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Bonds & Interest Rates

D.C. Dysfunction and Central Bank Chaos

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Posted by Michael Pento - Pento Portfolio Strategies

on Wednesday, 06 September 2017 06:34

On September 5th, the members of both houses of Congress of the United States will clean the beach sand from between their toes and return to work. Our public servants who occupy The House of Representatives have been working on their respective tans since July 29th. The Senate has had a little less time in the sun; they held their final vote on August 3rd despite their pledge to stay until August 11th.

Hopefully, they got a lot of rest, because they have a lot to do upon their return. By the end of September Congress will need to pass a budget bill to avoid a government shutdown. Expect Tea Party Republicans to hold their ground on spending cuts while Trump petitions for his wall. According to recent tweets, Trump is pushing for this fight and welcomes a government shutdown. Get out the popcorn this could get interesting. 

Washington also need to increase the debt ceiling, to avoid a debt default that could trigger a global financial crisis. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin can pay the bills in full and on time through September 29th – after that, he will need an increase in the country’s $19.81 trillion-dollar credit limit. Republicans are promising that a default is impossible, but Congress also promised a repeal and replacement of Obamacare within the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency, and Trump himself guaranteed to kill the ACA on day one--so I wouldn’t hold my breath that increasing the nation’s credit limit will go any smoother.

Congress also needs to reauthorize the insurance of 9 million children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and pass the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)—Hurricane Harvey has put extra importance on this provision, as well as aid for the storm itself.

After they take care of those urgent matters they plan to segue back to tax reform, infrastructure and to take yet another crack at making some needed modifications to Obamacare; before the premiums rise to 100% of disposable income. 

And they will have to juggle this full legislative agenda while dealing with North Korea, Russia-gate and Confederate Statue-gate.  

For a body of elected officials who have built their careers on doing nothing they have an enormous amount of legislation to sift through in an incredibly short amount of time.

And all this dysfunction in DC is having an adverse effect on the dollar, which is already down over 9% this year. A strong dollar is emblematic of a vibrant economy. Whereas, the opposite displays faltering GDP growth and a distressed middle class.

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Bonds & Interest Rates

Yellen in Jackson Hole

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Posted by Doug Noland

on Monday, 28 August 2017 06:42

800x-1"A resilient financial system is critical to a dynamic global economy -- the subject of this conference. A well-functioning financial system facilitates productive investment and new business formation and helps new and existing businesses weather the ups and downs of the business cycle." Janet Yellen, "Financial Stability a Decade after the Onset of the Crisis," August 25, 2017

I would add that a well-functioning financial system is critical to long-term social, political and geopolitical stability. Importantly, well-functioning finance would have mechanisms that promote adjustment and self-correction. This is fundamental to market-based systems. I would argue that this is also a basic premise of sound money and finance. Sound finance would neither suppress market volatility nor work to repeal business cycles - but would instead have inherent characteristics that counteract protracted market and economic excess.



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Bonds & Interest Rates

The NEXT Credit Crisis Has Already Started

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Posted by Bill Bonner - Diary of a Rogue Economist

on Friday, 18 August 2017 06:44

Screen Shot 2017-08-18 at 6.50.03 AMPOITOU, FRANCE – “My father told me to plant trees,” said a neighbor last night.

“It was right after I bought this place. Of course, I was young… I was busy… I didn’t have time to plant trees.

“Now, I tell my sons to plant trees while they’re still young. So they can enjoy them later.

“Funny, as you get older, and the less future you have available, the better you know it.”

Closed Book

What follows is a meditation on something we cannot know – tomorrow. 

The future is a closed book, insofar as it is possible to know what will happen. But that doesn’t mean the future won’t happen.

And although it is terra incognita – a place you’ve never been before – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack your old familiar toothbrush and a warm sweater; it might be a lot like home.

Aesop wrote his fables. The French have added to them with a few of their own. Here’s one about the future:

Long ago, an old man decided to turn his farm over to his son and his wife.

“I have just one condition,” he told them. “You have to let me stay with you as long as I live.”

This was readily agreed. But the son’s wife and the old man didn’t get along. Finally, the wife persuaded her husband to throw him out. And so he did.

But taking pity on the old man, the younger man turned to his own son: “Go and get a horse blanket for your grandfather so he’ll at least have something warm to wrap around him.”

A few minutes later, the young boy came with a blanket, but his father could see that it was only half a blanket.

“Why did you cut the other half off?” he asked.

“Oh…” replied the boy. “That’s for you when you get old.” 

All of a sudden, a pattern came into view. And the future didn’t seem so unknowable.

Like a tall tree, the future casts its shadow backward over the present. 

If you think it will rain later in the day, you take an umbrella in the morning. If you think stocks will go up, you buy now. If you think you have only two years to live, there is no point buying a refrigerator with a 20-year guarantee.

Gift to the Future

The invention of money greatly increased man’s interest in tomorrow.



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Bonds & Interest Rates

What I Learned at (Economics) Summer Camp

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Posted by John Mauldin - Mauldin Economics

on Monday, 14 August 2017 06:56

Will Yellen Stay or Go?
Quantitative Tightening
Consensus Forecasts
Lightning Round
Chicago, Lisbon, San Francisco, Denver, and Lugano

All over America, kids who were fortunate enough to go to summer camp are busy telling mom and dad what they did. Their stories will be suspiciously incomplete, but that’s OK. We know they learned something.

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Well, I went to camp this summer, too. I go every year, and I always learn more than I can manage to remember. Camp Kotok is an invitation-only gathering of economists, market analysts, fund managers, and a few journalists. It takes place at the historic Leen’s Lodge in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. We fish, talk, eat, drink, and talk some more. It’s a three-day economic thought-fest (and more rich food and wine than is good for me or anyone else at the camp). For me, that’s about as good as life gets.

(Aat the end of the letter in the personal section I’ll describe a typical day at my summer camp. Not exactly arts and crafts and games. Unless poker counts as a game.)

Come along with me as I share some of my main takeaways from the camp and then, in a “lightning round,” touch on on a few various shorter topics.

David Kotok of Cumberland Advisors started the event after narrowly escaping death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. It was a way for him and a few friends to get away from the city, appreciate life, and talk about things that matter. Now the gathering has grown to about 50 of us. We meet under the Chatham House Rule, which means we can’t quote each other directly without permission. That helps promote an open exchange of ideas. And it’s definitely open. It is interesting to see the difference in the level of communication in an environment where people are not worried about being quoted when they trot out a new idea they have recently started thinking about. Testing those ideas against one’s peers, who might have different views about the same topic, is a valuable process.

David relaxes the rule for certain parts of the event, and that’s part of what I’ll share with you today. The Saturday night dinner always includes a debate on some contentious issue, with participants who are known to disagree. Martin Barnes from Bank Credit Analystalways moderates. He is one of the few who can quiet that room, with his imposing height, his booming Scottish brogue, and his offbeat sense of biting humor.

This year’s debate topic was the Federal Reserve. Specifically, we discussed the Fed’s future leadership and policies. Both are very much in question right now, and much depends on the answers. Time will tell what happens, but here is what some experts think.

Will Yellen Stay or Go?



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Bonds & Interest Rates

The Death of Abenomics; the Rise of Interest Rates

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Posted by Michael Pento - Pento Portfolio Strategies

on Wednesday, 09 August 2017 06:46

Job approval numbers for Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are in freefall. Abe's support has now fallen below 30%, and his Liberal Democratic Party recently suffered heavy losses stemming from a slew of scandals revolving around illegal subsidies received by a close associate of his wife. But as we have seen back on this side of the hemisphere, the public’s interest in these political scandals can be easily overlooked if the underlying economic conditions are favorable. For instance, voters were apathetic when the House introduced impeachment proceedings at the end of 1998 against Bill Clinton for perjury and abuse of power. And Clinton’s perjury scandal was indefensible upon discovery of that infamous Blue Dress. The average citizen, then busily counting their chips from the dot-com casino, were disinterested in Clinton’s wrongdoings because the 1998 economy was booming. Clinton remained in office, and his Democratic party gained seats in the 1998 mid-term elections.

Therefore, Abe's scandal is more likely a referendum on the public’s frustration with the failure of Abenomics.

When Shinzo Abe regained the office of Prime Minister during the last days of 2012, he brought with him the promise of three magic arrows: an image borrowed from a Japanese folk tale that teaches three sticks together are harder to break than one. The first arrow targeted unprecedented monetary easing, the second was humongous government spending, and the third arrow was aimed at structural reforms. The Prime Minister assured the Japanese that his “three-arrow” strategy would rescue the economy from decades of stagnation.

Unfortunately, these three arrows have done nothing to improve the life of the average Japanese person. Instead, they have only succeeded in blowing up the debt, wrecking the value of the yen and exploding the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) balance sheet. For years Japanese savers have not only seen their yen denominated deposits garner a zero percent interest rate in the bank; but even worse, have lost purchasing power against foreign currencies. The yen has lost over 30 percent of its value against the US dollar since Abe regained power in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Japanese economy is still entrenched in its “lost-decades” morass; and growing at just over one percent year over year in Q1 2017. Japan’s dramatic slowdown in growth, which averaged at an annual rate of 4.5 percent in the 1980s, fell to 1.5 percent in the 1990s and never recovered. In addition to this, higher health care costs from an aging population have driven government health care spending to move from 4.5 percent of GDP in 1990, to 9.5 percent in 2010, according to IMF estimates.

Incredibly, this low-growth and debt-disabled economy has a 10-Year Note that yields around zero percent; thanks only to BOJ purchases.

Prime Minister Abe’s plan to address this recent scandal-driven plummet in the polls is to increase government spending even more and have the BOJ simply step up the printing press. In other words, he is going to double down on the first two arrows that have already failed! However, the Japanese people appear as though they have now had enough.

Japan's National Debt is already over a quadrillion yen (250% of GDP). And the nation would never be able to service this debt if the BOJ didn’t own most of it. The sad truth is that the only viable alternative for Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) is an explicit or implicit default.  And, a default of the implicit variety has already occurred because the BOJ now owns most of the government debt—total assets held by the BOJ is around 93% of GDP; JGBs equal 70% of GDP.

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