasing number of financial institutions to take such actions as restraining loans to borrowers with potentially high credit costs and raising interest rates on loans to firms with poor access to finance.
…a weakening of the financial intermediary functioning could affect the financial system’s resilience against shocks in times of stress. In addition, an excessive drop in bond yields in the super-long-term zone could also make the financial system vulnerable by increasing the risk of a buildup of financial imbalances in the system.
There is also the risk that financial institutions that have problems in terms of profitability or fiscal soundness will make loans and investment without adequate risk valuation. From financial institutions’ recent move to purchase super-long-term bonds in pursuit of tiny positive yield, I detect a vulnerability similar to that seen before the so-called VaR (Value at Risk) shock in 2003.
High Yield bond yields and Leveraged Loan prices are at their worst since 2009 as it seems the hosepipe of QE3 liquidity (its the flow not the stock, stupid) is slowly unwound from a buybacks-are-over equity market.