Posts

April 24, 2019

Global Market Comments
April 24, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(WHY ARE BOND YIELDS SO LOW?)
(TLT), (TBT), (LQD), (MUB), (LINE), (ELD),
(QQQ), (UUP), (EEM), (DBA)
(BRING BACK THE UPTICK RULE!)

Why Are Bond Yields So Low?

Investors around the world have been confused, befuddled, and surprised by the persistent, ultra-low level of long-term interest rates in the United States.

At today’s close, the 30-year Treasury bond yielded a parsimonious 2.99%, the ten years 2.59%, and the five years only 2.40%. The ten-year was threatening its all-time low yield of 1.33% only three years ago, a return as rare as a dodo bird, last seen in the 19th century.

What’s more, yields across the entire fixed income spectrum have been plumbing new lows. Corporate bonds (LQD) have been fetching only 3.72%, tax-free municipal bonds (MUB) 2.19%, and junk (JNK) a pittance at 5.57%.

Spreads over Treasuries are approaching new all-time lows. The spread for junk over of ten-year Treasuries is now below an amazing 3.00%, a heady number not seen since the 2007 bubble top. “Covenant light” in borrower terms is making a big comeback.

Are investors being rewarded for taking on the debt of companies that are on the edge of bankruptcy, a tiny 3.3% premium? Or that the State of Illinois at 3.1%? I think not.

It is a global trend.

German bunds are now paying holders 0.05%, and JGBs are at an eye-popping -0.05%. The worst quality southern European paper has delivered the biggest rallies this year.

Yikes!

These numbers indicate that there is a massive global capital glut. There is too much money chasing too few low-risk investments everywhere. Has the world suddenly become risk averse? Is inflation gone forever? Will deflation become a permanent aspect of our investing lives? Does the reach for yield know no bounds?

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Almost to a man, hedge fund managers everywhere were unloading debt instruments last year when ten-year yields peaked at 3.25%. They were looking for a year of rising interest rates (TLT), accelerating stock prices (QQQ), falling commodities (DBA), and dying emerging markets (EEM). Surging capital inflows were supposed to prompt the dollar (UUP) to take off like a rocket.

It all ended up being almost a perfect mirror image portfolio of what actually transpired since then. As a result, almost all mutual funds were down in 2018. Many hedge fund managers are tearing their hair out, suffering their worst year in recent memory.

What is wrong with this picture?

Interest rates like these are hinting that the global economy is about to endure a serious nosedive, possibly even re-entering recession territory….or it isn’t.

To understand why not, we have to delve into deep structural issues which are changing the nature of the debt markets beyond all recognition. This is not your father’s bond market. 

I’ll start with what I call the “1% effect.”

Rich people are different than you and I. Once they finally make their billions, they quickly evolve from being risk takers into wealth preservers. They don’t invest in start-ups, take fliers on stock tips, invest in the flavor of the day, or create jobs. In fact, many abandon shares completely, retreating to the safety of coupon clipping.

The problem for the rest of us is that this capital stagnates. It goes into the bond market where it stays forever. These people never sell, thus avoiding capital gains taxes and capturing a future step up in the cost basis whenever a spouse dies. Only the interest payments are taxable, and that at a lowly 2.59% rate.

This is the lesson I learned from servicing generations of Rothschilds, Du Ponts, Rockefellers, and Gettys. Extremely wealthy families stay that way by becoming extremely conservative investors. Those that don’t, you’ve never heard of because they all eventually went broke.

This didn’t use to mean much before 1980, back when the wealthy only owned less than 10% of the bond market, except to financial historians and private wealth specialists, of which I am one. Now they own a whopping 25%, and their behavior affects everyone.

Who has been the largest buyer of Treasury bonds for the last 30 years? Foreign central banks and other governmental entities which count them among their country’s foreign exchange reserves. They own 36% of our national debt with China in the lead at 8% (the Bush tax cut that was borrowed), and Japan close behind with 7% (the Reagan tax cut that was borrowed). These days they purchase about 50% of every Treasury auction.

They never sell either, unless there is some kind of foreign exchange or balance of payments crisis which is rare. If anything, these holdings are still growing.

Who else has been soaking up bonds, deaf to repeated cries that prices are about to plunge? The Federal Reserve which, thanks to QE1, 2, 3, and 4, now owns 13.63% of our $22 trillion debt.

An assortment of other government entities possesses a further 29% of US government bonds, first and foremost the Social Security Administration with a 16% holding. And they ain’t selling either, baby.

So what you have here is the overwhelming majority of Treasury bond owners with no intention to sell. Ever. Only hedge funds have been selling this year, and they have already done so, in spades.

Which sets up a frightening possibility for them, now that we have broken through the bottom of the past year’s trading range in yields. What happens if bond yields fall further? It will set off the mother of all short-covering squeezes and could take ten-year yield down to match 2012, 1.33% low, or lower.

Fasten your seat belts, batten the hatches, and down the Dramamine!

There are a few other reasons why rates will stay at subterranean levels for some time. If hyper accelerating technology keeps cutting costs for the rest of the century, deflation basically never goes away (click here for “Peeking Into the Future With Ray Kurzweil” ).

Hyper accelerating corporate profits will also create a global cash glut, further levitating bond prices. Companies are becoming so profitable they are throwing off more cash than they can reasonably use or pay out.

This is why these gigantic corporate cash hoards are piling up in Europe in tax-free jurisdictions, now over $2 trillion. Is the US heading for Japanese style yields, of zero for 10-year Treasuries?

If so, bonds are a steal here at 2.59%. If we really do enter a period of long term -2% a year deflation, that means the purchasing power of a dollar increases by 35% every decade in real terms.

The threat of a second Cold War is keeping the flight to safety bid alive, and keeping the bull market for bonds percolating. You can count on that if the current president wins a second term.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Are They So Low?

The Liquidity Crisis Coming to a Market Near You

I had the great pleasure of having breakfast the other morning with my longtime friend, Mohamed El-Erian, former the co-CEO of the bond giant, PIMCO.

Mohamed argues that there has been a major loss of liquidity in the financial markets in recent decades that will eventually come home to haunt us all, and sooner than we think.

The result will be a structural increase in market volatility and wild gyrations in the prices of financial assets that will become commonplace.

We have already seen a few of these. Look no further than superstar NVIDIA (NVDA), which announced earnings in line with expectations in November but nevertheless responded with a 50% decline. It was a classic “Buy the rumor, sell the news” type move.

The worst is yet to come.

It is a problem that has been evolving for years.

When I started on Wall Street during the early 1980s, the model was very simple. You had a few big brokers servicing millions of small individual customers at fixed, non-negotiable commissions.

The big houses made so much money they could spend some dough facilitating counter cycle customers trades. This means they would step up to bid in falling markets and make offers in rising ones.

In any case, volatility was so low then that this never cost all that much, except on those rare occasions, such as the 1987 crash (we at Morgan Stanley lost $75 million in a day! Ouch!).

Competitive, meaning falling, commissions rates wiped out this business model. There were no longer profits to subsidize losses on the trading side, so the large firms quit risking their capital to help out customers altogether.

Now you have a larger number of brokers selling to a greatly shrunken number of end buyers, as financial assets in the US have become concentrated at the top.

Assets have also become institutionalized as they are piled into big hedge funds and a handful of very large index mutual funds and ETFs. These assets are managed by people who are also much smarter too.

The small individual investor on which the industry was originally built has almost become an extinct species.

There is no more “dumb money” left in the market, at least until this month.

Now those placing large orders were at the complete mercy of the market, often with egregious results.

Enter volatility. Lot’s of it.

What is particularly disturbing is that the disappearance of liquidity is coming now, just as the 35-year bull market in bonds is ending.

An entire generation of bond fund managers, almost two generations worth, have only seen prices rise, save for the occasional hickey that never lasted for more than a few months. They have no idea how to manage risk on the downside whatsoever.

I am willing to bet money that you or your clients have at least some, if not a lot of your money tied up in precisely these kinds of funds. All I can say is, “Watch out below.”

When the flash fire hits the movie theater, you are unlikely to be the one guy who gets out alive.

You hear a lot about when the Federal Reserve finally gets around to raising interest rates in earnest this year. They say it will make no difference as rates are coming off such a low base.

You know what? It may make a difference, maybe a big one.

This is because it will signify a major trend change, the first one for fixed income in more than three decades. Almost all of these guys really understand are trends and the next one will have a big fat “SELL” pasted on it for the fixed income world.

El-Erian has one of the best 90,000-foot views out there. A US citizen with an Egyptian father, he started out life at the old Salomon Smith Barney in London and went on to spend 15 years at the International Monetary Fund.

He joined PIMCO in 1999 and then moved on to manage the Harvard endowment fund.

He regularly makes the list of the world’s top thinkers. A lightweight Mohamed is not.

His final piece of advice? Engage in “constructive paranoia” and structure your portfolio to take advantage of these changes, rather than fall victim to them.

 

See the Long Term “Head and Shoulders” Top in the (TLT)?

 

 

The Liquidity Crisis Coming to a Market Near You

I had the great pleasure of having breakfast the other morning with my long time friend, Mohamed El-Erian, former co-CEO of the bond giant, PIMCO.

Mohamed argues that there has been a major loss of liquidity in the financial markets in recent decades that will eventually come home to haunt us all.

The result will be a structural increase in market volatility, and wild gyrations in the prices of financial assets that will become commonplace.

We have already seen a few of these in recent weeks. German ten-year bund yields jumped from 0.01% to 0.20% in a mere two weeks, a gap once thought unimaginable. The Euro has popped from $1.08 to $1.03.

Since July, we have watched in awe as the ten-year Treasury yield ratcheted up from 1.23% to 2.40%.

The worst is yet to come.

It is a problem that has been evolving for years.

When I started on Wall Street during the early 1980s, the model was very simple. You have a few big brokers servicing millions of small individual customers at fixed, non-negotiable commissions.

The big houses made so much money they could spend some money facilitating counter cycle customers trades. This means they would step up to bid in falling markets, and make offers in rising ones.

In any case, volatility was so low then that this never cost all that much, except on those rare occasions, such as the 1987 crash (we lost $75 million in a day! Ouch!).

Competitive, meaning falling, commissions rates wiped out this business model. There were no longer the profits to subsidize losses on the trading side, so the large firms quit risking their capital to help out customers altogether.

Now you have a larger numbers of brokers selling to a greatly shrunken number of end buyers, as financial assets in the US have become concentrated at the top.

Assets have also become institutionalized as they are piled into big hedge funds, and a handful of big index mutual funds, and ETFs. These assets are managed by people who are also much smarter too.

The small, individual investor on which the industry was originally built has almost become an extinct species.

There is no more ?dumb money? left in the market.

Now those placing large orders are at the complete mercy of the market, often with egregious results.

Enter volatility. Lots of it.

What is particularly disturbing is that the disappearance of liquidity is coming now, just as the 35 year bull market in bonds is ending.

An entire generation of bond fund managers, and almost two generations of investors, have only seen prices rise, save for the occasional hickey that never lasted for more than a few months. They have no idea how to manage risk on the downside whatsoever.

I am willing to bet money that you or your clients have at least some, if not a lot of your/their? money tied up in precisely these funds. All I can say is, ?Watch out below.?

When the flash fire hits the movie theater, you are unlikely to be the one guy who finds the exit.

We’re hearing a lot about when the Federal Reserve finally gets around to raising interest rates next month that it will make no difference, as rates are coming off such a low base.

You know what? It may make a difference, possibly a big one.

This is because it will signify a major trend change, the first one for fixed income in more than three decades. That?s all most of these guys really understand are trends, and the next one will have a big fat ?SELL? pasted on it for the fixed income world.

El-Erian has one of the best 90,000-foot views out there. A US citizen with an Egyptian father, he started out life at the old Salomon Smith Barney in London and went on to spend 15 years at the International Monetary Fund.

He joined PIMCO in 1999, and then moved on to manage the Harvard endowment fund. His book, When Markets Collide, was voted by The Economist magazine as the best business book of 2008.

He regularly makes the list of the world?s top thinkers. A lightweight Mohamed is not.

His final piece of advice? Engage in ?constructive paranoia? and structure your portfolio to take advantage of these changes, rather than fall victim to them.

Mohamed El-Erian

Why Are Bond Yields So Low?

Investors around the world have been confused, befuddled and surprised by the persistent, ultra low level of long term interest rates in the United States.

At today?s close, the 30 year Treasury bond yielded a parsimonious 2.01%, the ten year, 2.62%, and the five year only 1.51%. The ten-year was threatening its all time low yield of 1.37% only two weeks ago, a return as rare as a dodo bird, last seen in August, 2012.

What?s more, yields across the entire fixed income spectrum have been plumbing new lows. Corporate bonds (LQD) have been fetching only 3.29%, tax-free municipal bonds (MUB) 2.89%, and junk (JNK) a pittance at 5.96%.

Spreads over Treasuries are approaching new all time lows. The spread for junk over of ten year Treasuries is now below an amazing 3.00%, a heady number not seen since the 2007 bubble top. ?Covenant light? in borrower terms is making a big comeback.

Are investors being rewarded for taking on the debt of companies that are on the edge of bankruptcy, a tiny 3.3% premium? I think not.

It is a global trend.

German bunds are now paying holders 0.35%, and JGB?s are at an eye popping 0.30%. The worst quality southern European paper has delivered the biggest rallies this year. Portuguese government paper is paying only 2.40%, and is rapidly closing in on US government yields.

Yikes!

These numbers indicate that there is a massive global capital glut. There is too much money chasing too few low risk investments everywhere. Has the world suddenly become risk averse? Is inflation gone forever? Will deflation become a permanent aspect of our investing lives? Does the reach for yield know no bounds?

It wasn?t supposed to be like this.

Almost to a man, hedge fund managers everywhere were unloading debt instruments in January. They were looking for a year of rising interest rates (TLT), accelerating stock prices (QQQ), falling commodities (DBA), and dying emerging markets (EEM). Surging capital inflows were supposed to prompt the dollar (UUP) to take off like a rocket.

It all ended up being almost a perfect mirror image portfolio of what actually transpired since then. As a result, almost all mutual funds are down so far in 2014. Many hedge fund managers are tearing their hair out, suffering their worst year in recent memory.

What is wrong with this picture?

Interest rates like these are hinting that the global economy is about to endure a serious nose dive, possibly even re-entering recession territory?or it isn?t.

To understand why not, we have to delve into deep structural issues, which are changing the nature of the debt markets beyond all recognition. This is not your father?s bond market.

I?ll start with what I call the ?1% effect.?

Rich people are different than you and I. Once they finally make their billions, they quickly evolve from being risk takers into wealth preservers. They don?t invest in start-ups, take fliers on stock tips, invest in the flavor of the day, or create jobs. In fact, many abandon shares completely, retreating to the safety of coupon clipping.

The problem for the rest of us is that this capital stagnates. It goes into the bond market where it stays forever. These people never sell, thus avoiding capital gains taxes and capturing a future step up in the cost basis whenever a spouse dies. Only the interest payments are taxable and that at a lowly 20% rate.

This is the lesson I learned from servicing generations of Rothschild?s, Du Ponts, Rockefellers, and Getty. Extremely wealthy families stay that way by becoming extremely conservative investors. Those that don?t, you?ve never heard of, because they all eventually went broke.

This didn?t used to mean much before 1980, back when the wealthy only owned 10% of the bond market, except to financial historians and private wealth specialists, of which I am one. Now they own a whopping 23%, and their behavior affects everyone.

Who has bee the largest buyer of Treasury bonds for the last 30 years? Foreign central banks and other governmental entities, which count them among their country?s foreign exchange reserves. They own 36% of our national debt, with China in the lead at 8% (the Bush tax cut that was borrowed), and Japan close behind with 7% (the Reagan tax cut that was borrowed). These days they purchase about 50% of every Treasury auction.

They never sell either, unless there is some kind of foreign exchange or balance of payments crisis, which is rare. If anything, these holdings are still growing.

Who else has been soaking up bonds, deaf to repeated cries that prices are about to plunge? The Federal Reserve, which thanks to QE1, 2, and 3, now owns 22% of our $17 trillion debt. Both the former Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke, and the present one, Janet Yellen, have made clear they have no plans to sell these bonds. They will run them to maturity instead, minimizing the market impact.

An assortment of other government entities possess a further 29% of US government bonds, first and foremost the Social Security Administration, with a 16% holding. And they ain?t selling either, baby.

So what you have here is the overwhelming majority of Treasury bond owners with no intention to sell. Only hedge funds have been selling this year, and they have already done so, in spades.

Which sets up a frightening possibility for them, now that we are at the very bottom of the past year?s range in yields. What happens if bond yields fall further? It will set off the mother of all short covering squeezes and could take ten-year yield down to match the 2012, 2.38% low.

Fasten your seat belts, batten the hatches, and down the Dramamine!

There are a few other reasons why rates will stay at subterranean levels for some time. If hyper accelerating technology keeps cutting costs for the rest of the century, deflation basically never goes away (click here?for ?Peeking into the Future with Ray Kurzweil?).

Hyper accelerating corporate profits will also create a global cash glut, further levitating bond prices. Companies are becoming so profitable they are throwing off more cash then they can reasonably use or pay out.

This is why these gigantic corporate cash hoards are piling up in Europe in tax free jurisdictions, now over $2 trillion. Is the US heading for Japanese style yields, or 0.39% for 10 year Treasuries?

If so, bonds are a steal here at 2.55%. If we really do enter a period of long term -2% a year deflation, that means the purchasing power of a dollar increases by 35% every decade in real terms.

The threat of a second Cold War is keeping the flight to safety bid alive, and keeping the bull market for bonds percolating. This could put a floor under bond prices for another decade, and Vladimir Putin?s current presidential run could last all the way under 2014.

All of this is why I?m out of the bond market for now, and will remain so for a while.

Who Owns U.S. Debt

TLT 2-13-15

MUB 2-13-15+

JNK 2-13-15

OrangutanWhy Are They So Low?

Throwing in the Towel on the Bond Market

Here are the long-winded, feeble bunch of excuses I promised you.

I have broken every rule in my trading book hanging on to my position in the (TBT) for the past four months. I ignored my own stop losses. I listened to the morons on TV saying interest rates were about to spike up. I took the pile of charts that were telling me there was no bottom in sight, and deliberately lost them behind the radiator.

I even listened to the Fed signaling me with an emergency flare gun that they would raise rates in June.

As a result, I have been punished. Not too severely though, for I did follow one cardinal rule: I kept the position small. I did not double, triple and quadruple up, as many in the hedge fund industry have done.

As a result, I am merely suffering a thrashing in the woodshed, the kind my grandfather used to give me when he caught me shooting out the lights with my .22 rifle on our ranch in Indio, California. This is not a beheading, nor even a water boarding, and not a scintilla of an existential threat.

Still, a $14, 25% loss on a single position is no laughing matter. It?s about as welcome as a slap in the face with a wet mackerel. This is all proof that after 45 years in this business, I can still make the mistakes of a first year intern that was only hired for her good looks, shapely figure and loose morals.

If you told me that US GDP growth was 5%, unemployment was at a ten year low at 5.6%, and energy prices had just halved, I would have pegged the ten-year Treasury bond yield at 6.0%. The US economy created 2.9 million jobs in 2014, the most since 1999. Full employment is now almost a gimme.

Yet here we are at 2.00%.

You might as well take your traditional economic books and throw them in the trash. Apologies to John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Paul Samuelson. It is yet another indication that this market has an insatiable need to teach an old dog new tricks.

After turning a blind eye to the writing on the wall, it?s time for me to read it out to you loud and clear.

The collapse of the German bond market is the big deal here. With the European economy in free fall, and doubts remaining about the ability of quantitative easing to work there under any circumstances, investors are assuming the future demand for money on the beleaguered continent will be zero.

German 10 year bond yields at 0.45% and still falling make 10 year US Treasuries at 2.00% appear the bargain of the century. Governments and hedge funds alike can buy US paper, sell short European paper against it, hedge out the currency risk, and lock in a risk free 1.55% a year for ten years. Sounds like a deal to me.

Multiply this by trillions of dollars and you can see what the problem is.

The other big deal here is the price of oil. I will reiterate my belief that if Texas tea stays down at the $40 handle, it is worth not just a 10% gain in stocks, but a double. The flipside is that interest rates stay far lower for longer than anyone expects, even including the Fed.

People just don?t understand how far reaching the impact of oil prices is. This heralds an entire new leg in the deflation story, one that could continue for years. It completely rules out any chance of a hike in interest rates this year. It is also fantastic news for the US bond market, and terrible for the (TBT).

If you want to add a third strike against continuing with a short bond position, look no further than the string US dollar. Investors around the world are pouring money into the greenback for a host of reasons. What do they do with the dollars when they get here? Buy bonds.

For more depth on why I totally missed the boat on bonds, please click here for ?10 Reasons Why I Am Wrong on Bonds?.

There are also opportunistic issues to consider here.

With implied volatilities on options sky high here, I can slap on almost any other options position and make back my 2.5% loss on the (TBT) in a couple of weeks. So there is no point in tying up 10% of my portfolio in a position that is dying a death of a thousand cuts.

Also, If you have been short the Euro (FXE), (EUO) and the Japanese yen (FXY), (YCS) after the past seven months, as I begged you to do, you have already more than made back the money.

 

TBT 1-9-15

TLT 1-9-15

John Thomas

Why I?m Hammering the Bond Market

Those lucky traders who have been following my Trade Alert service are well aware that I have been hamming the bond market for the past week. These new positions were a major factor in adding an impressive 5% to my model trading portfolio P&L during a week when there was very little happening in the real world.

There is a method to my madness.

This was supposed to be the year of the ?Great Reallocation,? whereby long-term investors bailed on their fixed income portfolios in favor of stocks. The only problem was that it just didn?t happen.

Bonds fell alright, taking the ten year Treasury yield up to 3.0% by August 20. But what selling did occur up until then saw the proceeds moved largely into cash instead of equities.

What happened next surprised many industry experts. Bonds rallied strongly going into a September meeting at the Federal Reserve where they were supposed to announce a taper of its $85 billion a month in bond buying. That was supposed to crash the bond market, and the street piled on massive shorts.

The meeting came and went without a taper announcement, catching many traders wrong footed. That forced them to chase the market to cover shorts, taking the yen year yield all the way down to 2.47% by last week.

Then the rally abruptly died.

When you see disparate markets confirming major reversals within an asset class all at once, it usually signifies that something big is happening. Starting on Wednesday, the Treasury market peaked and began a rapid descent, taking yields up 17 basis points in dramatic fashion.

Corporate bonds also took a dive, with the High Grade Investable Bond ETF (LQD) giving back a few points. Junk bonds took a hit, with the high yield ETF (HYG) taking it on the kisser. Even emerging market debt (ELD) and the municipal bond market (MUB) were thrown out with the bathwater.

Only master limited partnerships continued to hold up well, my favorite pick in the sector, Linn Energy (LINE), blasting ten points to the upside. This is one of the few areas in the fixed income space where a double-digit yield pays you for your principal risk.

That prompted me to rush followers out of a 100% cash position into seven new positions in very quick succession. I was writing Trade Alerts so fast that I was busier than the proverbial one-handed paperhanger. So I was a day early. Take it out of my next paycheck!

What is the big thing that the market is trying to tell us here? I may be going deaf and blind in my old age, but I can see this one coming a mile off.

The ?Great Reallocation? scheduled for 2013 is actually going to happen in 2014. The sell off in bonds that ran for the first eight months of the year put the fear of god into investors and managers alike. It?s not for nothing that bond giant PIMCO?s Bill Gross says that he expects to get ?ashes in my stocking for Christmas this year.?

Having been warned once on the risks entailed in a market that is coming off a 60 year high, bond owners don?t need to be told twice to sit down when the music stops playing. They have started to lighten up in a hurry.

December is turning into a ?Great Front Run of 2014.? To reallocate out of bonds into stocks in 2014, you have to start selling your bonds now. That means that bonds could remain weak for the rest of 2013, possibly even taking the ten year yield all the way back up to 3.0% again. Hence, my aggressive selling.

If I am right about this scenario, the flipside for stocks could be even more important. It augurs for a narrow, low volume, sideways correcting stock market for a few more weeks, then a blast to the upside into year-end. A Standard and Poor?s 500 of 1,800 becomes a chip shot, and with two months to run, it could even make it as high as 1,850. There is a global synchronized recovery on the table for 2014 and everyone and his brother wants to participate.

My only concern here is that we are pulling forward performance from 2014 into this year that will ultimately make next year harder to trade.

TNX 11-1-13

LQD 10-31-13

HYG 10-31-13

LINE 11-4-13

Musical ChairsSo Who?s Selling Their Bonds First?

Sovereign Debt Was a Great Place to Hide

I am constantly asked where to find safe places to park cash by investors understandably unhappy with the risk/reward currently offered by the markets. Any reach for yield now carries substantial principal risk, the kind we saw, oh say, in the summer of 2007.
I have had great luck steering people into the Invesco PowerShares Emerging Market Sovereign Debt ETF (PCY) for the last few years, which is invested primarily in the debt of Asian and Latin American government entities, and sports a generous 4.75% % yield. This beats the daylights out of the one basis point you could earn for cash, the 2.0% yield available on 10 year Treasuries, and still exceeded the 3.84% yield on the iShares Investment Grade Bond ETN (LQD), which buys predominantly single ?BBB?, or better, US corporates.
The big difference here is that (PCY) has a much rosier future of credit upgrades to look forward to than other alternatives. It turns out that many emerging markets have little or no debt, because until recently, investors thought their credit quality was too poor. No doubt a history of defaults in the region going back to 1820 is in the backs of their minds.
You would think that a sovereign debt fund would be the last place to safely park your money in the middle of a debt crisis, but you?d be wrong. (PCY) has minimal holdings in the Land of Sophocles and Plato, and very little in the other European PIIGS. In fact, the crisis has accelerated the differentiation of credit qualities, separating the wheat from the chaff, and sending bonds issues by financially responsible countries to decent premiums, while punishing the bad boys with huge discounts.? It seems this fund has a decent set of managers at the helm.
With US government bond issuance going through the roof, the shoe is now on the other foot. Even my cleaning lady, Cecelia, knows that US Treasury issuance is rocketing to unsustainable levels (she reads my letter to practice her English).

Since my initial recommendation, my total return on (PCY) has been 50%, not bad for an insurance policy. Money has poured into (PCY), the net assets under management increasing nearly tenfold. If we get a sudden sell off in Treasury bonds, a scenario that may have already started, I think it will take the rest of the fixed income universe along with it. I therefore want to take the money and run.

I lived through the Latin American debt crisis of the seventies. You know, the one that almost took Citibank down? Never in my wildest, Jack Daniels fueled dreams did I think that I?d see the day when Brazilian debt ratings might surpass American ones. Who knew I?d be trading in Marilyn Monroe for Carmen Miranda? Given the advanced age of this bond bubble, I?m now thinking of swearing off women altogether.

PCY 3-15-12

LQD 3-15-13

Marilyn Monroe

Carman Miranda

Time to Swear Off Women Altogether?