A Dangerous Misconception
Ever since the echo bubble went into overdrive due to the Fed adding what by now are nearly $5 trillion to the broad US money supply TMS-2, while keeping the administered interest rate practically at zero, people have been looking for excuses as to why the latest bit of asset boom insanity will never end (few of them wanted to be long “risk” in 2009, but they sure are eager to justify their exposure now).
One popular theme gets reprinted in variations over and over again. Here is a recent example from Business Insider, which breathlessly informs us of the infallibility of the yield curve as a forecasting tool: “This Market Measure Has A Perfect Track Record For Predicting US Recessions” the headline informs us – and we dimly remember having seen variants of this article on the same site at least three times by now:
“There are very few market indicators that can predict recessions without sending out false positives. The yield curve is one of them.
At a breakfast earlier today, LPL Financial's Jeffrey Kleintop noted that the yield curve inverted just prior to every U.S. recession in the past 50 years. "That is seven out of seven times — a perfect forecasting track record," he reiterated.
The yield curve is inverted when short-term interest rates (e.g. the 3-year Treasury) are higher than long-term interest rates (e.g. the 10-year Treasury yield).
"The yield curve inversion usually takes place about 12 months before the start of the recession, but the lead time ranges from about 5 to 16 months," wrote Kleintop in a recent note. "The peak in the stock market comes around the time of the yield curve inversion, ahead of the recession and accompanying downturn in corporate profits."
The Federal Reserve has been signaling that tighter monetary policy is on its way, which means short-term interest rates should move higher. Is this something we should be worried about? Kleintop offered some context:
How far the Fed must push up short-term rates before the yield curve inverts by 0.5% depends on where long-term rates are. Even if long-term rates stay at the very low yield of 2.6% seen in mid-June 2014, to invert the yield curve by 0.5% the Fed would need to hike short-term rates from around zero to more than 3%. Based on the latest survey of current Fed members that vote on rate hikes, they do not expect to raise rates above 3% until sometime in 2017, at the earliest…
Lots of economic and market factors drive what happens with interest rates. So the shape of the yield curve is definitely worth paying attention to. "The facts suggest the best indicator for the start of a bear market may still be a long way from signaling a cause for concern," he said.
This is it! The holy grail of forecasting, Jeffrey Kleintop has discovered it. You'll never have to worry about actual earnings reports, a massive bubble in junk debt, the sluggishness of the economy, new record levels in sentiment measures and margin debt, record low mutual fund cash reserves, the pace of money supply growth, or anything else again. Just watch the yield curve!
Unfortunately, this advice could turn out to be extremely dangerous for one's financial health. The idea is that the central bank normally begins to hike its administered rate, usually by following rising short term market rates. Long term bond traders foresee that this will sooner or later trip up whatever bubble is underway, and are buying longer term government debt in advance of the event – hence the yield curve as a rule inverts ahead of the bubble's collapse.
Except when it doesn't.
When Perfect Indicators Fail …
The so-called “perfect track record” Mr. Kleintop emphasizes is pretty much worthless once the central bank enforces ZIRP on the short end and has already begun implementing massive debt monetization programs. Here is a chart showing the relationship between 3-month and 10 year Japanese interest rates since 1989, with all six recessions since then indicated:
You may wonder what this has meant for stock market investors, so we have added the year-on-year change rate of the Nikkei to this chart. Here goes:
As you can see, there were numerous quite strong, playable rallies, interrupted by a series of wipe-outs ranging from 35% to almost 60% – and note, that is just the annual change rate, at one point cumulative losses exceeding 80% from the peak were recorded – in 2009, a full 20 years after the market had topped out!
On occasion of several previous interim lows in the index the cumulative losses from the peak ranged from roughly 65% to 78% (these were: 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2003).
Only the first of the major interim market lows since 1989 (which was actually put in after the least worst decline measured from the peak) occurred after a yield curve inversion.
There is no “holy grail” indicator that can be used to make perfect economic and market forecasts. It is true that if there is a yield curve inversion, it definitely indicates trouble is on the horizon. Alas, we don't remember hearing many real time warnings (in fact, we don't remember any) from Wall Street analysts when such inversions actually occurred in the past (such as e.g. in 1999/2000 and 2006/2007), which makes this new preoccupation especially funny. Obviously, the only time to pay attention to this indicator is when it suggests that a bubble can keep growing!
However, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the yield curve will actually invert prior to the next economic recession and the echo bubble's demise. In fact, looking at previous ZIRP and QE experiments, we would have to conclude that it is more likely that there will be no such warning at all.
There is only one thing that is certain: things will continually change. There is no indicator that is fool-proof. If in doubt, one can always consult the Great Zoltar, or alternatively, do the opposite of what .
Zoltar has been in the forecasting business for a long time. He will know what to do and when.
Dear Readers! We are happy to report that we have reached our turn-of-the-year funding goal and want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have chipped in. We are very grateful for your support! As a general remark, according to usually well informed circles, exercising the donation button in between funding drives is definitely legal and highly appreciated as well.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Reality is a Formidable Enemy
Political Correctness Comedy We have recently come across a video that is simply too funny not be shared. It also happens to dovetail nicely with our friend Claudio's recent essay on political correctness and cultural Marxism. Since this is generally a rather depressing topic, we have concluded that having a good laugh at it might not be the worst idea. How to most effectively create a “safe space” on campus Cartoon by Nate Beeler It is especially funny (or...
- Fresh Mainstream Nonsense on Gold Demand
They Will Never Get It... We and many others have made a valiant effort over the years to explain what actually moves the gold market (as examples see e.g. our article “Misconceptions About Gold”, or Robert Blumen's excellent essay “Misunderstanding Gold Demand”). Sometimes it is a bit frustrating when we realize it has probably all been for naught. Gold wants to know what it has done now... Photo credit: Ajay Verma / Reuters This was brought home to...
- Drowning the Fir
Presidential Duties Our editor recently stumbled upon an image in one of the more obscure corners of the intertubes which we felt we had to share with our readers. It provides us with a nice metaphor for the meaningfulness of government activity. First, here is a look at the picture – just quietly contemplate it for while and let it work its magic on you: Yes, these two gentlemen are actually watering a tree in the middle of a downpour... Photo via...
- The Wonder Years Are Over
Everybody Is Unhappy PARIS – “France?” We were in a cab on the way from Charles de Gaulle Airport yesterday. We had innocently asked our cab driver how things were going in the country. He had some thoughts... French president Francois Hollande: against all odds, he managed to attain the most powerful position in French society. And yet, even he is unhappy. Photo credit: Patrick Kovarik / AFP “France is a mess. We have 5 million people unemployed. And...
- Switzerland About to Vote on “Free Lunch” for Everyone
Will the Swiss Guarantee CHF 75,000 for Every Family? In early June the Swiss will be called upon to make a historic decision. Switzerland is the first country worldwide to put the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income to a vote and the outcome of this referendum will set a strong precedent and establish a landmark in the evolution of this debate. The Swiss Basic Income Initiative in a demonstration in front of parliament. As we have previously reported (see “Swiss...
- Gold – The Commitments of Traders
Commercial and Non-Commercial Market Participants The commitments of traders in gold futures are beginning to look a bit concerning these days – we will explain further below why this is so. Some readers may well be wondering why an explanation is even needed. Isn't it obvious? Superficially, it sure looks that way. As the following chart of the net position of commercial hedgers illustrates, their position is currently at quite an extended...
- Corporate Tax Receipts Reflect Economic Slowdown
Tax Receipts vs. the Stock Market Following the US Treasury's update of April tax receipts, our friend Mac mailed us a few charts showing the trend in corporate tax payments. Not surprisingly, corporate tax payments and refunds mirror the many signs of a slowing economy that have recently emerged. An overview in chart form follows below. First up, corporate tax receipts in absolute figures. Corporate tax receipts in absolute dollars and cents – this is quite astonishing...
- Heretical Thoughts and Doing the Unthinkable
Heresy! NORMANDY, France – The Dow rose 222 points on Tuesday – or just over 1%. But we agree with hedge-fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller: This is not a good time to be a U.S. stock market bull. Legendary former hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller at the Ira Sohn conference – not an optimist at present, to put it mildly. Photo credit: David A. Grogan / CNBC Speaking at an investment conference in New York last week, George Soros’ former partner...
- Staying Home on Election Day
Pretenses and Conceits The markets are eerily quiet… like an angry man with something on his mind and a shotgun in his hand. We will leave them to brood… and return to the spectacle of the U.S. presidential primaries. On display are all the pretenses, conceits, and absurdities of modern government. And now, the race narrows to the two most widely distrusted and loathed candidates. US election circus: Deep State Rep vs. Rage Channeller The first, a loose...
- How the Deep State’s Cronies Steal From You
Expanding in Ireland DUNMORE EAST, Ireland – We came down the coast from Dublin to check on our new office building. For this visit, we wanted to stay somewhere different than we normally do. So we chose a small hotel on the coast, called the Strand Inn. Irish landscape with alien landing pads. Even the guys from Rigel II have heard about Ireland's corporate tax rate. Photo credit: Tourism Ireland It is an excellent place for seafood and soda bread on a...
- The World's 100 Most Influential Hacks, Yahoos and Monkey Shiners
Hacks and Has-Beens NORMANDY, France – What has happened to TIME magazine? Henry Luce, who started TIME – the first weekly news magazine in the U.S. – would be appalled to see what it has become. Time cover featuring the sunburned mummy heading the globalist IMF bureaucracy (which inter alia advocates that governments should confiscate a portion of the wealth of their citizens overnight, even while its own employees don't have to pay a single cent in taxes). Once you...
- The Japanese Popsicle Affair
Policy-Induced Contrition in Japan As we keep saying, there really is no point in trying to make people richer by making them poorer – which is what Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda have been trying to do for the past several years. Not surprisingly, they have so to speak only succeeded in achieving the second part of the equation: they have certainly managed to impoverish their fellow Japanese citizens. Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda, professional yen assassins Photo credit:...