BB King complains “The thrill is gone” in his song named after that lyric.
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
Financial warriors in securities and other marketplaces always hunt for adequate yield (sufficient return) on their capital. Especially in Wall Street’s stock and interest rate realms, the majority of institutions and individuals (not the market-makers) eagerly searching for yield are owners, thus initiating their positions from the buying side. Most of these owners on Wall Street and Main Street seeking wealth and economic security grant themselves or receive the honored cultural designation of “investor”, with their long positions generally labeled as investments. Especially in stock and debt arenas, “investment” is deemed “good”. On Main Street, homeowners likewise as a rule view their property as an investment. And since the appealing investment badge and related rhetoric excites interest and encourages action, such as buying and holding, Wall Street guides and their media and political comrades enthusiastically and liberally employ investment wordplay, especially in stock and interest rate territories. Given the persuasiveness of investment talk, many Wall Street wizards often extend the label to other asset classes such as commodities “in general”, perhaps calling them “alternative investments”.
Of course therefore on Wall Street, investors generally are happy (joyous, pleased) when asset prices rise (especially in stocks) on a sustained basis, and sad (depressed, unhappy, angry) when such prices decline. Thus for stocks, high and rising prices (and bull market trends) are “good”, whereas low and falling prices (and bear markets) are “bad”. However, investment rhetoric and devotion to ownership do not abolish price risk. So capital preservation matters too. Because broad, longer-run directional price patterns are not necessarily a one-way street, numerous investors during a noteworthy price decline fearfully run for cover, selling some or all of their positions (or at least not buying more for their portfolio, even an allegedly well-diversified one).
Moreover, increasing fears regarding whether economic growth will be adequate can make investors (and others) considerably more nervous about holding on to a given quantity of assets. Uncertainty itself (as well as price “volatility”), if sufficiently substantial, can help to inspire many to flee out of assets which now appear to be “too risky”!
In any case, the bear marketplace trend in the S+P 500 which commenced in January 2022 (and related slumps in other advanced nation equity arenas) and significantly rising yields (falling prices) in the US Treasury marketplace (as well as in other sovereign and corporate debt landscapes around the globe) thus have disturbed, dismayed, and injured many investors (and other owners). That stocks and bonds have collapsed “together” in recent months is especially upsetting! Note also the long-running retreat in emerging marketplace stocks. Commodities “in general” have cratered from their first quarter 2022 highs. In recent months, even United States home prices have declined moderately. This scary financial carnage surely has substantially reduced financial net worth around the world, and especially within the consumer (household) sector. The US dollar, which is part of this capital destruction story, not only has remained very strong for quite some time, but also recently climbed to new highs.
In today’s international and intertwined economy, the interrelated substantial price falls in the stock and bond marketplaces, and the potential for even greater weakness than has thus far appeared in home prices, plus a “too strong” US dollar, are a recipe for recession. The net worth destruction resulting from substantial price falls in these assets probably indicates a significantly greater probability of recession, not merely an extended period of mediocre real GDP growth (or stagflation), in America and many other leading economies, than most forecasters assert. Although commodities are not a substantial part of household net worth, their significant price slump in recent months not only confirms the price downturn in the S+P 500 and related stock marketplaces, but also warns of underlying economic feebleness. Note recent year-on-year declines in US petroleum consumption.
“Marketplace Expectations and Outcomes” (9/5/22) restated the viewpoint of “Summertime Blues, Marketplace Views” (8/6/22): “Despite growing concerns about a United States (and global) economic slowdown or slump, and despite potential for occasional “flights to quality” into supposed safe havens such as the United States Treasury 10 year note and the German Bund, the long run major trend for higher UST and other benchmark international government yields probably remains intact.” Regarding the S+P 500, the essays concluded: “Although the current rally in the S+P 500 may persist for a while longer, the downtrend which commenced in January 2022 probably will resume. The S+P 500’s June 2022 low probably will be challenged.”
Marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, and convergence and divergence patterns between stocks, interest rates, and other arenas can shift, sometimes dramatically. However, despite the S+P 500’s ferocious rally after 9/30/22’s 3584 trough, it and other related stock marketplaces probably will fall beneath their recent lows eventually. The US Treasury 10 year note yield, given ongoing lofty inflation levels around the globe and the determined effort of the Federal Reserve and other central bankers to reduce inflation to acceptable heights, probably over time will climb higher, exceeding its recent high around four percent. Consumer price inflation probably will remain lofty for at least a few more months on a year-on-year basis. However, within that rising yield trend, UST prices occasionally may rally due to nervous “flights to quality”.
A victorious fight against the evil of excessive inflation probably requires a recession. If a notable global recession emerges (or if fears regarding the development of one grow substantially), then central bankers probably will slow or even halt their current rate-raising program.
Suppose OPEC and its allies engineer a notable rally in petroleum prices from current levels which lasts for a while, or that the Russia/Ukraine war induces a renewed rally in energy (and perhaps other) commodity prices. Such ascents in commodities prices (if they indeed occur) will help to keep consumer prices high and thereby tend to induce central banks to sustain their current policy tightening (interest rate boosting) programs.
FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
Hunting for Yield- the Thrill is Gone (10-4-22)