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February 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Earnings Recession Is Here

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Michael Wilson for Morgan Stanley. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Is the trade war the primary reason behind lower expectations for earnings in 2019? That’s a big question for the wider market because if the USA and China can come to an accord that will improve confidence which will allow companies to begin to make plans on a sounder footing than they have today. However, there are other important factors that are worth considering.



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February 15 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB Moves Closer to Global Dovish Shift as Coeure Mulls Loans

This article by Piotr Skolimowski for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The European Central Bank took a step closer to injecting fresh stimulus into the weakening euro-area economy as one of its top policy makers said discussions are under way on offering banks new long-term loans.

The comments by Benoit Coeure, the ECB Executive Board member in charge of markets, provided the strongest signal yet that euro-area policy makers are considering another round of funding. He also echoed ECB President Mario Draghi that there must be a monetary policy case for such action.

Central banks around the world are following the Federal Reserve in reining in plans to tighten monetary policy. The ECB itself has already changed its language to warn of downside risks to the outlook, while India’s central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates last week and easing inflation bolstered bets that more reductions could be on the cards.

With the euro-area outlook deteriorating, the ECB is expected to cut its economic growth forecasts at its next meeting in March. That gathering is also at the center of speculation about new loans, known as TLTROS.

Eoin Treacy's view -

With Mario Draghi exiting his position as head of the ECB later this year, a policy hawk is very unlikely to replace him. There is no way the ECB can return to anything approximating normal monetary policy against a background where the banking sector is hobbled by a legacy of Japan-style bad loans which will take years to come to terms with.



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February 13 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A record 7 million Americans have stopped paying their car loans, and even economists are surprised

This article by Tanza Loudenback for Business Insider may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The delinquency figure represents a new high in the auto-loan market — more than 1 million more people are behind on auto-loan payments now than at the end of 2010. More people have auto loans now than in 2010, so while the overall rate of delinquency is down, the total number of people who have fallen at least 90 days behind their payments is higher.

The Fed has been tracking the auto-loan industry for more than five years, the economists said in the blog post, and it's not the first time the group has sounded the alarm. In 2017, a quarterly report from the Fed highlighted the near doubling of the rate of delinquencies in subprime auto loans originated by auto-finance companies since 2011, Business Insider's Matt Turner reported.

Turner also reported at the time that Wall Street was expressing concern over the subprime-auto-loan market as well. Meanwhile, Business Insider's Lauren Lyons Cole reported that Americans borrowed more money to buy cars than to attend college between 2016 and 2017.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There are a couple of points that immediately come to mind on reading this article. The first is that the delinquency rate for auto loans is definitely climbing and number of auto loans outstanding has increased substantially.



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February 12 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Weak Spot in the Oil Market That Traders Are Missing

This article by Stephanie Ying for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Faltering demand in Germany has preceded weak industrial data, which raised fears of a continued slowdown in Europe’s largest economy. Industrial production dropped for the fourth straight month in December, and Germany’s economy contracted in the third quarter of 2018 for the first time since 2015.

Standard Chartered analysts warn that the weakness could spread to other parts of Europe, further undermining demand for oil.

German demand makes up a minor fraction of the world’s oil consumption; the country was the 10th largest oil consumer in 2016, accounting for 2% of the global total, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since China made up 13% of oil consumption as of 2016, a drop in Chinese demand growth would likely have a comparatively larger impact.

Additionally, signs of slowing demand in other parts of Europe haven’t materialized, Mr. Horsnell noted.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Saudi Arabia continues to cut back on supply which buoyed the market today. However, the reasons for this move are not only to support prices but also in response to the slowdown in the global economy which is being led by Europe and China.



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February 11 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Fear of Filing? Some Taxpayers Finding Tax Bills, Not Refunds

This article by Ben Steverman and Laura Davison for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“Most people don’t know how much they pay in taxes,” said Bob Kerr, who leads the National Association of Enrolled Agents, a trade group for tax preparers. “But the refund is the wrong
metric to measure it.”

Right or wrong, the drop in expected refunds is creating fear and anger in accountants’ waiting rooms. “Every single person” who walks in is dreading how much they’re going to owe the IRS, said CPA Gail Rosen, who heads the Martinsville, New Jersey, office of WilkinGuttenplan. “They come in and they worry.”

But telling people they paid fewer taxes throughout the year doesn’t help the sticker shock felt by filers who’ve become accustomed to getting a check, not writing one. Only about 5 percent of taxpayers -- about 7.8 million people -- are expected to pay more under the new law. But about 5 million, according to the Government Accountability Office, will find their typical tax refund replaced by a tax liability. “A lot of people are going to be surprised,” Rosen said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Every politician knows that when it comes to policy, perception is often much more important than substance. If people had been asked whether they would prefer more money every month in lieu of receiving a chunky refund cheque they might not be nursing a surprise now. The reality is many people are likely coming out better off. However, if they had been using the refund as a saving mechanism, instead of saving monthly from their paycheques, this situation is going to feel like a tax hike.



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February 05 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Modern Monetary Theory

Thank you for mentioning MMT in the service

The most of us agree that applied MMT not necessarily leads to more growth (especially because in the reality part of the government spending is wasted in less than transparent submission processes, bureaucracy and corruption, hence it does not flow 100% into the economy process) but to more debt for future generations

However, it gives a useful framework for investors to better understand our modern world of FIAT currencies. A world in which classic economical doctrine and orthodoxy as I (we) learnt at university (pure monetarism, Fisher Theory and Schumpeterist “creative destruction”) fails to explain the modern world and the political influence

As you point out populism gels perfectly with MMT. And as long as populism is on the rise, we should maybe devote more time to understand MMT and try to profit as investors.

Interesting are the aspects related to the effect of interest rate hikes by the FED which MMT claims are inflationary and not disinflationary because hikes add income to the private sector that holds the government securities. In the same way they claim QT add interest bearing securities to the economy (via the banking system) and are also not disinflationary.

Also interesting is the stress on government spending as a source of Aggregate Demand and not just on the Debt with which this demand is financed. So national debt is the “private sector” asset.

I don’t know if I am a correct but from the perspective of an investor MMT is insofar useful as it opens a new perspective and try to explain markets behavior by looking at what is happening.

For example, from an MMT perspective we should continue have a strong economy as long as government spending is on the rise (i.e. the corporate sector profits and equities are a buy), the USD should weaken the more debt is added and the more the FED tries to stem inflation by hiking rates and engaging in QT (latter is counterintuitive) because it adds income to the system. Likewise, Bonds are a sell because of rising inflation while gold and hard assets are a buy.

Actually, if we look at reality and at countries that control their own currency that involve in profligate fiscal policies, they all tend to have depreciating currencies, high interest rates and a rising national debt. To me Turkey, Argentina, Venezuela come to mind first. However even the US under Trump is moving in this direction. Hence the USD bearishness (the US have still a big advantage though i.e. that they are reserve currency)

On the other end countries with a tight fiscal discipline, that apply QE and ZIRP or NIRP tend to have deflationary economies, zero or negative yields and strong currencies. Examples are Switzerland and the EU (where the leading countries impose deflationary austerity and real deflation on the weakest Union members). Indeed, notwithstanding all the problems in some members of the EU, the EUR has been extremely resilient over the years.

What do you think?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this wide ranging and thought-provoking email. I agree with most of the points you make although I believe the reason for the Euro’s stability has to do with a lack of supply rather than inherent strength in the domestic Eurozone economy. The biggest issue right now is there is a clear trend towards profligate spending, fiscal stimulus, deficit spending or however you might wish to describe it. Modern Monetary Theory is the academic rationale for this spending which is being latched onto by politicians. In ages past this was referred to as devaluing the currency to point where it causes a rebellion from the bond market. 



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February 01 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Modi Woos Voters With $13 Billion Largesse Before India Election

This article by Abhijit Roy Chowdhury, Bibhudatta Pradhan, Shruti Srivastava and Siddhartha Singh for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The government will allocate 750 billion-rupee ($10.6 billion) a year for the cash plan for about 120 million farmers and give taxpayers 185 billion rupees of relief in the year to March 2020, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal said in his budget speech in New Delhi on Friday.

In the process, the government will widen its fiscal deficit targets for the current financial year and next to 3.4 percent of gross domestic product and borrow more. Bonds and the rupee fell on news of the debt plans, while the tax cuts helped to buoy stocks.

“Ongoing slippage from the government’s budgeted fiscal deficit targets over the past two years, and our expectation that the government will face challenges meeting its target again this coming fiscal year does not bode well for medium term fiscal consolidation,” said Gene Fang, an associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service. “We view this continued slippage as credit negative for the sovereign.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Narendra Modi made history by getting an outright majority for the BJP at the last election and was the first person from a low caste to become Prime Minister. The big challenge heading into the election this year will how to hold onto those gains. The answer so far has been to emphasise Hindu nationalism and to boost spending. It was inevitable Modi would try to buy the election and the budget is the clearest signal how much he is willing to spend.



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January 31 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Everything you wanted to know about MMT (but were afraid to ask)

Thanks to Kevin Muir for this post from his themacrotourist.com blog which is relevant to the current discussion on Fed policy, fiscal policy and political jockeying. Here is a section:

If I am correct, I suspect we will see many Democrat candidates (perhaps all?) adopt MMT as a tenant of their platform. And here is a crazy thought for you - what if Trump beats them to it?

I have long argued that eventually we will hit a period where governments will spend and Central Banks will facilitate their deficits. MMT provides academic justification of where we all know we are headed anyway.

In one of the interviews I watched with Professor Kelton, she said that the idea of deficits being funded with bond issuance is purely a self-imposed limitation. It’s required by law, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be done. The law can be changed. The government could simply spend $100 while only taking in $90 and directly writing cheques against the Federal Reserve to pay for the $10.

Think about how inflationary this will be! But isn’t that the whole goal?

I have always chuckled at the idea that governments were powerless to create inflation. If they want to create inflation - they can. There just needs to be the political will. And it looks like that will has finally arrived.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Left-wing politicians in the USA are jockeying for who can announce the largest tax on the “super-rich”. Last week the media were discussing an upper band of 70%, today Bernie Sanders is suggesting a 77% tax and the re-imposition of a heavy estate tax on fortunes over $3.5million. Meanwhile more and more politicians are adopting President Trump’s mantra that deficits don’t matter.



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January 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on reliable dividend companies

Your copy on global pay-out ride is coming back to earth is timely. The well-regarded fund manager Neil Woodford has given Imperial Brands a significant 8% asset allocation in his flagship income fund. Imperial pays a hefty dividend, growing at 10% rate. It generates good cash, but has huge BBB+ debt outstanding. It has come down quite a bit from its peak, but it’s valued at 17 times earning which may roll back to the 10 times earnings it had around 2000. Is there a case for holding Imperial Brands as primary source for dividends for the long run? I wonder if you could review some good dividend paying companies, net cash global companies with strong balance sheets, that will not get caught in the pending investment grade bond crunch. Thanks!

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which I’m sure is something a number of subscribers are pondering. More than half of all investment grade bonds are rated BBB and approximately $600 billion are up for refinancing this year. Against a background of tightening liquidity conditions that represents a risk some companies are going to have issues sourcing funding at the highly attractive rates which have been on offer for the last decade.
 



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January 24 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mario Draghi Is Watching His ECB Rate Hike Slip Over the Horizon

This article by Brian Swint and Carolynn Look for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

With the economy threatened by trade tensions, European politics and temporary factors such as a slump in German car production, “we’ll probably have to wait until the June meeting before the dust has settled,” said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING. “However, it will require a very benign outcome on all these risk factors to see Draghi hiking rates before he leaves office.”

UBS Group AG President Axel Weber, a former ECB policy maker and Bundesbank president, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week that the ECB has already missed its chance to normalize policy in this cycle.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Mario Draghi is unlikely to raise rates during his tenure at the ECB and his successors are going to have equally grim prospects of returning to normal monetary policy



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January 21 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asking Prices for London Homes Slump to Lowest Since 2015

This article by Lucy Meakin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

 

London home asking prices fell to their weakest level in 3 1/2-years in January as sellers spooked by
Brexit held off putting their properties up for sale.

Asking prices in the capital slipped 1.5 percent from December to 593,972 pounds ($765,000), the lowest level since August 2015, according to Rightmove. New listings in the first two weeks of the year were 10 percent lower than in 2018 as owners were deterred by the cost of moving and concern about the political backdrop, the property website said.

After years of outsize gains in home values, London and its surrounding areas have so far borne the brunt of Brexit, with a lack of clarity over the future relationship with Europe causing both households and firms to hold off on investment decisions.

Listing prices in the capital have declined from a peak of almost 650,000 pounds in May 2016, the month before Britons voted to leave the European Union.

Nationally, values rose 0.4 percent to 298,734 pounds, with the biggest gains in the north of England. Rightmove’s data is compiled from 70,068 properties put on sale by agents across the country from Dec. 9 to Jan. 12.

A separate report by Acadata, which incorporates all house transactions, showed national home prices rose 0.6 percent in the year to December. Excluding London and the south east, values climbed 1.4 percent.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There was another news story today on how Citadel Investment Management’s CEO Ken Griffin paid, a discounted £95 million, for 3 Carlton Gardens which is about half a mile of open park land from Buckingham Palace.



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January 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Elections in 2019

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ve been discussing the rise of populism, for two years, as a revolt against the status quo which is leading to a lurch to the fringes of political opinion. The clarion call for people everywhere demanding change is “What about me?” The only way governments know how to placate disaffected people is to give them more money. That is why we have seen so many countries pursuing fiscal stimulus/deficit spending measures.



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January 18 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Is Said to Offer Path to Eliminate U.S. Trade Imbalance

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the U.S., in a move that would reconfigure the relationship between the world’s two largest economies, according to officials familiar with the negotiations.

By increasing annual goods imports from the U.S. by a combined value of more than $1 trillion, China would seek to reduce its trade surplus -- which last year stood at $323 billion -- to zero by 2024, one of the people said. The officials asked not to be named as the discussions aren’t public.

The offer, made during talks in Beijing earlier this month, was met with skepticism by U.S. negotiators who nonetheless asked the Chinese to do even better, demanding that the imbalance be cleared in the next two years, the people said.

Economists who’ve studied the trade relationship argue it would be hard to eliminate the gap, which they say is sustained in large part by U.S. demand for Chinese products.

Eoin Treacy's view -

On the face of it this is good news because it at least suggests the USA and China are engaging in productive discussions and some initiatives to end of the impasse are being discussed. The stock market continues to unwind the overextension relative to the trend mean as it prices in optimism that a deal with be struck.



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January 14 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Don't Fear a Potential Recession; Embrace It

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to this report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The markets have quickly turned from giving credence to the Fed’s prognostication that they would raise rates as many as two times this year to pricing in none and a cut in 2020. However, it is also worth considering that for the moment, at least, the market is pricing in one cut not a succession of cuts. The extent of the decline seen to date, therefore, has been to price out any net positive from the tax cuts; netting off trade frictions now to the earlier, and possibly temporary, bump to consumer demand.



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January 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mnuchin Massacre Christmas Eve Bottom?

This article by Muir for his Macro Tourist blog may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Remember back a half-dozen years ago when all the hedgies were bearish and David Tepper came out and said something to the effect of; “if the economy weakens, then the Fed will ease and stocks go up. If the economy strengthens, then stocks will go up because earnings will be rising. Therefore I am buying.”

Well, I think it’s almost the exact opposite situation today. If the economy strengthens then Powell will hike and stocks will fall from the liquidity withdrawal. If the economy weakens, then Powell has shown he is loathe to come to the market’s rescue and he will be slow to lower rates.

I don’t think you need to overthink this. The Fed has tightened into either a slowdown, or a recession. The market sniffed it out, but the Fed ignored the signals for a bit and made the sell-off worse. Now the market is in the process of correcting that overreaction by rallying.

But don’t forget that Powell has absolutely no stomach for frothy financial markets, so beware getting too excited about the Fed’s recent dovish talk. This is not Yellen or Bernanke’s Fed. Powell has a different set of beliefs, and although he has succumbed to market pressures for the moment, it won’t take much for the old tone-deaf Powell to return.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Powell reiterated his view today in expressing the Fed’s patience with interest rate hikes but committing to continued balance sheet run-off. The market has already priced in the opinion the Fed will not raise rates again and will probably be cutting rates in 2020.



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January 10 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on yield curve inversions

Before Xmas I forwarded an article by EPB Macro Economics who assessed that the Fed had already tightened too much and that a marked slowing of the economy was inevitable.  The latest EPB report (see attached) highlights that there has already been an inversion in US Treasuries, and that the Fed interest rate cycle has now peaked, but deteriorating economic data will cause more volatility in equity markets.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report and a section from it are posted in the Subscriber's Area.

I agree we are late in the cycle and that has been a constant theme in the Subscriber's video for the last 18 months. The inconsistency in the trends on Wall Street, with evidence of completed top formations until proven otherwise is a clear indication that this is a particularly important time to pay attention to liquidity and credit conditions. Here is a section from the report:



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January 09 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Outlook for 2019: The Game Has Changed

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from KKR which may be of interest to subscribes. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report and a section from it are posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The broad global adoption of fiscally stimulative policies is unlikely to be as coordinated as the monetary response to the credit crisis was. The big arbiters of how much liquidity is provided to the global economy and eventually the markets will be in which large countries adopt fiscal stimulus. Germany, China and Brazil are the big additional potential sources of stimulus so it is their political machinations that are most worth watching.



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January 04 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Powell Pledges Flexible Fed Policy, Won't Quit If Trump Asks Him

This article by Jeanna Smialek and Rich Miller for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank can be patient as it assesses risks to a U.S
economy and will adjust policy quickly if needed, but made clear he would not resign if President Donald Trump asked him to step aside.

“With the muted inflation readings that we’ve seen, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves,” Powell said Friday on a panel with his predecessors Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta.

“We will be prepared to adjust policy quickly and flexibly and to use all of our tools to support the economy should that be appropriate to keep the expansion on track,” he said, adding “there is no pre-set path for policy.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The financial markets have been busying pricing out the potential for additional rate hikes this year in the aftermath of the last Fed meeting. That was a clear message to policy makers that they were making a mistake in signaling a willingness to persist in raising rates and running off the balance sheet concurrently.

The above statement begins to suggests the Fed is alert to the message being sent by the markets. The stock market responded positively to this change of emphasis by Powell and rallied to countermand yesterday’s weakness; reinvigorating the reversionary rally hypothesis.  

The above statement begins to suggests the Fed is alert to the message being sent by the markets. The stock market responded positively to this change of emphasis by Powell and rallied to countermand yesterday’s weakness; reinvigorating the reversionary rally hypothesis.  

 



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December 28 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Target 2 imbalances

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thank you for all the hard work you have put in 2018 to produce such a valuable service. I'm sure that the Euro's travails are the last thing on your subscribers' minds this festive season but this YouTube video may be of interest to the Collective. It is a lecture given in fluent English) by German economist Dr. Oliver Hartwich last July, entitled 'Target 2 and the Euro Crisis'. He explains this arcane subject with great clarity and humour. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your kind words and this enlightening video which as you say offers a very useful exposition of the internal transfer mechanism that makes up the Euro. The simply fact is that the Euro was designed to be the currency of a pan European federal super state and has the transfer mechanisms appropriate for that objective without it in fact existing.



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December 28 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Corporate Bond Spreads Keep Widening as Investors Yank Cash

This note by Christopher DeReza for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here ii is in full:

U.S. credit spreads widened to the highest levels since the summer of 2016 as funds saw outflows even as major American equity indexes posted a second day of gains.

Investment-grade bond spreads widened 2 basis points to 152 basis points on Thursday. The index has widened every day since Dec. 14 and most trading sessions this quarter

The junk bond index also rose Thursday, although the move was less pronounced. The index widened 1 basis point to 531 basis points, the highest level since Aug. 4, 2016. It’s risen 113 basis points this month
 

Investment-grade funds saw outflows of $4.4 billion for the week ended Dec. 26, the most since December 2015, according to Lipper. Junk bond funds registered the biggest outflows since October.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The stock market is short-term oversold and we have evidence of a short covering rally that began on the 26th. However, credit markets have not been the subject of bargain hunting and spreads continue to widen.



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December 27 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

To Help Put Recent Economic & Market Moves in Perspective

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Ray Dalio which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For all of the previously described reasons, the period that we are now in looks a lot like 1937.

Tightenings never work perfectly, so downturns follow.  They are more difficult to reverse in the late stage of the long-term debt cycle because the abilities of central banks to lower interest rates and buy and push up financial assets are then limited.  When they can’t do that anymore, there is the end of the long-term debt cycle.  The proximity to the end can be measured by a) the proximity of interest rates to zero and b) the amount of remaining capacity of central banks to print money and buy assets and the capacity of these assets to rise in price.  

The limitation in the ability to print money and make purchases typically comes about when a) asset prices rise to levels that lower the expected returns of these assets relative to the expected return of cash, b) central banks have bought such a large percentage of what there was to sell that buying more is difficult, or c) political obstacles stand in the way of buying more.  We call the power of central banks to stimulate money and credit growth in these ways “the amount of fuel in the tank.” Right now, the world’s major central banks have the least fuel in their tanks since the late 1930s so are now in the later stages of the long-term debt cycle.  Because the key turning points in the long-term debt cycle come along so infrequently (once in a lifetime), they are typically not well understood and take people by surprise.  For a more complete explanation of the archetypical long-term debt cycle, see Part 1 of “Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises” (link).

So, it appears to me that we are in the late stages of both the short-term and long-term debt cycles.  In other words, a) we are in the late-cycle phase of the short-term debt cycle when profit and earnings growth are still strong and the tightening of credit is causing asset prices to decline, and b) we are in the late-cycle phase of the long-term debt cycle when asset prices and economies are sensitive to tightenings and when central banks don’t have much power to ease credit.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Both the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P500 posted large upside key day reversals yesterday to signal lows of at least near-term significance. Neither followed through on the upside today but they did hold the moves. Considering just how much they fell since early this month there is certainly scope for a rebound but the true test of whether more than near-term support has been found will be in the extent to which they hold their lows.



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December 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Fed balance sheet contraction and liquidity

I understand the problem about reducing the FED balance sheet and raising rates at the same time.

The impact on liquidity is however less intuitive to me. While the effect of interest rate hikes is clearer, the effect of a Balance Sheet reduction is less so.

Am I wrong to assume that what technically happens when the FED reduces i.e. sell bonds is that the private sector, through the banking system, receives these bonds? In exchange banks reduce the account balance that they hold at FED.

If banks get Treasuries in their book, they also receive more interest income (coupons) that goes into the system. This money was blocked in the book of the FED until then.

Why is this necessary bad?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this question which I’m sure others have an interest in. Since the financial crisis banks have been paid interest on the excess reserves, they hold at the Fed. Against an uncertain environment in the real world they therefore had an incentive to park vast sums at the Fed. In return they received interest income on that money in line with the Fed’s Funds rate. 



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December 19 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Here is the text of a bulletin from Bloomberg on today's Fed Meeting.

Here are the Key Takeaways from today's FOMC events:

The FOMC hiked rates a fourth time this year to a decade high, ignoring President Trump’s criticism, and lowered its outlook to two hikes from three next year.

Powell specifically endorsed the dots, citing them in his press conference as a guideline for the committee and a useful tool.

The committee tweaked its guidance to ``some further gradual increases’’ -- a more hawkish development compared with the alternative of dropping the guidance.

Powell said all meetings are live for possible moves next year, but gave no strong hints as to when the Fed would raise next.

There was unanimous support for the hike.

Powell said that Trump's comments had no impact on policy and that the Fed is committed to doing what it thinks is best.

Powell said financial conditions caused a slight downgrade in 2019 forecasts but no real change in the outlook.

Markets took FOMC and Powell as hawkish, with the yield curve flattening and stocks falling.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The dot plots suggest two interest rate hikes next year but Jay Powell basically said they are going to be data dependent next year. The one thing that stood out to me from the press conference was that no one asked questions about the pace of balance sheet run off. That says a lot.



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December 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What a Big Deficit You've Got There, Mr. President

This article by Justin Fox for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It’s also important to note that the natural tendency in a growing economy, absent any tax changes, is for revenue to rise. Real revenue dropped in 2016, but that was because of the mini- recession that had started the year before. Revenue has risen during every other year of the current recovery. This year the economy is growing at what may turn out to be the fastest pace since the 2000s, around 3 percent, yet revenue is down. Some of that economic growth is surely due to the tax cuts and to this year’s spending increases, but it’s clear that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has so far displayed none of the magical revenue-increasing properties that some of its supporters claimed for it last year. If we take last year’s revenue growth of 1.1 percent as the — very conservative — baseline, it would seem instead to have so far resulted in a revenue decline of 3.5 percent, or $109 billion.

Federal spending, meanwhile, is up an inflation-adjusted 2.9 percent so far this year. That’s bigger than the revenue decrease but smaller than last year’s 3.5 percent increase. Overall, my read of the two charts above is that the overall shift since 2015 from shrinking deficits to rising ones has been mainly about rising spending, but the increase in the deficit this year has been mainly about the tax cuts.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It is generally accepted that counter cyclical policies are the most appropriate for any economy. You loosen when the going is tough and tighten when the going is good and that is expected to keep growth relatively steady with less aggressive peak to trough swings.



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December 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bank of France Trims Growth Forecasts as Protests Drag

This article by William Horobin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Still, the central bank said 1.5 percent growth was a level that would help the country close a gap with euro-area peers. It expects consumers to drive growth next year thanks to a rise in spending power, supported by tax cuts.

“French growth should remain above its average of recent years: That is still a rather favorable economic situation,” Villeroy said.

The central bank’s forecasts do not take into account Macron’s planned tax cuts. But it said the measures could also support consumer spending next year.

In the Les Echos interview, Villeroy also commented on the European Central Bank’s decision to end its net asset purchases. He said a “gradual normalization” of policy is justified by euro-area figures, but the central bank remains flexible in uncertain times and has powerful instruments available.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Countries on the periphery of the EU got the message loud and clear that the EU has one set of rules for large countries and quite another for small countries when depositors were bailed-in during Cyprus’s troubles but were rescued when Banca di Monte Paschi di Siena was going under.



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December 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Review of recession lead indicators

Eoin Treacy's view -

The yield curve spread has been in the news lately and with good reason considering how much of a move we have seen in the last week and because it has such an impressive record as a lead indicator for future recessions. With volatility on stock market increasing and perhaps more importantly some stress becoming evident in the credit markets I think it is timely to spend some time to do a thorough review of lead indicators for future recessions.



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December 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Fed and monetary Policy

Thanks to a subscriber for this note by Leon Tuey which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Few months ago, Jerome Powell, the Fed Chairman expressed the desire to smooth out past wild swings in the economy by fine-tuning its monetary policy.  Those are not mere words, but the Fed is already putting it into practice.  Note the statements made by the various Fed members. 

In the past, after the election, the Fed would slam the brakes to clean out the excesses.  After the Mid-term election, it would start to stimulate the economy.  Hence, the “Four-Year Cycle”.  The Fed has been tapping on the brakes instead of slamming them.  Hence, the slowing in the economy.  Many, however, are jumping to the conclusion that a recession will take place next year.

The Fed’s new goal is not easy to achieve, but if successful, the U.S. will experience a period of unparallel prosperity and the stock market will continue to climb to heights no one ever believe possible.

Despite its importance, few paid attention to Powell’s announcement.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of David’s clearest lessons is monetary policy beats most other factors most of the time. Last year I was writing about the fact that the Fed was asking for trouble by planning to reduce the size of the balance sheet and raise interest rates concurrently. They have delivered a medium-term correction in stocks the big question now is what’s next?



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December 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Crowd Money, late cycle moves and credit

As you have repeatedly mentioned in recent audios, we are at a very interesting time in markets. The coming weeks may potentially offer us a guide as to whether markets are pricing in a recession in late 2019/2020 or whether this maybe further delayed by the Fed and the US administration setting a looser policy tone sooner rather than later.

As David has always urged “don’t fight the Fed”.

Being away from my desk enjoying the delights of the Caribbean, I have taken the time to re-read your most illuminating book Crowd Money which you published back in 2013 and I read back in 2014 (again in the Sunny Caribbean).

I have to mention that a good many of your observations have come to pass and my holdings in a number of Autonomies who are also Dividend Aristocrats have been a core holding of my balanced personal portfolio. I have noted with interest the recent late cycle outperformance of these holdings compared to previously sexy growth stocks.

I would recommend to the collective to take the opportunity to read or re-read Crowd Money at a time when market strategy is in flux.

You have also made reference to the possibility of GE corporate debt being downgraded to junk. I attach a link to the UK Investment Manager M&G ‘Bond Vigilantes’ website and their comments relating to the US corporate debt market and with specific reference to GE’s strategy to deleverage and preserve their IG status.

Hope this is of interest.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for the link your kind words and I agree there is nothing quite like a good dose of sun in December. It is enormously gratifying that you are enjoying Crowd Money. I’m working on another book to try and put the emerging state of flux in context but it’s a hard slog. I’m reviewing late cycle phenomena in the following piece so I would like to focus on the credit market.

Here is a section from the article:

The Fallen Angel figure, of course, could balloon if one of these Angels happens to be a company with a large capital structure. One of the businesses that has lost its public single-A rating lately is US industrial giant General Electric – the 87th biggest company within the S&P 500 index, holding c. $50bn of notional debt – the majority of which could enter the HY market if multiple notches of downgrades occur. How immediate is this risk for investors?

GE downgrade fears are still speculative. The company is trying to shore up its cashflow and balance sheet, and may well retain its IG badge after all. Since liquidity, usually investors’ No. 1 concern, seems ample, the company is now focusing on improving its free cash flow and balance sheet structure. Companies at the lower end of the IG spectrum are indeed strongly incentivized to retain their credit ratings as a cut in long-term ratings from BBB- to BB+ materially lifts borrowing costs as some investors are prevented from holding Non-Investment Grade companies.

GE, however, still holds a BBB+ rating with stable outlooks from all three major credit rating agencies, leaving this flagship industrial group still a long way from junk. What will matter over the coming quarters is GE’s new CEO delivering on a promise of accelerated deleveraging, alongside turning around the structurally challenged power division. All of this amidst a backdrop of ongoing Department of Justice and SEC investigations, as well as some shareholder litigation.



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December 04 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2020 Rate Cuts, Unimaginable Last Month, Show Up in Bond Market

This article by Liz Capo McCormick and Edward Bolingbroke for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

 

“What is the most striking aspect of this move is the extent of it in just two days and how the acceleration came out of nowhere right after a supposed amicable meeting between the U.S. and China,” Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer of Bleakley Financial Group, said in a note. “It’s almost as if the bond market screamed out, ‘It’s too late, the growth slowdown underway can’t be reversed.”’

The curve is flattening because even though cuts have moved on to traders’ radar screen the year after next, the Fed is still expected to lift rates this month and tighten further next year. Inversion has preceded every U.S. recession for the past 60 years.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The spread between the 10-year and the 2-year contracted by another 3 basis points today to take the measure down to 11 basis points. This compression is being delivered by a substantial move in the 10-year and the relative inert trading in the 2-year.



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December 03 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on my central bank total assets chart:

You have mentioned that the graph showing central bank assets is one of the most important. Consequently, I wondered how the fact that they are reducing this tied in with your moderately optimistic views on the stock market. Do you think the US Fed Reserve will continue to reduce its balance sheet given recent market turmoil?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which I believe is of general interest and is something I have also been pondering. There are two reasons the chart has been contracting since March. The first is because the Federal Reserve is reducing the size of its balance sheet and other central banks are reducing infusions. The second is the strength of the Dollar has flattered the contraction by reducing the relative value of other currencies held on global central bank balance sheets.



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November 30 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The Big Picture

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Societe Generale which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

By this stage subscribers much be wondering why I am posting so many reports that express a bearish view. The simple fact of the matter is I am reposting these reports in an effort to highlight the fact that the last time my inbox was so filled with bearish reports was in the immediate aftermath of the credit crisis.

It seems that the one thing every analyst has learned from the credit crisis is to be hyper alert to any sign of trouble lest they miss out on calling the next big decline. It occurs to me that the investment community is falling into the trap of fighting the last war all over again, even though we are now in uncharted territory in terms of both monetary policy and the quantity of debt outstanding.



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November 29 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review October 29th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Let me first set up the background; I believe we are in a secular bull market that will not peak for at least another decade and potentially twice that. However, it also worth considering that secular bull markets are occasionally punctuated by recessions and medium-term corrections which generally represent buying opportunities.

2018 has represented a loss of uptrend consistency for the S&P500 following a particularly impressive and persistent advance in 2016 and 2017. Many people are therefore asking whether this is a medium-term correction or a top. There is perhaps no more important question so let’s just focus on that for the moment.



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November 28 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Powell Sees Solid Economic Outlook as Rates 'Just Below' Neutral

This article by Christopher Condon for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said interest rates are “just below” the so-called neutral range, softening previous comments that seemed to suggest a greater distance and spurring speculation central bankers are increasingly open to pausing their series of hikes next year.

Treasuries and stocks rose, as Powell’s “just below” comment tempered remarks he made last month that markets had interpreted to mean that a larger amount of tightening was likely. Speaking at an event on Oct. 3, Powell said that “we may go past neutral. But we’re a long way from neutral at this point, probably.”

In his speech Wednesday to the Economic Club of New York, Powell said the Fed’s benchmark interest rate was “just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy -- that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.”

If rates are closer to what policy makers ultimately judge is the neutral level, that could signal the Fed will tighten monetary policy less than previously projected. Eurodollar futures pricing reacted to Powell’s comments, reflecting even firmer expectations that the Fed will hike only once next year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Investors are on tenterhooks at the prospect of central bank balance sheet unwinding persisting indefinitely. Therefore, they are highly alert to any sign the Fed’s appetite for additional tightening is waning.



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November 27 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Europe and the UK

Glad you had a good meeting in London the week before last. Would have been there, but still recovering from breaking a femur in June.

Two things that might interest you.

First, from a John Mauldin letter:

Quick anecdote from my time in Frankfurt. I spoke for fund manager Lupus Alpha to approximately 250 pension fund managers, representing most of Germany’s retirement monies. I asked for a show of hands on whether they liked being part of the European Union. Almost everyone raised their hands. I then asked if they thought participating in the euro was a good thing. Probably 80% raised their hands. When asked who doesn’t like the euro, maybe 10% of the hands went up.

Then the money question. I asked if they would be willing to take Italy’s debt and all the debt of every eurozone member and put it on the European Central Bank balance sheet, with caveats about controlling national budgets. Fewer than 20% of the hands went up.

I then engaged the audience further, saying, the last two questions were essentially the same. If you want to keep the euro, you’ll have to do something about the imbalances between the countries and debts. No monetary union in history has ever survived without becoming a fiscal union as well. Even reminding them that failure to do this might cause the euro to break up and bring back the Deutschmark didn’t seem to change many opinions. I reminded them that a Deutschmark would mean a serious recession/depression in Germany as it would raise the price of all German exports by at least 50%. Mercedes and BMWs are expensive enough for Germany’s customers, let alone at a 50% price hike.

This audience should have easily accepted the argument for putting all European debt on the ECB balance sheet. Imagine if I asked the typical German voter, especially those in rural areas. That tells me Europe could have a bumpier future than I thought.

Second, a piece from the FT (as an attachment) about whether property is still a long-term bet for retirement. Conclusion: it's not.

Thanks for all great recent pieces. I really liked the Ray Dalio discussion.

Have a great Christmas.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative email and I am delighted you are enjoying the Service. The simplest way to summarise the contradiction at the heart of the Eurozone question is “you can’t be half pregnant” The EU is heading towards federalism or it will break up. The status quo is already being challenged and it will continue to be challenged as a long as millions of people endure lower standards of living.



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November 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

RBC Wealth Management 2019 Investment Stance

Thanks to a subscriber for this report which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

US Corporate Profits spent about four years ranging between 2012 and the end of 2016 and then broke out on the upside. The measure is reported in arrears with a one quarter lag so we will not have another reading until the end of this year and that will reflect the third quarter.



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November 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2019 US Equity Outlook: The Return of Risk

Thanks to a subscriber for this report for Goldman Sachs which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

At The Chart Seminar we talk about how the majority of people predict markets. The simple answer is we tend to predict what we see. Over the course of the last eight weeks a very notable rotation into higher quality companies has been underway. Interest rate sensitive businesses have been the big decliners while those angled towards the consumer, with long records of dividend increases have been the clearest outperformers. Since that is what has been working it is the easiest prognostication to think it will persist.



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November 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on central bank balances sheets

On the Morgan Stanley research document, you posted on Monday, there was "the most important chart in the world" as you describe it (QE globally). The "6-month rate of change" scale on LHS caught my attention. Recently, this QE tightening "rate of change" has moved upwards. Is this an early sign that CBs are starting to shy away from their QE tightening? If so, this is bullish for an equity market discounting future tightening. Maybe the tea leaves are not clear, but they must be monitored.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this email which as you highlight raises the very important question of whether central banks have had enough of tightening after taking $1.5 trillion out of circulation since March.



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November 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ray Dalio Discusses Major Financial Crises (Podcast)

I found this interview of Ray Dalio to be very educational and recommend it to subscribers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Veteran subscribers who have been listening to the Long-Term audios/video over the last 18 months will be familiar with my refrain that the rise of populism is not an isolated incident but a symptom of a much wider global change where the centre is breaking.
 
That challenge to the status quo is resulting in demand for an alternative which is leading to an exploring of legitimacy by what once would have been considered fringe elements. The very fact people still consider this a battle between the left and right is a testimonial to how engrained centrism has become in the public discourse and how useless it is today as a narrative for evolving socio-economic conditions.
 
Three points Dalio makes are that he believes the closest parallel to today is 1937, the long-term debt cycle is in its 7th (of 8) innings and that expectations for future returns should be very low going forward. That begs the question what did the market do in 1937 and in the decade subsequently.
 
Incidentally, his Principles for Navigating Big Debt Cycles is available for free download here: https://www.principles.com/big-debt-crises/



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November 09 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Has More Distressed Corporate Debt Than All Other EMs

This article by Selcuk Gokoluk for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

China’s debt, both distressed and otherwise, account for a quarter of all securities included in the gauge, which tracks about 660 dollar notes with a par value of at least $500 million. The Asian nation is home to the developing world’s biggest bond market.

The jump in China’s distressed bonds helped fuel an increase in borrowing costs for emerging-market companies to the highest level in more than two years. The impact of the trade war on the Asian nation has compounded pressure on developing assets, already reeling under the strain of higher U.S. interest rates and Treasury yields.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

In markets with well-developed corporate bond markets we can come to some estimation of what to expect from the default rate. It’s going to be based on history and may or may not be accurate but at least there is some historical context. China is a country with no history of defaults because everyone always got bailed out.



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November 06 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

No More Junk in the Trunk

This note from Riverfront Investment Group may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

As the high yield market has continued to strengthen, credit spreads have tightened to 381 basis points, which is near a 10-year low (credit spreads measure the extra amount of income required to compensate investors for default risk and are a common gauge for the overall health of the economy).

There are two ways to look at the current level of credit spreads. The first is an optimistic view which would suggests the bond market is not signaling any stress in the economy. Historically, tight credit spreads (smaller premium for default risk) have reflected economy strength and a reassurance that a recession in the near-term was unlikely. In previous recessions, credit spreads have widened prior to equities falling and have therefore been an informative leading indicator for the economy.

On the other hand, it’s easy to see why some investors have a more pessimistic view regarding tight credit spreads. Without lower coupon payments, there is a smaller margin of safety for default risk. In other words, investors aren’t protected as much in the event of a recession. Furthermore, with credit spreads near a 10-year low, it might seem like there is only one way for them to go, which is higher!

Eoin Treacy's view -

US high yields spreads have been inert for 18 months but in that time Treasury yields have risen quite considerably. What that tells us is the yield on junk bonds is also rising and the coupon demanded to attract investor interest is also higher.



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November 02 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China cracks down on foreign currency transfers for property deals

This article by Michael Smith for The Australian Financial Review may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The decision to publish the cases, which involved millions of dollars in fines, is seen as a warning that the government is less willing to tolerate what is considered a grey area in the country's capital control rules. Liu Xuezhi, an economist at China's Bank of Communications, said this showed Beijing's crackdown on offshore commercial deals was being extended to individual investors.

"The government regulation on foreign currency is becoming more thorough. They are extending supervision from corporates to individuals," he told The Australian Financial Review.

"The tight control on foreign capital will be maintained for the next one or two years. This would bring an impact to the Chinese investors who are planning to buy properties overseas, including Australia."

Zong Liang, a senior researcher with the Bank of China, said he expected the move to more closely monitor transactions would stay in place for the next five years and weaken the appetite for Chinese investors in Australian property.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China needs to control capital flight if it is to have any hope of navigating a future of lower leverage, higher defaults and modest growth. Chinese people have been most active in getting money out of the country by buying property which is a significant outlay and is coming under increasing scrutiny with potentially worrying repercussions for international property markets.



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November 02 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the merits of buy-to-let

Regarding your piece yesterday on balancing one's portfolio and finding safety, I would add a somewhat personal view. As I am in the finance industry myself, the restrictions on investing in listed securities is quite a burden and I'm finding traditional buy-to-let investing more and more compelling. It should work reasonably well also as an inflation hedge, since the rent can be adjusted with inflation and the real value of the principal generally moves with inflation. Of course this equation depends on things like whether your area has population growth and the yield curve of your respective currency, but at least in EUR the FIXED financing costs are so ridiculously low that it is hard to see how one can lose money on a say 60-70 percent financing over a 15-20 year horizon. A practical issue is that there is a (modest) amount of work when finding a new tenant, for example. For me, this also provides a nice additional retirement income, since the tenants have paid off the bank loans roughly at the same time as I'm about to leave the workforce, so that the rents become cash flow to me. Just a personal thought here, it may not be the best choice for everyone.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative email and I agree that the potential for raising rents is an attractive inflation hedge, not least because property prices, as fixed assets, tend to rise with the inflation rate. However, it is also worth considering that property prices have been boosted by quantitative easing and the ridiculously low funding levels that you speak of have been available to everyone for a decade already. The key, as you mention, fixing financing costs, low leverage and attractive capitation rates.



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October 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

What's Wrong With the 2 Percent Inflation Target

This article by Paul Volcker may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Only once in the past century, in the 1930s, have we had deflation, serious deflation. In 2008–2009 there was cause for concern. The common characteristic of those two incidents was collapse of the financial system.

We can’t expect to prevent all financial excesses and recessions in the future. That is the pattern of history with free markets, financial innovation, and our innate “animal
spirits.”

The lesson, to me, is crystal clear. Deflation is a threat posed by a critical breakdown of the financial system. Slow growth and recurrent recessions without systemic financial disturbances, even the big recessions of 1975 and 1982, have not posed such a risk.

The real danger comes from encouraging or inadvertently tolerating rising inflation and its close cousin of extreme speculation and risk taking, in effect standing by while bubbles and excesses threaten financial markets. Ironically, the “easy money,” striving for a “little inflation” as a means of forestalling deflation, could, in the end, be what brings it about.

That is the basic lesson for monetary policy. It demands emphasis on price stability and prudent oversight of the financial system. Both of those requirements inexorably lead to the responsibilities of a central bank.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It has been a very long time since Paul Volcker was the head of the Fed and there has been a distinct change of culture since then. The Fed is now a serial bubble blower and the decision to adopt quantitative easing has created massive excesses in the global economy, which the market is now exploring.



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October 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review October 4th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.



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October 24 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stock Markets Face Historic Lack of Dry Powder

This article by Julie Segal for Institutional Investor may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“The main reason is simply that the more a relationship moves to an extreme end of its range, the more likely it becomes that it will begin to move back toward its longer-term average.”

A historically high level of assets in money market funds, which are a home for risk-averse investors, would generally indicate that investors are feeling cautious. But Becker argued that relative to equity fund assets, money markets are actually low.  

Becker said that for asset level data he used the full history offered by Morningstar, which goes back to February 1993, covering 25 years of data. “This suggests that over the last 25 years investors have never felt more confident,” he says. 

In this case, such a move could happen quickly or slowly. It could happen more slowly through changes in allocations of new money (e.g. investors decide to stop putting new 401[k] money into equity mutual funds and start putting it into MMFs). Or it could happen quickly through a sharp decline in the stock market, causing equity funds to and money-market fund assets to get larger relative to equity fund assets.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is certainly a concern that we are late in the cycle but there is another reason why there is so little cash in money market funds compared with historical totals. They have not been paying any interest so why would anyone invest in them. That’s changing now with more than a few institutions and family offices I talk to moving cash into money market funds.



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October 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The next recession

This article from the Economist may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Yet this is where the bad news comes in. As our special report this week sets out, the rich world in particular is ill-prepared to deal with even a mild recession. That is partly because the policy arsenal is still depleted from fighting the last downturn. In the past half-century, the Fed has typically cut interest rates by five or so percentage points in a downturn. Today it has less than half that room before it reaches zero; the euro zone and Japan have no room at all.

Policymakers have other options, of course. Central banks could use the now-familiar policy of quantitative easing (QE), the purchase of securities with newly created central-bank reserves. The efficacy of QE is debated, but if that does not work, they could try more radical, untested approaches, such as giving money directly to individuals. Governments can boost spending, too. Even countries with large debt burdens can benefit from fiscal stimulus during recessions.

The question is whether using these weapons is politically acceptable. Central banks will enter the next recession with balance-sheets that are already swollen by historical standards—the Fed’s is worth 20% of GDP. Opponents of QE say that it distorts markets and inflates asset bubbles, among other things. No matter that these views are largely misguided; fresh bouts of QE would attract even closer scrutiny than last time. The constraints are particularly tight in the euro zone, where the ECB is limited to buying 33% of any country’s public debt.

Eoin Treacy's view -

We are living today in a world that was previously unimaginable. Negative interest rates have been with us for a decade and about $7 trillion has negative yields. Investors would literally rather pay to own bonds. Meanwhile some of the largest privately held companies continue to attract tens of billions in capital with little prospect of near-term or even medium-term profits. Therefore, I find it hard to fathom why people are so reticent about embracing the possibility that even more drastic action will not be embraced if the current suite of policy tools is exhausted.  



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October 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.S. Treasury Staff Said to Find China Isn't Manipulating Yuan

This article by Saleha Mohsin and Jenny Leonard for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Treasury said in its April report that it is considering expanding the number of countries it examines from 13, with analysts speculating that the number could go as high as 20. Such a move would be a sign of the Trump administration ramping up its use of the currency channel to negotiate better trade deals for the U.S.

Mnuchin has said since July that Treasury is concerned about the yuan’s recent drop. The currency has slid more than 9 percent against the dollar in the last six months, raising speculation that China has been deliberately weakening its currency as tensions with the U.S. escalate.

The Trump administration has pivoted to a more aggressive stance toward China since the president said last month the country is interfering in U.S. elections. Vice President Mike Pence delivered a speech last week in Washington signaling a firmer U.S. push-back against Beijing as trade anxiety weighs on the looming midterm congressional elections.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The US administration imposed 10% tariffs on Chinese imports and the Renminbi dropped by about the same amount. If we are to conclude this is the market being particularly efficient then so be it, but Ockham’s Razor suggests the Chinese administration is managing the currency lower. That might be justified based on the slowing growth trajectory of the economy but the bigger issue is the Renminbi is weakening and that is putting downward pressure on just about all regional currencies.

Thanks to a subscriber for Russell Napier’s latest missive which may be of interest. Here is a section:



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October 03 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Treasuries Slide Pushes 10-Year U.S. Yield to Highest Since 2011

This article by Liz Capo McCormick for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:
 

The yield on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for global borrowing, rose to the highest level since 2011 amid growing optimism about the U.S. economy. The rate on 30-year securities reached a four-year high and the dollar gained.

Improved investor appetite for riskier assets drove the leap in yields, with stocks rising toward records on upbeat news about American jobs and ebbing concern about the fiscal situation in Italy. The jump in yields Wednesday, which pushed them above previous 2018 highs set in May, followed stronger-than-anticipated reports on U.S. services and private payrolls and came after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates last week.

The government reports payroll figures for September on Friday, and economists forecast a decline in the jobless rate to 3.8 percent. It hasn’t been lower since 1969.

Treasuries are extending a September swoon that was triggered in part by quicker-than-forecast wage growth in employment data released early last month.

“This started overnight with the Italian risk-on trade and the U.S. data today was definitely stronger” than forecast, said Justin Lederer, an interest-rate strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York. “After last month’s payroll, the market started to catch up to the Fed and it’s a continuation of that. There is reason to be believe we can continue to trickle to higher yields.”

The yield on the 10-year borrowing benchmark climbed as much as 7 basis points Wednesday to 3.1343 percent, surpassing the May intraday high of 3.1261 percent. The yield on the 30-year increased as much as 7 basis points to 3.29 percent.


Money-market traders are now pricing in more than two Fed hikes in 2019, seeing about 0.54 percentage point of tightening, approaching policy makers’ projections for three rate increases next year. About two months ago, the market saw just slightly
more than one increase.

The yield curve, which has been on a flattening trend for much of this year, steepened sharply amid Wednesday’s break-out in long-term yields.

The gap between 2- and 10-year yields surged more than 3 basis points to about 28 basis points, reaching its steepest since August.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The yield curve spread popped on the upside today with the yield on the 10-year breaking out. The last 10 basis point rally was between April and May so right now this is an equal sized rally within the downtrend but it will likely be enough to allay fears on an imminent inversion.



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October 03 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review August 15th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Let me first set up the background; I believe we are in a secular bull market that will not peak for at least another decade and potentially twice that. However, it also worth considering that secular bull markets are occasionally punctuated by recessions and medium-term corrections which generally represent buying opportunities. 



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October 02 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Contagion Fears Bubbling Beneath Surface of Apparent Calm

This article by John Ainger for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

For others, Italy’s euroskeptic government is just the embodiment of the populist sentiment taking root across Europe, which could threaten the bloc’s future and weigh on the euro for the months or even years to come.

Borghi, head of Italy’s lower house budget committee and a well-known euroskeptic, said in an interview on Radio Anch’io that “Italy, with its own currency, would be able to resolve its problems.”

“The comments about Italy having its own currency have touched a sore point,” said Jane Foley, head of foreign-exchange strategy at Rabobank International. “While the return of the lira would be almost impossible and hugely inflationary even if it could happen, the fact that the remarks can be read as anti-EMU sentiment are worrisome.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

The response of the market to the Italian government’s decision to splurge on its budget has been predictable and yields broke out to new recovery highs today. Populist rhetoric has been very vocal in saying they are not afraid of the spread but they have not yet had a taste of what higher borrowing costs will mean for the economy.



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September 28 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy's government agrees sharply higher public spending plan

This article by Miles Johnson and Davide Ghiglione for the Financial Times may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Mr Di Maio hailed the agreement as a “historic day”. “We made it!,” he said as he emerged from a balcony at Rome’s Palazzo Chigi, where the meeting took place.

“Today we have changed Italy! . . . For the first time the state is on the side of the citizens,” he said as ministers and members of parliament from his party hugged each other on the square outside.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the hard right League, part of the coalition and deputy prime minister alongside Mr Di Maio, also welcomed the agreement on spending, saying he was “fully satisfied with the objectives achieved”, which would include his party’s pledges for tax cuts and a reversal of unpopular pension reforms dating back to 2011.

Mr Tria, who is not affiliated with either party and was installed only after Italian president Sergio Mattarella rejected the coalition’s first choice for finance minister, had been pressing for a deficit number as low as 1.6 per cent of GDP going into the meeting.

A 2019 deficit of 2.4 per cent of GDP would represent a significant fiscal expansion from the 1.6 per cent target for this year agreed by the last centre-left government, and would be three times the 0.8 per cent number previously planned for next year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Italy’s debt is BBB, which is still investment grade, but the yield trades like it is rated BB which is not investment grade. The populist administration has stated they are not afraid of the spread but one wonders if they have any conception what a downgrade to junk would do to demand for Italian debt. Large pension funds which have been gobbling up Italian debt to capture the higher yield would be forced to sell in the event of a downgrade. Meanwhile the ECB is winding down its purchase program so there will be a hole in demand for the bonds.



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September 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Neutral Fed Funds, Dead Ahead

This article from Bloomberg’s economists may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Given the lagged and variable impact of monetary policy on economic conditions -- further complicated in the current cycle by the Fed’s balance-sheet unwind -- policy makers will need to navigate with caution when in the proximity of neutral. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, in his Jackson Hole speech, sounded dual warnings about this: First, he stressed economists’ inability to estimate the neutral level of interest rates in real-time and cautioned against the “mistake of overemphasizing imprecise estimates of the stars”; second, he invoked the Brainard principle, which advocates moving conservatively on policy when the effects of action are unknown.

If growth is moderating toward trend and inflation appears to be centering around policy makers’ objective as the fed funds rate probes neutral territory, a significant portion of the FOMC should be willing to slow -- if not pause -- the pace of interest-rate increases in order to assess economic conditions. Policy makers may not be able to precisely identify the neutral policy rate in real time, but a continual decline in the terminal fed funds rate over the past several tightening cycles (shown below) serves as a cautionary reminder that, as Powell quipped at Jackson Hole, a “smaller dose” of normalization may prove adequate.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The PCE Core inflation gauge, which is the Fed’s preferred measure currently stands at 2%. Chained PCE inflation is at 2.3%. The Fed’s Funds rate is now 2.25% so it is becoming increasingly clear that after 8 rate hikes policy is moving from accommodative to neutral.



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September 24 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB's Draghi Sees Vigorous Pickup in Core Euro-Area Inflation

This article by Paul Gordon for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Mario Draghi said he sees a “relatively vigorous” pickup in underlying euro-area inflation, signaling
that the European Central Bank is well on track to raise interest rates late next year.

In testimony to the European Parliament, the ECB president said while headline consumer-price growth will only average around 1.7 percent a year through 2020, still below the goal of just under 2 percent, that stable outlook “conceals a slowing contribution from the non-core components” such as energy and food prices.

“Underlying inflation is expected to increase further over the coming months as the tightening labor market is pushing up wage growth,” he said in Brussels on Monday. “Domestic price pressures are strengthening and broadening.”

The euro jumped half a cent on the remark, reaching the highest level since June. It traded at $1.1800 at 3:16 p.m. Frankfurt time. Bunds extended losses and the Stoxx 600 index fell to a session low.

The ECB will end its bond-buying program in December and expects to keep interest rates at record lows at least through the summer of 2019. Policy makers have acknowledged market expectations for a hike around the final quarter of next year.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ECB has taken on a lot of additional responsibilities since the credit crisis but its one core mandate is to target an inflation rate close to 2%. With inflation rising and the ECB’s quantitative easing program ending the big question is whether the European economy will be able to grow quick enough to absorb inflationary pressures or whether stagflation is more likely?



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September 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Dollar Tumbles to Lowest Level Since July as Euro Surges

This article by Robert Fullem for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The market views a 25 basis point Fed rate hike next week as a near certainty, based on fed fund futures. Contracts on Thursday showed more than 45 basis points of total tightening by the end of 2018. Focus is increasingly shifting to the outlook for next year, with investors moving closer to the central bank’s projected path of three rate hikes for 2019.

That won’t be enough to prop up the greenback, according to Noelle Corum, an Atlanta-based portfolio manager in Invesco Ltd.’s fixed-income group. As global growth improves and market participants start to speculate about policy changes from the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, the dollar’s support from Fed hikes and trade tensions will wear off, she said.

“Going into year-end, we would expect fundamentals will begin to drive markets again, and this will drive the dollar weaker,’’ said Corum, whose group manages $235 billion. She forecasts the greenback will depreciate to $1.20 per euro and weaken to 104 yen per dollar by year-end.

Eoin Treacy's view -

US Treasury yields popping above 3%, not least because of the dearth of demand following the front loading of pension contributions that ended on September 15th, has been a catalyst for both bond and Dollar weakness this week.



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September 19 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The End of the Incessant U.S. Big?

This article by Kevin Muir at East West Bank may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

According to Bloomberg’s Brian Chappatta, Friday was the last day U.S. corporations could deduct pension contributions at the 2017 corporate tax rate of 35 percent and will now only be eligible for the new 21 percent rate.

There has been considerable debate amongst the fixed-income community regarding the amount of curve flattening that has been the direct result of corporations accelerating their pension contributions. In fact, Brian’s article is named, “The Yield Curve’s Day of Reckoning is Overblown”and is mostly a rebuke of the idea that this factor has been the driving force to the recent flattening.

I don’t agree with all of Brian’s conclusions - but hey - that’s what makes a market!

The U.S. has been flattening at a vicious pace, while most other major bond market curves have been treading water.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The yield curve spread has widened from 20 basis points to 26 over the last week. That is not enough to break the downtrend but it does suggest a moderation in the trend of curve flattening. The transition from being able to write down 35% of pension contributions to 21% is a significant evolution for corporations and it makes sense that they would accelerated contributions to plans ahead of the move. The biggest question is how many people were buying treasuries in sympathy with the view that pension contributions were supporting the market?



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September 17 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Venezuela on the Med:

There is an increasing number of commentators in Italy that have drawn to the conclusion that the current government (still supported by a vast majority of Italians, ~60% according to latest polls) is determined to leave the Euro area and the EU. I am now convinced about this too.

Since there is no legally viable way of achieving this, the path to be followed will be that of an "accident" on the financial markets: the delivery of the promises of universal income and lower taxation, will push the fiscal deficit to "breaking point", while the ECB (unelected enemy of the people #1) will start withdrawing the bond buying program. 

With the spread uncontrollably high and seized credit (banks are also notorious enemies of the people), the only solution left (so the people will be told) will be the reintroduction of the Lira, overnight. The country will default and withdraw from international markets. Most activities nationalised. 

The motivation for doing this for those currently in power is clear: seizing unrestrained power (forget ideology, or patriotic instincts... those are facades). A country with universal income (assuming that functions) ceases to be a democracy anyway. The sponsor for all this comes from the East.

Interesting (Venezuelan) times ahead. 

The conclusion: don't touch Italian domestic names, not even with a barge pole from far away. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for your interpretation of a potential outcome to the introduction of a populist coalition in Italy which I think we can both agree is a doomsday prediction for Italy, the ECB and the nations responsible for funding the central bank. Let’s take the argument back to first principles.



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September 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

HNA's Missed Payments Show Deutsche Bank Exit Won't Be Enough

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Despite HNA Group Co. having sold more than $17 billion in assets this year, one of its units still missed payments on a $44 million loan this week, illustrating how the once-acquisitive Chinese conglomerate will need to unload more properties and shares to overcome its liquidity challenges.

Signs abound that the selloff will continue: It’s planning to get out of Deutsche Bank AG, seeking a buyer for its container-leasing Seaco business, surrendering eight floors of office space in Hong Kong and selling stakes in various Chinese units, people familiar with the matter have said since last week. What’s more, HNA is said to be dangling billions of dollars in real estate in the U.S., London and China to prospective buyers.

All in all, the company that was once at the forefront of China’s massive global buying binge has more than $17 billion in further asset sales planned, according to a tally by Bloomberg, as HNA tries to shrink back to its aviation roots. But as the missed payments show, there’s plenty of turbulence lying ahead for the conglomerate, which is saddled with one of the biggest piles debt in corporate China.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Chinese investment in US commercial property turned negative for the first time in a decade last month not least because HNA Group is a panicky seller. The fate of the group is tied up with the program for international expansion that characterised the first portion of Xi Jinping’s rule and which has now been reversed in response to a debt load which was getting out of control. 



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September 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Financial panic and credit disruptions in the 2007-09 crisis

This article by Ben Bernanke for the Brookings Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Although the Balance Sheet factors do not forecast the acute phase of the economic downturn in my setup, that does not mean they were irrelevant. Of course, the bursting of the housing bubble was the spark that ignited the panic in the first place. Moreover, much other evidence (by Mian and Sufi and others) is consistent with the view that household deleveraging contributed both to the initial downturn in spending and to the slowness of the recovery. It may well be that household balance sheets evolve too slowly and smoothly for their effects to be fully accounted for in the type of analysis used in my paper, which tends to emphasize shorter-term fluctuations. But my results do suggest that, in the absence of the panic, the declines in employment, consumption and output in the early stages of the Great Recession would have been significantly less severe.

The panic of 2008 differed from the Great Depression of the 1930s in that the runs on the financial system during the recent episode were on wholesale funding, and occurred electronically, while in the 1930s retail depositors lined up in the streets.  But the overall effect was the same:  A loss of confidence in credit providers caused the supply of credit to plummet, the external finance premium to spike, and the real economy to contract rapidly.  Macroeconomic analysis and forecasting needs to take into account how disruptions to credit markets, in ordinary recessions as well as in financial panics, can damage the real economy.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The lesson policy makers are likely to have learned from the Lehman bankruptcy and the ensuing panic in credit markets is liquidity has to be made available at whatever cost early in order to avoid a worse outcome later.



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September 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ray Dalio Spells Out America's Worst Nightmare

This article by Brian Chappatta for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“We have to sell a lot of Treasury bonds, and we as Americans won’t be able to buy all those Treasury bonds,” Dalio said. That means foreign investors will have to step up. And they probably would, as long as the dollar remains strong.

Otherwise, Treasury’s dollar-denominated interest payments to buyers in China, Europe and Japan will be worth less and less.

But, to Dalio, that’s not going to happen. “The Federal Reserve at that point will have to print more money to make up for the deficit, have to monetize more and that’ll cause a depreciation in the value of the dollar,” he said. Pressed by interviewer Erik Schatzker, he said “you easily could have a 30 percent depreciation in the dollar through that period of time.” For context, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 8.5 percent in 2017, and that was considered massive.

It all leads up to this critique of how the U.S. has gone on a borrowing binge in recent years. Remember, the $15.3 trillion Treasury market was the $4.9 trillion Treasury market a decade ago.

“We have the privileged position of being able to borrow in our own currency because we have the world's leading reserve currency. We are risking that by our finances — in other words, borrowing too much.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Unfunded liabilities are not only a US problem but are something that governments right across the OECD will need to eventually address. Ray Dalio’s view that the rise in populism we are seeing today is a symptom of a wider problem gels with my own. Considering we are seeing this disaffection with the status quo during an economic expansion where unemployment is low, it is likely that the jump to the fringes of the political spectrum will only intensify during a recession.  



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September 10 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

September 07 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Wage Growth is breaking out

September 05 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Honey, I shrunk the stock market

This report from Navallier Calculated Investing is a promotional piece but it contains a number of interesting charts and statistics relating to share buybacks. Here is a section:  

Apple had completed $200 billion in share buy-backs since 2012. Apple’s cash hoard is so monstrous that six out of the 10 biggest share buy-backs in U.S. history were done by Apple. The $200 billion they’ve bought since 2012 is enough cash to buy all of Verizon, Coca-Cola, or Boeing. Chew on that for a minute.

Now, contemplate this: U.S. companies announced $201.3 billion in stock buybacks and cash takeovers in May 2018 alone. That’s a record monthly amount. Apple represents nearly half of that! Apple recently said it would buy back $100 billion more of its own stock. They didn’t specify when or how long that would take, but that’s about 10% of the market cap, currently at $1 trillion, the first trillion-dollar stock.

The buy-back announcements keep coming:
Broadcom (AVGO) pledged a $12 billion buy-back.
Micron (MU) pledged a $10 billion buy-back.
Facebook (FB) pledged a $9 billion buy-back.
T-Mobile (TMUS) pledged a $7.5 billion buy-back.
Qualcomm (QCOM) just upped the ante on their previous announcement to buy back $8.8 billion. On July 25th, 2018 QCOM said they would buy back $30 billion, more than 30% of the float!

Eoin Treacy's view -

Social media companies led an early pullback on the Nasdaq today as Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet were grilled in Washington. The questions being asked of these companies with regard to how they police their forums and the nature of the advertising being served to consumers/voters is understandably weighing on their performance. It is also leading to headlines along the lines of “technology stocks collapse” which if we look at the Nasdaq is clearly a case of hyperbole.



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September 03 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Leaders Whipsaw Markets With Vows of Defiance, Reassurance

This article by Jerrold Colten and Kevin Costelloe for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The coalition government’s fiscal plans have been an investor focus all summer, with bond yields pushed higher in response to the coalition government’s expensive election promises. On Friday, Fitch Ratings cited budget concerns as it changed its outlook on Italy to negative from stable -- the overall grade remains two notches above junk.

Salvini said Monday afternoon that the budget would lower taxes and respect “all the rules,” toning down his earlier rhetoric challenging the European Union’s restrictions. The Italian 10-year bond immediately rose, sending yields down about 5 basis points to 3.18 percent. That compares with 2.7 percent on June 1 when the government was sworn in.

Finance Minister Giovanni Tria is fighting to contain public spending and he said in an interview with La Repubblica that bonds will rise further when investors see the details of the 2019 budget.

“Budget stability will be respected,” he said. Tria, an economics professor drafted at a late stage of the coalition negotiations, is trying to rein in the ambitions of Salvini and Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, though he lacks the political muscle of the two populist party leaders. The government is due to set new public- finance and economic-growth targets by Sept. 27 and submit a draft budget to the European Commission by Oct. 15.

Eoin Treacy's view -

I can’t help but think of the exchanges going on in Italy between the leaders of the two populist parties and their finance minister as the equivalent of a British Christmas pantomime. “Oh yes, we will” to which the only riposte is “oh no you won’t.”



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August 27 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Morning Tack "Leon Tuey Speaks!"

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Raymond James which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The classic yield curve referred to in the above segment is the difference between the 30-year and the 3-month yields. The more popular measure is the 10year – 2-year spread. If we compare the two measures the former tends to be less volatile and the exact timing of when they invert also tends to be somewhat different with the longer-term spread being later. However, they are both reliable lead indicators of future recessions.



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August 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Atlanta Fed Chief Pledges to Oppose Hike Inverting Yield Curve

This article by Steve Matthews for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Investors see a 90 percent probability of a rate hike at the Fed’s meeting next month and around a 60 percent chance of a fourth move when officials gather in December, according to prices in interest-rate futures markets. As the view that the Fed will keep raising rates has grown, the yield curve has flattened, with short-term yields rising more than long-term ones.

Bostic, together with several other regional Fed chiefs including St. Louis’s James Bullard, Robert Kaplan in Dallas and Minneapolis’s Neel Kashkari, have used this year’s flattening curve to argue that the central bank should tread warily in raising rates all that much further to avoid an inversion.

History is on their side: Over the past 50 years, the U.S. has always tumbled into recession within a year or two of the curve flipping.

“There are many, many signals in the economy and we have to pay attention to all of them,’’ Bostic said. “This yield curve will be one.’’

Eoin Treacy's view -

The big question facing central bankers as they retreat from extraordinary monetary stimulus is whether the next recession will be a recuperative measure which would help unwind excesses or whether it would represent the dawn of another credit crisis?



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August 20 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Stock Bulls Often Return When Emerging Markets Get This Cheap

This article by Srinivasan Sivabalan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

When emerging-market stocks trade this cheap relative to U.S. equities, a rebound is normally in order.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has traded at a discount to the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index since 2006, but for the past five years its relative valuation has held within a range, with its price-earnings ratio fluctuating between 25 percent below the U.S. gauge at the best of times and 33 percent during the worst.

The index, the benchmark gauge of developing-nation equities, typically bounces back in a matter of weeks once it reaches the floor. That was certainly the case on three previous occasions: at the height of the Russian currency crisis in 2014; in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s December 2015 decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade; and at the end of the technology sell-off last year.

The index closed at a valuation ratio of 66.37 percent on Friday, or a discount of 33.63 percent to U.S. stocks based on price-to-estimated earnings. On Monday, it rallied 1 percent, the best one-day gain in six weeks.

Still, past rebounds are no guarantee of future performance and the environment remains fragile for emerging markets.

Investors can’t know how ugly the U.S. trade war might get, how deeply Fed interest-rate increases will affect developing-nation currencies or where the next political shock will come from.

But for those convinced of the investment case for emerging markets and willing to wait for the right valuation to resume buying, this could be the moment. Stocks are as cheap now as at any time in the past five years.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Relative comparisons are always tempting to look at because of historic comparisons but ratios can self-correct in a number of different ways. To say emerging markets are at close to record lows against Wall Street today say as much about how high Wall Street is as it does about the rout in emerging markets.



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August 17 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Builders Tap Local Bonds at Record-Low Rates on Easing

This article for Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Combined bond maturities in onshore and offshore markets for the sector amount to $76.5 billion through the end of 2019, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Builders are expected to tap both markets to meet the refinancing needs.

"We expect onshore issuance will remain strong after a pick-up in recent months," said Franco Leung, property analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. "Offshore issuance slowed recently, but we expect issuers will continue to tap the offshore bond market given the maturity walls in the coming 6 to 12 months.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

China came down hard of local currency debt issuance from 2015 when it looked like the pace of property market price appreciation was going to cause a bubble from already elevated levels. That action was the causal factor behind the growth of the shadow banking system and the massive growth in foreign debt sales.



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August 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A dangerous bubble in corporate debt

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from the New York Times which may be of interest. Here is a section:

To help pay for its recently completed $8 billion buyout of the margarine and spreads business of Unilever — since renamed Flora Food Group — KKR, the private equity firm, offered investors 1.1 billion euros (about $1.3 billion) of senior notes with a minimal covenant package. Moody’s rated it 4.99 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the weakest. Nevertheless, investors gobbled them up.

Or consider the mighty AT&T — now stuffed to the gills with an estimated $180 billion in debt following its $85 billion acquisition of TimeWarner. It is, according to Moody’s, the “most indebted, nongovernment controlled, nonfinancial rated corporate issuer” and one now “beholden to the health of the capital markets.” In other words, the company is so indebted that chances are high it will need continuing access to the credit markets to refinance and pay back its mountain of debt as it becomes due.

So-called junk bonds — issued by companies with poor credit ratings — historically have yielded around 10 percent or more, to compensate investors for taking the risk of buying the debt of such companies. These days, junk bonds yield around 6.25 percent, meaning that investors — still desperate for yield — have overpaid for these bonds sufficiently to drive down their effective yields to levels that fail to compensate them for the risks they are taking.

When junk bond yields return to more normal levels, as interest rates rise and investors’ yield-fever breaks, the price of the bonds bought during the feeding frenzy will fall and billions of dollars stand to be lost — by endowments, pension funds and high-yield funds, among others — as bonds across the board are repriced by the market.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A quip from my time at Trinity College was “you go to university to drink from the fountain of knowledge, and you drink and you drink and you drink” When I think about the influence quantitative easing has had on corporate treasury activities that is what I am reminded of.  



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August 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB Must Shield Periphery From Speculation, Italy's Borghi Says

This article by Lorenzo Totaro for Bloomberg highlights some of the anxieties the Eurozone’s periphery are experienced as the ECB’s bond purchase program winds down. Here is a section:

With investors turning against Turkey, the government in Rome is trying to avoid Italy being next in line. Italy has had contacts with the ECB to discuss the risk of a speculative attack on its debt, a person familiar with the situation said earlier on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio sought to tamp down concerns of a selloff. “I don’t see a real risk that this government will be attacked, it’s more a wish of the opposition,” Di Maio said in an interview with newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“All know the fence that protects the prey will soon be lifted and the financial speculation easily sees the periphery’s debt as an easy target and is positioning itself ahead of the next developments,” lawmaker Borghi said. "It is significant that an external event like Turkey that has nothing to do with Italy unleashes such an effect.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Italian bond yields are an outlier within the Eurozone not least because the populist government has been signalling it wants to break the ECB’s fiscal deficit rules and its bonds have been punished accordingly. 



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August 08 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia Holds Key Rate as Central Bank Sounds Caution on China

This note by Micheal Heath for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:  

The RBA has kept rates low in expectation the stance will gradually tighten the labor market and spur wage gains sufficiently to drive faster inflation. But outside strong economic growth and increased demand for construction workers amid an infrastructure boom, there are few signs of this emerging.

“The bank’s central forecast for the Australian economy remains unchanged,” Lowe said. “GDP growth is expected to average a bit above 3 percent in 2018 and 2019. This should see some further reduction in spare capacity.”

The RBA maintains its next move is more likely to be up than down; Lowe, since taking the helm in September 2016, has consistently said that an increase will only come once the economy is near full employment and inflation closer to the central bank’s 2-3 percent target midpoint. Markets aren’t pricing in a rate increase for at least another year, according to bets by swaps traders.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Australia’s population hit 25 million this year which highlights how quickly the numbers of migrants reaching the country have risen. That inward flow of migrants coupled with robust demand from China for the country’s primary exports has helped to keep Australia’s growth trajectory on an expansionary path for decades.



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July 17 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review July 17th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.



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July 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Jeffrey Gundlach Says We're Getting Closer to a Recession

Thanks to a subscriber for this interview of Jeff Gundlach which appeared in Barron’s and may be of interest. Here is a section:

We are getting closer to a recession. When the curve goes flat from the two-year Treasury to the 10-year [meaning that the yields are identical], the recession risk is at least a year away. Recently, that spread was 28 basis points [hundredths of a percentage point], which is pretty close to being flat. It is flashing yellow. It needs to be respected. The other reason to think 2019 might be more problematic is that quantitative tightening has just started. The Fed has started to let bonds roll off its balance sheet [the central bank isn’t buying new bonds when many current holdings mature]. Several billion dollars of bonds per month are coming due, but by October the amount will be up to $50 billion per month.

At the same time, the Fed has said it intends to keep raising interest rates, probably twice more this year. That, together with the signal from the yield curve and perhaps $600 billion of quantitative tightening, and a budget deficit that is growing, is an issue. The strangest thing is that Congress passed a $280 billion tax cut and spending increases so late in the cycle, and with interest rates rising. It’s like a death wish. The U.S. is taking on hundreds of billions of dollars of debt while raising rates, which means our debt-service payments are going to be under serious pressure to the upside.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A PDF of the full article is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The simple conclusion is often the most useful. The Federal Reserve, and other central banks, are taking away the proverbial punch bowl and that will eventually lead to a recession. Central bankers are generally a cautious group of people so they usually wait until they have ample evidence to support the view that their stimulative measures worked before raising rates. That often means they are late in tightening and have to play catch up.



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July 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Global Strategy Q3 2018

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Erste Group which may be of interest. Here is a section on the Eurozone:

We expect GDP growth in the euro zone to stabilize in the second half in range of around +0.4% to +0.5% q/q. The recent weakness in the euro should support export growth, even though the trade dispute is certain to weigh on foreign trade. A sustained steady uptrend in credit growth in the household and corporate sectors should support growth in domestic demand and investment spending in H2. We are forecasting GDP growth of +2.3% for the euro zone in 2018. 

We expect consumer price inflation in rise moderately in 2018 to an average of +1.6%. Considerable uncertainty remains regarding the extent to which the ongoing recovery will be reflected in higher core inflation rates. The trend in core inflation was at times below expectations, inter alia due to the regional fragmentation of the labor market.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

It is arguable whether the European Union is ready for the end of quantitative easing but the ECB is ending its quantitative easing program anyway. It has legitimate concerns about the distorting influence of negative yields on both the economy and the bond market. However, it is quite likely that the end of purchases will have deleterious effect on the economy and most particularly for the peripheral economies.



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July 16 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review June 22nd 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

I realise this summary at 4600 words is getting rather lengthy which is why I decided to right another book to more fully explore the issues represented by the rise of populism and what that means for markets and the global economic order. I’ve agreed an August/September deadline so hopefully it will be available this year.



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July 10 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China in Ten Charts A New Impossible Trinity

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from ANZ which may be of interest. Here is a section:

However, China faces a new policy trilemma: if President Xi Jinping truly prioritises reforms over growth, we must see more corporate defaults or foreign borrowing. But if the government does not want higher offshore USD debts, they must sacrifice some growth. They can’t have all three. 

Removing the implicit government guarantee is a necessary evil. Since the national fiscal audits in 2013 and 2015, the central government has tried to detach itself from ill-defined liabilities, notably the local government financing vehicles (LGFVs). 

This is done via taming shadow lending (slide 5). Since these activities were a key funding source for LGFVs, SMEs, and other borrowers which major banks do not serve, we must see credit spreads surge as a result of the deleveraging process (slide 6).

Many corporates opted to borrow from offshore (slide 7) in 2017. However, the rapid rise of foreign debt has triggered policymakers’ concern (slide 8). In Q1 2018, China’s foreign liabilities hit a record high of USD1.8trn (29% y/y), extending its uptrend since Q1 2016. 53% of it was USD debt and 64% were short-term debt. Meanwhile, Q1 also saw China’s first current account deficits since 2001 (slide 9). Going forward, the outlook for China’s FX reserves position deserves attention. 

We believe that slowing GDP growth is not a risk; the temptation to pump prime the economy is. The RRR cuts in April and July are unlikely to be monetary policy responses to growth risks. Any impact from the US-China trade war is still insufficient to halt the deleveraging process (slide 10). Thus, we believe the cuts are a response to the normalised ‘M1-M2 gap’ (slide 11) which indicates shadow lending is under controlled. Chinese regulators are tackling credit allocation on banks’ balance sheets under the flag of ‘structural deleveraging’. GDP growth will still slow (ANZ: 6.3% for H2, slide 12). Market sentiment will be poor. But targeting growth over reform will be worse, in our view.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to full report and section from it is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

China has banned borrowing in US Dollars and it is closing off funding to highly leveraged regional governments, infrastructure projects and businesses. At the same time, it is allowing the default rate to rise. If we were asking where borrowers are supposed to get the funding they need to refinance or continue operations, we have our answer. Defaults are going to rise further.



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July 02 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How Tesla is doing everything to get Model 3 cars out the door

This article by Dave Gershgorn for Quartz may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In an effort to drastically ramp up production, Tesla employees are now tinkering with the core designs of the Model 3 car and the production process, detailed by a New York Times report (paywall), something that experts say is unprecedented. Executives at Tesla decided that the car didn’t need so many spot welds holding the underbody together, so engineers found 300 “unnecessary” welds and reprogrammed the welding robots cut them from the production process.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Tesla made its 5000 cars a week target but if the company is cutting corners in manufacturing what are the safety implications of that decision going to be for the thousands of people waiting in line for the Model3?



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June 29 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Now Merkel's Adversaries Face Ultimatum to Back Down on Migrants

This article by Arne Delfs, Birgit Jennen and Patrick Donahue for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Merkel and other European Union leaders defied expectations to forge an accord early on Friday, putting the onus on Bavaria’s ruling CSU party that sought the clash. Its leaders must now decide at a meeting Sunday whether to risk a historic breakup of the party bloc that’s governed Germany for most of the time since World War II or beat a face-saving retreat.

With migration hard-liners Italy and Austria backing a coordinated European approach at the summit, the CSU appeared increasingly isolated before deciding whether to defy Merkel and start sending back asylum seekers at the German border who already registered in another EU country. Polls suggested public support for the Bavarians’ stance is waning.

“At this point, the CSU can’t afford to dig in against a compromise,” Juergen Falter, a political scientist at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, said by phone. “They’d come across as troublemakers.”

As investors welcomed the summit result, the CSU said the deal addressed concerns about migration it has raised for a long time. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the biggest party in her governing coalition, rallied behind the chancellor.

“Now these measures actually need to be implemented,” Alexander Dobrindt, the CSU caucus leader in the German parliament, said in a statement. The Bavarian party will review the summit deal “very thoroughly,” he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is no more useful political manoeuvre than the “bait and switch”. It seems any politician who wants to stick around needs to master it and Italy’s populists are obviously quick studies.  By focusing on immigration rather than tax cuts and spending, the new Italian administration threw focus onto Angela Merkel’s less than comfortable position on the topic of migrants and diverted attention from the looming wall of debt Italy needs to refinance.



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June 26 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on the yield curve spread:

Article in yesterday’s NYT. Is this the predictor of a recession that will follow trade wars?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this article which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

There is an argument to be made against reading too much into the yield curve’s moves — and it hangs on the idea that, rather than the free market, central banks have had a big influence on both the long-term and short-term rates.

Since the last recession, central banks bought trillions of dollars of government bonds as they tried to push long-term interest rates lower in order to lend a helping hand to the economy.

Even though they’re reversing course now, central banks still own massive amounts of those bonds, and that may be keeping long-term interest rates lower than they would otherwise be.

Also, the Federal Reserve has been raising short-term interest rates since December 2015 and has indicated it will keep doing so this year.

So, if long-term rates were pushed lower by central bank bond buying, and now short-term rates are being pushed higher as the Fed tightens its monetary policy, the yield curve has nowhere to go but flatter.

“In the current environment, I think it’s a less reliable indicator than it has been in the past,” said Matthew Luzzetti, a senior economist at Deutsche Bank.



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June 25 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on central bank balance sheets:

Thanks for a wonderful service Eoin. I'm probably splitting hairs here but one thing has been bothering me lately: to me you seem a bit early in declaring the central banks' total balance sheets as contracting. The US is on a modest reducing mode while the rest are steady/still increasing. The total balance chart is USD denominated, which explains the decline that shows on the chart when dxy has rallied over the last few months. On a bigger picture scale, CB balances tend to increase as the underlying economies grow. Or am I missing something here? All the best.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which highlights some important points. There is little doubt that the US Dollar has been resurgent over the last few months and that will certainly have played a role in the contraction of the total assets on central bank balance sheets.



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June 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Baby Boomers Strains U.S. Welfare Programs

This article by Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The surge of retiring baby boomers is reshaping the U.S. into a country with fewer workers to support the elderly—a shift that will add to strains on retirement programs such as Social Security and sharpen the national debate on the role of immigration in the workforce.

For most of the past few decades, the ratio of retiree-aged adults to those of working age barely budged. In 1980, there were 19 U.S. adults age 65 and over for every 100 Americans between 18 and 64, census figures show. That number—called the old-age dependency ratio—barely edged up over the next 30 years, rising to just 21 retiree-aged Americans for every 100 of working age in 2010.

But there has been a rapid shift since then. By 2017, there were 25 Americans 65 and older for every 100 people in their working years, according to new census figures released Thursday that detail age and race for every county. The ratio would climb to 35 retiree-age Americans for every 100 of working age by 2030, according to census projections released earlier this year, and 42 by 2060, though currently unforeseen factors could alter that.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Labor Force Participation rate has been relatively static for much of the last couple of years and that is despite the pick-up in economic activity from the tax cuts and the tightness in the labour market. The retirement of baby boomers is a logical explanation for why the measure is not rising.



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June 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review May 16th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Here is a summary of my view at present:



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June 12 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Truckers Protest High Gas Prices in Spotty Strikes Across China

This article by Te-Ping Chen for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

While trucker protests in China have occurred in the past amid complaints of road tolls, fuel prices and excessive fees, Geoff Crothall, spokesman for the labor monitoring group, said he couldn’t recall trucker protests of a similar scale. He estimated thousands of truckers participated.

As they have the world over, gas prices have risen in China this year, by 8.6%, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce. Taxes and other fees generally make gas more expensive in China than the U.S., and on top of that the government sets the prices, lagging changes in international oil markets by 10 days or more.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which sets those prices, announced Friday that it would cut the retail price of gasoline and diesel by 130 yuan ($20.29) per ton for gasoline and 125 yuan per ton for diesel. The new prices, effective this past Saturday, reflect a recent retreat in global oil prices. In the central province of Anhui, a transportation hub where protests occurred, gasoline now costs $3.99 a gallon, and diesel $4.04 a gallon.

Rising fuel costs have elsewhere prompted worker frustrations to spill over, most notably in Brazil, where protesters blocked highways and halted shipments of food, fuel and medicine before the government called in the military to help end the strike. Other trucker protests have also recently broken out in Iran.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Trucking has been all over the news recently with strikes in China and Brazil over high fuel prices and low pay while the USA is in dire need of 50,000 drivers.  These trends point to the fact the USA is close to full employment so attracting workers is becoming an issue while all three countries share upward pressure on wages. Higher shipping rates are inflationary because it will put pressure on companies to cover the increasing costs by raising prices for the end customer.



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June 07 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Indian inflation

Hi Eoin Like most of your subscribers I avidly follow your video commentaries. In yesterday’s broadcast while discussing India I was a little surprised that you did not mention the effects of the Monsoon on the economy which is starting now. Latest predictions are for an above average monsoon which is of course highly significant for food prices and thus for inflation.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative email which may also be of interest to the Collective. The RBI raised rates today for the first time since early 2015 signalling what appears to be the beginning of a new tightening cycle. It is to be hoped that the monsoon will in fact come in above par which would moderate inflation, but I believe the more pressing issue right now is the relative stability of the currency which as recently as mid-May was testing its all-time lows.



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June 05 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB bond buying under scrutiny from Rome

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from the Financial Times confirming the ECB has reduced purchases of BTPs following the Italian election. Here is a section:

The central bank purchased a net €3.6bn of Italian government debt under its long-running programme in May, new figures show. Although this is higher than the amount it bought in some recent months, such as March and January, it was smaller as an overall proportion of its net purchases.

The ECB insisted that the reduced Italian share had nothing to do with political events, and was purely linked to practical issues such as the need for the bank to reinvest in German bonds after a chunk of its holdings matured.

But the numbers were nonetheless seized on by members of Italy’s new governing parties, who have been arguing for weeks that the eurozone’s central bankers have been putting pressure on them to adopt more conventional economic policies.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Italy is understandably sensitive to the actions of the ECB. Not only has the ECB’s bond buying program contributed to Italy benefitting from negative yields on the short end of the curve but it has reduced borrowing costs right across the curve.



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May 31 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on Italy

I have read with interest many comments regarding the difficult situation that has developed in Italy, and I feel I have to make a couple of points which I hope will help clarifying some aspects of it:

1/ of the 2 so called populist parties (Lega and M5S) only the former had an explicit anti-EU bias during the election campaign, while the latter had moved to a pro-EU stance; the alliance formed past the elections included a marked anti-EU stance (specifically through the appointment of an anti-Euro candidate to the Ministry of Finance); This is of course unacceptable (the coalition has no anti-EU mandate), hence the decision to appoint someone else with a short mandate to take the country to new elections where Italy's position in the EU is openly and explicitly debated. Was an anti-EU coalition to be elected of course they would be in power, there is no shadow of doubt about that. So, no democratic deficit here, in fact there is an extremely robust democratic process in place.

2/ There is no doubt the current events are an existential threat to the Euro area; it will be difficult to navigate, as a "quitaly" would have an extremely dramatic impact on the lives of many people in the country. I hope qualified majorities will be required to take the most important decisions, but given the pressure from financial market I doubt it will be possible; on the other hand, was a government to unilaterally pull the plug on the Euro and re-introduce the Lira, I think it would be nothing short of a coup.

With no further EU reforms, I think the spreads we have seen opening between BTPs and Bunds are deemed to stay. The ECB won't add additional risk to that already present into its balance sheet. However, I do not see how any reform could take place given the current anti EU climate. I am very pessimistic.

Finally, 2 interesting articles I wanted to share with you, one from the FT suggesting there is convenience for leaving the Euro (I share this view 100%, completely absurd), and another suggesting some reforms the EU could do. I hope they can be of interest.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this educative email. I found the analysis of the competing desires of the League and Five Star Movement to be highly instructive. I agree there is an internal conflict between an openly Euro-sceptic party and one which wishes to remain inside the EU, but the Italian president is taking a serious risk in shooting down the proposed candidate for finance minister.



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May 30 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How to Save Europe

This transcript of a talk George Soros gave for Project Syndicate may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But since the financial crisis of 2008, the EU seems to have lost its way. It adopted a program of fiscal retrenchment, which led to the euro crisis and transformed the eurozone into a relationship between creditors and debtors. The creditors set the conditions that the debtors had to meet, yet could not meet. This created a relationship that was neither voluntary nor equal – the very opposite of the credo on which the EU was based.

As a result, many young people today regard the EU as an enemy that has deprived them of jobs and a secure and promising future. Populist politicians exploited the resentments and formed anti-European parties and movements.

Then came the refugee influx of 2015. At first, most people sympathized with the plight of refugees fleeing political repression or civil war, but they didn’t want their everyday lives disrupted by a breakdown in social services. And soon they became disillusioned by the failure of the authorities to cope with the crisis.

When that happened in Germany, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) rapidly gained strength, making it the country’s largest opposition party. Italy has suffered from a similar experience recently, and the political repercussions have been even more disastrous: the anti-European Five Star Movement and League parties almost took over the government. The situation has been deteriorating ever since. Italy now faces elections in the midst of political chaos.1

Indeed, the whole of Europe has been disrupted by the refugee crisis. Unscrupulous leaders have exploited it even in countries that have accepted hardly any refugees. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán based his reelection campaign on falsely accusing me of planning to flood Europe, Hungary included, with Muslim refugees.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The expansion of social programs and rising debt commitments to help pay for them over the last thirty-five years resulted in a narrowing of political choice with parties in power bunching around conventional centrist policies.  The response of the status quo to the credit crisis was to double down on the policies they had employed over the last decades which was to massive increase debt and foist private sector responsibilities onto the sovereign.



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May 30 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Bond Rout Driven by Liquidity Vacuum as Buyers Vanish

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“This isn’t a deep liquid market anymore,” said Peter Tchir, the New York-based head of macro strategy at Academy Securities Inc. “Everyone was overweight, positioned long Italian debt and the price declines created a hot potato down in prices. The volatility was so insane that people’s risk managers likely just told them you have to cut these positions.”

Helping to escalate investor fear was the fact that the European Central Bank, the region’s most captive and price-insensitive buyer, may be stepping away from the market later this year, Tchir said.

BlackRock’s Scott Thiel, who has been short Italian bonds, or BTPs, since before Italy’s March 4 vote, on Tuesday cited poor trading volumes as being behind the “extraordinary” moves in the securities.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The slew of regulation that has curtailed proprietary trading at major investment banks while boosting the ranks of compliance officers means that banks are less well equipped to offer support during times of market stress when a big balance sheet is required to take the other side of a trade. Right now, the ECB is the buyer of last resort in the Eurozone.



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May 30 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

They're Whispering the D-Word in Asia's Junk Market

This article by Shuli Ren for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Actually, it’s China’s fault: Non-investment-grade issuers from the mainland have already raised more than $30 billion, following a record $77 billion last year. China Inc. now has half the weighting of the Bloomberg Barclays Asia USD High-Yield Bond Index.

So if China sneezes, the rest of Asia gets sick. Global fund managers hesitate to deviate substantially from their benchmarks; the most likely action is fleeing the asset class altogether. Already, in the last month, global funds pulled more than $5 billion from emerging-market bonds, data provided by Jefferies Group show. 

And it looks like China may be catching something worse than a little cold: The feared D-word is being whispered. Beijing has already allowed China Energy Reserve & Chemicals Group Co. (which counts state oil behemoth China National Petroleum Corp. as a major stakeholder) to default, as well as a financing vehicle in Inner Mongolia. Will the authorities blink if private-sector enterprises miss their obligations? 

China is now on track to achieve an unhappy annual record. There have already been 19 bond defaults this year, totaling $3.1 billion.

Eoin Treacy's view -

China needs to allow defaults. The environment that existed previously where the government back stopped just about every form of egregious lending created an unsustainable level of risk in the shadow banking sector. Allowing defaults is a big part of trying to institute discipline in investors minds.



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May 24 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Petrobras Punished by Wall Street for Caving on Fuel Prices

This article by Peter Millard for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

The reaction was swift and severe. Petrobras Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente woke up this morning to a wave of downgrades from the same Wall Street analysts who had been praising him since he took the helm of the state-controlled oil producer two years ago.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG all cut their recommendations after Parente announced a 10 percent cut in wholesale diesel prices late Wednesday to help the government negotiate an end to a nationwide truckers strike that has wrought havoc on Latin America’s largest economy.

“The just announced diesel price reduction in response to truckers’ protest is likely to materially damage Petrobras’ perceived independence in a way that may be difficult to recover,” Frank McGann, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, wrote in a report where he cut his recommendation on the company’s American depositary receipts to neutral and his price objective to $17.

“We think that the investment case for Petrobras has been seriously damaged, and the risk profile has risen.”

While Parente said Petrobras isn’t bowing to pressure and that the temporary measure doesn’t mean a change in its pricing policy, shares extended losses in after hours trading to as low as $13.40 in late New York trading.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Petrobras is a major constituent in global high yield benchmarks so its decision to cut price against a rising oil price environment is not especially good news. Along with Turkey and Argentina, the risk in the high yield sector has increased this year.



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May 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Interesting charts May 23rd 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

10-year Treasury yields fell back to test the psychological 3% today. The Fed’s Minutes highlighted less urgency to tackle the inflation rate coming in mildly ahead of target. That eased fears the yield would surge higher imminently. An overextension relative to the trend mean is evident, so there is scope for an additional pause in this area but a sustained move below 2.7% would be required to question supply dominance.



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May 23 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Turkey Central Bank Raises Interest Rates to Halt Lira's Slump

This article by Onur Ant and Benjamin Harvey for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Turkey’s central bank raised interest rates to halt a slide in the lira that’s seen the currency post a series of record lows.

The central bank raised its late liquidity window rate by 300 basis points to 16.5 percent, after an extraordinary meeting of its monetary policy committee on Wednesday to “discuss recent developments.” It kept other rates unchanged, describing the move as a “powerful monetary tightening” and saying it’s ready to continue using all instruments.

The lira reversed Wednesday’s losses after the bank’s move. It was trading 0.7 percent stronger at 4.6367 per dollar as of 7:32 p.m. in Istanbul. The currency earlier fell as much as 5.5 percent.

The central bank acted after three weeks of turmoil on Turkey’s currency markets. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s seeking re-election next month, has publicly opposed any moves to raise interest rates, while investors and economists argued that was the only way to halt the rout.

Erdogan told Bloomberg in an interview this month that he’ll seek more control over monetary policy if he wins the vote.

The central bank’s rate-setting committee hadn’t been scheduled to meet until June 7. After news broke of its emergency session on Wednesday, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Twitter that it’s time to restore the credibility of Turkey’s monetary policy.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Lira has been accelerating lower and dropped to test TRY5 to the US Dollar this morning, before the central bank finally intervened by raising the interest rate. 16.5% represents a substantial premium over anything available in Europe and is aimed squarely at stemming foreign capital flight.



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May 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Campbell Soup May Be Downgraded by Moody's Amid CEO Departure

This article by Molly Smith for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Moody’s Investors Service said it may cut Campbell Soup Co.’s credit rating after the company posted a steep drop in profitability and its chief executive officer suddenly stepped down.

All of the company’s ratings are under review, including its Baa2 senior unsecured rating, Moody’s said in a report Monday. That’s only two steps above speculative-grade. Moody’s did not say how many levels the downgrade could amount to.

Campbell Soup has short- and long-term debt of $9.84 billion and its leverage as measured by debt-to-Ebitda -- earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization -- was about five times at the March closing of the Snyder’s-Lance Inc. acquisition. Moody’s says it’s now doubting that the company can meet its expectations to reduce that metric to below four times within two years via cash flow and cost savings.

“The sharp and unexpected decline in profitability in the third quarter casts serious doubt that Campbell will be able to meet its deleveraging plans following the Snyder’s-Lance acquisition,” Moody’s analyst Brian Weddington said in the report. “Additionally, the departure of the CEO adds further uncertainty about whether the company will respond successfully to its operating challenges in the near term.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Campbell Foods is not a dividend aristocrat because there have been occasions in the last 30 years when it cut the dividend. On each of those occasions it stopped raising the payout before the decision to cut. That is at least part of the reason that the share has been falling over the last year but does not explain the fall from the peak in 2016.



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May 22 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy's President in Spotlight as Government Quest Turns Chaotic

This article by John Follain for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Italian President Sergio Mattarella takes center-stage as he weighs whether to give law professor Giuseppe Conte a chance to lead a populist government following a last- minute wobble over the candidate’s suitability for the post.

Mattarella is due to announce his decision as early as Wednesday after Conte, 53, was put forward by Luigi Di Maio of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the anti-immigrant League. A flurry of reports in Italian media cast doubt on Conte’s premiership before it even began, prompting Five Star and the League to reaffirm Conte’s candidacy on Tuesday evening.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The marriage of two populist parties which are essentially from the two opposing extremes of the populist field i.e. cut taxes versus boost benefits, is proving more fraught with difficulty than might initially have been apparent. They are still likely to try and install a compromise candidate but there is no doubting that strong personalities are to the fore.



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May 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on valuations, Dow/Gold and anti-trust:

Thanks for your comments which are very interesting, especially your focus on technology and its potential to alter radically the investment landscape.

I have 2 points of my own to make. Using gold as the standard of value for stocks is interesting but I would think valuation metrics are more useful. As you know the Shiller PE, derived by comparing the S&P to the 10-year moving average of real corporate earnings- GAAP (not adjusted)- is at the highest level since the TMT bubble popped in 2000. The ratio of market value (the Wilshire 5000+) to GDP was at all-time highs in January. We have lived through a decade of extraordinary monetary policy (almost zero interest rates and QE), which is now being reversed. I think S&P market value to S&P sales may also be at all-time highs, but I may be wrong about that.

So the starting point is pretty rich. The PE is at 25 times 4 quarter GAAP earnings, implying a 4% earnings yield. The Moody's Baa 20-year bond yield is around 4.6% so the equity premium has been negative the last 5-6 years for the first time since 1961 when the Bloomberg series started. On average equity holders over this period have earned a premium of 1.62% to reward them for investing in the riskier part of the capital structure, but now they must pay for the privilege.

However, this does not address your major point about the enormous earning potential of companies involved in future technology. Now a standard criticism of your point is that competition between businesses will reduce the excess profits to "normal profits". What economists call "consumer surplus" consists of the extra value that is transferred from businesses to consumers for free due to the operation of the competitive market which eliminates excess profits.

This flows from the ideal world of independent competitive enterprises. Anti-trust laws in the USA have been around since 1890 (Sherman Anti-Trust Act) and were designed to cause real world behaviour to better approximate the theoretical. 

What I have found interesting is that Anti-Trust is no longer as big a deal as it was when I was a student. In fact, when Mark Zuckerberg testified he named 5 or 6 tech companies that are competitors of Facebook's. In this list he mentioned WhatsApp and another company (Telegram?) that he has already bought and perhaps one or two others. He also mentioned Skype, which Microsoft has bought. The big tech companies have the where with all to buy smaller rapidly growing companies and maintain tight oligopolies and thus earn outsize profits. I doubt whether many of these purchases would have passed muster from the Department of Justice's Anti-Trust division one or two generations ago.

So the key may be to watch politics and see whether the populists at some point turn their attention to Anti-Trust.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this detailed email which has given me much food for thought. As you point out there is a tendency among the producers of widgets to encounter competition which reduces the price to often unprofitable levels. At that point some of the weaker producers go out of business and a process of consolidation unfolds. The competitive Amazon marketplaces is a good example of this where producers of widgets compete on price to gain market share only for many to disappear after a relatively short time to be replaced by lower cost producers.



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May 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day another email on the CAPE and the merits of cash

In your 30th April response to my email, you say as follows "The only problem I have with comparing the current environment to that which prevailed from the early 1960s is that the market spent 13 years ranging from 2000 to 2013 so it would be unusual to begin another similar range so soon after the last one ended"

My response:  Yes, it is true that it would be unusual to "commence a similar such range so soon after the last one ended."  However, in this circumstance, there are a range of other very unusual related circumstances.

In the last 10 years, we have had a unique period of historically extreme money printing with very little consumer prices inflation as measured by the official CPI number, but this extreme period of money printing has caused very high asset price inflation - pushing many sectors back up into fairly extreme valuations as measured by historical norms.

We can also look at this phenomena from another. If we look at Professor Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio series commencing 1880, we can see that secular bear markets have typically ended with a single digit CAPE - at the end of a secular bear market, the cyclically adjusted P/E has been in the range of 5-7 in 1982 and 1921.

By contrast, the January 2018 peak in the US cyclically adjusted P/E of 33 was the second highest instance since 1880 - only being surpassed by the dot com peak in 2000 but surpassing the 1929 peak by a small margin.

So, by this (Shiller CAPE) normally fairly reliable valuation measure, the US share market on broad averages is at a fairly extreme level. I think it is fair to say that if you buy expensive assets, you should expect poor to bad average real returns over the following 10 years or so.

One last point to you 30th April comments, to the section where you say "The stock market is a better hedge against inflation than bonds because companies have the ability to raise prices and therefore dividends while bond coupons are fixed."  In a period of rapidly rising inflation like the 1970s, all listed securities including shares and bonds tend to do poorly because of the rapidly rising discount that needs to be applied when valuing such assets. By contrast, in Australia at least, during the 1970s, cash and hard assets like gold and commercial property were better investments. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this riposte to my answer to your original question posted in Comment of the Day on April 30th.



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May 21 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beyond the Dollar Everything's Just Noise for Emerging Markets

This article by Netty Ismail, Ben Bartenstein, Lilian Karunungan and Alex Nicholson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The combination of higher debt levels and share of debt denominated in foreign currency means many emerging markets are now more exposed to dollar appreciation than in 2009, amid signs the robust growth in developing economies may be slowing, the Institute of International Finance said in a May 17 note.

While the U.S. Treasury will sell some of its largest offerings since 2010 this week, a slew of Fed speakers may reiterate plans for gradual rate increases.

The selloff in developing nation currencies is hurting other assets.

Emerging-market local-currency government bonds declined for a sixth week, the worst run since 2016. Developing-nation stocks retreated 2.3 percent last week.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The last time there was angst expressed at the impact a resurgent Dollar would have on emerging markets was in 2015. The same arguments are being made today and it appears that the figures for US Dollar denominated debt are even higher.



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May 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Hands Tied and Swords Bent, Emerging Markets Battle the Dollar

This article by Srinivasan Sivabalan for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But that’s not the ominous undertone. It’s about how the traditional fortifications of emerging markets -- strong oil and commodity prices -- are failing to protect developing-nation currencies from the onslaught of a stronger dollar.

Look at the chart below. In January, developing-nation currencies and commodities fell together and rose back in tandem. But this time, while the Bloomberg Commodity Index is extending gains, currencies have collapsed. This divergence suggests that a strong U.S. dollar is more decisive for risk appetite than commodity prices.

That’s bad news for countries such as South Africa and Russia. The ruble, for instance, is now moving in the opposite direction to oil even though it’s the country’s biggest export earner. Their usual positive correlation was destroyed by a four-day decline in the currency in the wake of enhanced U.S. sanctions.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Dollar’s rally is resuming with some of the most pressured emerging markets being forced to raise rates aggressively to stem declines. Argentina’s 40% repo rate is beginning to have the desired effect but it is one of a very small number of currencies that was able to squeeze out a rally against a resurgent Dollar today.



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May 15 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Long-term themes review April 10th 2018

Eoin Treacy's view -

FullerTreacyMoney has a very varied group of people as subscribers. Some of you like to receive our views in written form, while others prefer the first-person experience of listening to the audio or watching daily videos.

The Big Picture Long-Term video, posted every Friday, is aimed squarely at anyone who does not have the time to read the daily commentary but wishes to gain some perspective on what we think the long-term outlook holds. However, I think it is also important to have a clear written record for where we lie in terms of the long-term themes we have identified, particularly as short-term market machinations influence perceptions.

Here is a summary of my view at present:



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May 14 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ECB's Villeroy Sees Rate Hike Quarters, Not Years, After QE

This article by Piotr Skolimowski, Jana Randow and Alessandro Speciale for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

European Central Bank policy maker Francois Villeroy de Galhau said the institution’s first interest-rate increase could come “at least some quarters, but not years” after policy makers end their bond-buying program.

In an interview in Paris, the French central banker played down concerns about the euro area’s first-quarter economic slowdown and signaled that the ECB is still likely to halt quantitative easing this year. He said inflation will resume its acceleration in coming months, with underlying price pressures set to strengthen as the bloc’s temporary weakness passes.

“We will probably give additional guidance for the end of the year for the timing of the rate hike and the contingencies,” Villeroy said in a Bloomberg TV interview with Francine Lacqua.

“We’ll see exactly how we formulate it. We’re predictable, and it’s a clear virtue of our gradual normalization path, but we are not precommitted.”

ECB policy makers have yet to formally discuss the future of their QE program. Purchases are currently scheduled to run until at least September, totaling more than 2.5 trillion euros ($3 trillion), and officials expect interest rates to stay at current record lows until “well past” the end of net buying. Maturing debt will be reinvested.

Eoin Treacy's view -

It could be argued Germany, Netherlands and maybe Austria are ready for higher interest rates. Since together they make up a substantial proportion of the Eurozone economy that is what the focus of ECB actions is likely to be.



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May 08 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy Set for New Government -- Then a Snap

This article by John Follain for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

5. Who would likely win?
Opinion polls show the League -- the rebranded, formerly secession Northern League, once known for deriding residents of the country’s south as beggars, thieves and good-for-nothing rednecks -- has gained the most from two months of bargaining. Its support rose to 24.4 percent from 17.4 percent in the March vote, according to an SWG opinion poll carried out May 3-6. Five Star is still the biggest single party, slipping half a percentage point to 32.2 percent. (A center-right alliance including the League and the Forza Italia party of Silvio Berlusconi, the four-time former prime minister, rose to 38.5 percent from 37.1 percent.) If Salvini’s League strengthens in the next election, he could decide to break with Berlusconi and finally form a coalition with Di Maio. This time around, Di Maio’s insistence on excluding Berlusconi was a primary obstacle to a populist coalition government.

6. Why does this matter?
Italy is facing political decisions and economic problems that affect other nations too. At more than 130 percent of gross domestic product, Italy’s debt is second-highest in the euro area, after Greece. The European Commission called the debt “a major source of vulnerability” for Italy and has been overseeing the country’s efforts to reduce spending. Underlying problems remain in Italy’s banks, including cronyism with many lenders too entwined with politicians, unions and foundations of all shapes. Mattarella has warned that the timing of the next elections could jeopardize the 2019 budget, which has to be approved by the end of the year, and unsettle financial markets. And nobody’s fully forgotten Five Star’s past talk of a referendum on leaving the euro.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Small political parties seem to have learned that the only way they will ever succeed in ousting the status quo is to refuse to be co-opted. If we look at the history of coalitions, the insurgent party does well until they give up on their ideals for a chance to hold power. They then get lumped in with the status quo for any egregious activity that occurs during government and subsequently get annihilated at the next election because their support base feels betrayed. The Five Star Movement’s refusal to enter government with Silvio Berlusconi is an example that they have learned this lesson.
 



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