Category Archives: Bonds

US Budget Deficit Hits $600 Billion In 6 Months, As .Gov Spending On Interest Explodes

The US is starting to admit they have a terminal spending problem.

According to the latest Monthly Treasury Statement, in March, the US collected $210.8BN in receipts – consisting of $88BN in individual income tax, $98BN in social security and payroll tax, $5BN in corporate tax and $20BN in other taxes and duties- a drop of 2.7% from the $216.6BN collected last March and a clear reversal from the recent increasing trend…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/receipts.jpg?itok=wXopHgAK

… even as Federal spending surged, rising 7% from $392.8BN last March to $420BN last month, the second highest monthly government outlay on record

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/outlays.jpg?itok=k4bcxNEK

… where the money was spent on social security ($85BN), defense ($58BN), Medicare ($75BN), Interest on Debt ($33BN), and Other ($170BN).

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/govt%20spending%20outlays.jpg?itok=Ki61K6ob(click for larger image)

The resulting surge in spending led to a March budget deficit of $208.7 billion, far above the consensus estimate of $186BN, and over 18% higher than $176.2BN deficit recorded a year ago. This was the biggest March budget deficit in US history.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/budget%20deficit%20march%202018.jpg?itok=dnX_MyMQ

The March deficit brought the cumulative 2018F budget deficit to over $600bn during the first six month of the fiscal year, or roughly $100 billion per month; as a reminder the deficit is expect to rise further amid the tax and spending measures, and rise above $1 trillion, although at the current run rate it is expected to hit $1.2 trillion. As we showed In a recent report, CBO has also significantly raised its deficit projection over the 2018-2028 period.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-04-09_11-13-25.jpg

But while out of control government spending is clearly a concern, an even bigger problem is what happens to not only the US debt, which recently surpassed $21 trillion, but to the interest on that debt, in a time of rising interest rates.

As the following chart shows, US government Interest Payments are already rising rapidly, and just hit an all time high in Q4 2017. That’s when Fed Funds was still in the low 1%’s. What happens when it reaches 3% as the Fed’s dot plot suggests it will?

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/interest%20payments.jpg?itok=eiIWpM6S

In a note released by Goldman after the blowout in the deficit was revealed, the bank once again revised its 2018 deficit forecast higher, and now expect the federal deficit to reach $825bn (4.1% of GDP) in FY2018 and to continue to rise, reaching $1050bn (5.0%) in FY2019, $1125bn (5.4%) in FY2020, and $1250bn (5.5%) in FY2021.

Revising Our Deficit and Debt Forecasts

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/exhibit_1.img%20%284%29.png?itok=IJpTHVaa

Goldman also notes that it expects that on its current financing schedule the Treasury still faces a financing gap of around $300bn in FY2019, rising to around $750bn by FY2021, and will thus need to raise auction sizes substantially over the next couple of years to accommodate higher deficits.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/exhibit_3.img%20%283%29.png?itok=8PKwva3S

What does this mean for interest rates? The bank’s economic team explains:

The increase in Treasury issuance and the ongoing unwind of QE should put upward pressure on long-term interest rates. On issuance, the economic research literature suggests as a rule-of-thumb that a 1pp increase in the deficit/GDP ratio raises 10-year Treasury yields by 10-25bp. Multiplying the midpoint of this range by the roughly 1.5pp increase in the deficit due to the recent tax and spending bills implies a 25bp increase in the 10-year yield. On the Fed’s balance sheet reduction, our estimates suggest that about 40-45bp of upward pressure on the 10-year term premium remains.

And here a problem emerges, because while Goldman claims that “the deficit path is known to markets, but academic research suggests these effects might not be fully priced immediately… the balance sheet normalization plan is known too, but portfolio balance effect models imply that its impact should be gradual” the bank also admits that “the precise timing of these effects is uncertain.”

What this means is that it is quite likely that Treasurys fail to slide until well after they should only to plunge orders of magnitude more than they are expected to, in the process launching the biggest VaR shock in world history, because as a reminder, as of mid-2016, a 1% increase in rates would result in an estimated $2.1 trillion loss to government bond P&L.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2016/06/04/bond%20market%20exposure_0.png

Meanwhile, as rates blow out, US debt is expected to keep rising, and somehow hit $30 trillion by 2028

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/debt%20budget%20trump%202019.jpg

… all without launching a debt crisis in the process.

Source: ZeroHedge

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Global Debt Hits Record $237 Trillion, Up $21TN In 2017

Last June ZH reported that according to the Institute of International Finance – perhaps best known for its periodic and concerning reports summarizing global leverage statistics – as of the end of 2016, in a period of so-called “coordinated growth”, global debt hit a new all time high of $217 trillion, over 327% of global GDP, and up $50 trillion over the past decade.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/06/29/iif%20total%20debt%201.png

Six months later, on January 4, 2018, the IIF released another global debt analysis, which disclosed that global debt rose to a record $233 trillion at the end of Q3 of 2017 between $63Tn in government, $58Tn in financial, $68TN in non-financial and $44Tn in household sectors, a total increase of $16 trillion increase in just 9 months.

Now, according to its latest quarterly update, the IIF has calculated that global debt rose another $4 trillion in the past quarter, to a record $237 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017, and more than $70 trillion higher from a decade earlier, and up roughly $20 trillion in 2017 alone.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/total%20debt%20iif%20q4%202017.jpg?itok=ocCdUVyF

The IIF report, which also sources data from the IMF and BIS, found that the share of global debt remains well above 300% of global GDP, with mature market, i.e., DM, debt/GDP now at 382%. The silver lining: that number was slightly below recent levels, as increasing GDP growth in DMs helped reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio. However, this was more than offset by a surge in debt in emerging markets, where total debt/GDP is now well above 200%.

The good news, if only temporarily, is that on a consolidated basis, global debt/GDP fell for the fifth consecutive quarter as global growth accelerated: the ratio is now around 317.8%, or 4% points below the all time high hit in Q43 2016. To be sure, even a modest slowdown in GDP growth, let alone a contraction, will promptly send the ratio surging to new all time highs.

So what was the culprit for this unprecedented debt surge? Central banks of course.

“Still-low global rates continue to support unprecedented levels of debt accumulation,” officials from the IIF said in a release.

As the report also notes, among mature markets, household debt as a percentage of GDP hit all-time highs in Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which – as Bloomberg correctly notes – That’s a worrying signal, with interest rates beginning to rise globally. Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50 percent.

IIF representatives also highlighted the weaker U.S. dollar as having “masked longer-term concerns about debt sustainability, particularly in emerging markets.” The reduction in debt to GDP came mainly from developed markets, such as the United States and Western Europe, but was an overall trend with 36 of the 49 countries in the survey’s sample recording a drop in debt-to-GDP.

Among emerging markets, household debt to GDP is approaching parity in South Korea at 94.6 percent.

Finally, the report also found that U.S. government debt is now 99% of GDP as a sector. With the United States expected to record a $1 trillion budget deficit by 2020, according to the latest just released CBO forecast, the US should cross 100% debt/GDP in the next few months…

Source: ZeroHedge

China’s Empty Threat of Dumping its US Treasuries

“We are looking at all options.”

In an interview about the trade sanctions that President Trump is throwing at China and at Corporate America – whose supply chains go through China in search of cheap labor and other cost savings – Ambassador Cui Tiankai defended the perennial innocence of China, as is to be expected, and trotted out the standard Chinese fig leafs and state-scripted rhetoric that confirmed in essence that Trump’s decision is on the right track.

Speaking on Bloomberg TV, he also trotted out all kinds of more or less vague and veiled threats – such as, “We will take all measures necessary,” or “We’ll see what we’re doing next” – perhaps having forgotten that China and Hong Kong combined export three times as much to the US as the other way around, and the pain of a trade war would be magnified by three on the Chinese side.

When asked about the possibility of China’s cutting back on purchases of US Treasuries – the ultimate threat, it seems, these days as Congress is piling on record deficits leading to a ballooning mounting of debt that requires a constant flow of new buyers – Ambassador Cui Tiankai said:

“We are looking at all options. That’s why we believe any unilateral and protectionist move would hurt everybody, including the United States itself. It would certainly hurt the daily life of American middle-class people, and the American companies, and the financial markets.”

So let’s dig into this threat.

China held $1.17 trillion in Treasuries as of January. That’s about 5.5% of the $21 trillion in total Treasury debt. So it’s not like they have a monopoly on it. These holdings have varied over the years and are down nearly $100 billion from November 2015:

https://wolfstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/US-treasury-holdings-China-2018-01.png

So over the years, the Chinese haven’t been adding Treasuries anyway. Instead, they’ve been shedding some. At the moment, they’re replacing securities that are maturing and nothing more. So they could decide not to replace any maturing Treasuries or they could decide to sell Treasuries. How much impact would that have?

If China dumped its Treasury holdings, in theory, new buyers would have to emerge to buy them, and these new buyers would have to be induced by higher yields. Hence long-term Treasury yields would have to rise.

The vast majority of Treasury debt is held by pension funds of the US government and of state and local governments, and by Americans, either directly or via bond funds, or via stocks in companies like Apple and Microsoft, whose “offshore” cash is invested in all kinds of US securities, including large amounts of US Treasuries, and shareholders of those companies own those securities.

Then there’s the Fed. It holds $2.42 trillion in US Treasuries, or $1.64 trillion more than before the Financial Crisis as a result of QE. If push comes to shove, the Fed could easily mop up a trillion of Treasuries, as it has done before.

In addition, everyone is now fretting about an “inverted yield curve,” which is the phenomenon when long-term yields, such as the 10-year yield, fall below short-term yields, such as the three-month yield or the two-year yield.The last time this happened was before the Financial Crisis.

The Fed’s rate hikes, which started in December 2015, have pushed up short-term yields. For example, the three-month yield went from 0% in late 2015 to 1.74% today. But the 10-year yield, at around 2.2% in December 2015, then declined to a historic low. It has since risen, but only to 2.82% today. In other words, since December 2015, it has gained 62 basis points, while the three-month yield has gained 174 basis points.

What the Fed wants to accomplish with its rate hikes is push up long-term rates. But markets have been fighting the Fed so far. So a sort of a monetary shock, administered from China’s dumping US Treasuries and thus pushing up US long-term yields, would solve that problem. And the Fed can go about its path of raising short-term yields, confident that the Chinese authorities will do their part to push up long-term yields faster than the Fed is pushing up short-term yields. This would steepen the yield curve.

For people who dread and want to avoid a flat or an inverted yield curve, China’s dumping of US Treasuries would be a God send. So China’s threats of this type of retaliation make good media soundbites but are ultimately vacuous.

Source: By Wolf Richter | Wolf Street

The Central Bank Bubble’s Bursting: It Will Be Ugly

The global economy has been living through a period of central bank insanity, thanks to a little-understood expansion strategy known as quantitative easing, which has destroyed main-street and benefited wall street. 

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/central-bank-bubble.jpg?itok=yQtms4DJ

Central Banks over the last decade simply created credit out of thin air. Snap a finger, and credit magically appears. Only central banks can perform this type of credit magic. It’s called printing money and they have gone on the record saying they are magic people.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Screen-Shot-2018-03-21-at-12.56.03-AM-800x321.png?itok=kh-gHD0A

Increasing the money supply lowers interest rates, which makes it easier for banks to offer loans. Easy loans allow businesses to expand and provides consumers with more credit to buy goods and increase their debt. As a country’s debt increases, its currency eventually debases, and the world is currently at historic global debt levels.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Screen-Shot-2018-03-21-at-1.01.35-AM-590x400.png?itok=PNeHs6ul

Simply put, the world’s central banks are playing a game of monopoly.

With securities being bought by a currency that is backed by debt rather than actual value, we have recently seen $9.7 trillion in bonds with a negative yield. At maturity, the bond holders will actually lose money, thanks to the global central banks’ strategies. The Federal Reserve has already hinted that negative interest rates will be coming in the next recession. 

These massive bond purchases have kept volatility relatively stable, but that can change quickly. High inflation is becoming a real possibility. China, which is planning to dethrone the dollar by backing the Yuan with gold, may survive the coming central banking bubble. Many other countries will be left scrambling. Some central banks are attempting to turn the current expansion policies around. Both the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Canada, and the Bank of England have plans to hike interest rates. The European Central Bank is planning to reduce its purchases of bonds. Is this too little, too late?

The recent global populist movement is likely to fuel government spending and higher taxes as protectionist policies increase. The call to end wealth inequality may send the value of overvalued bonds crashing in value. The question is, how can an artificially stimulated economic boom last in a debtors’ economy?

Central bankers began to embrace their quantitative easing strategies as a remedy to the 2007 economic slump. Instead of focusing on regulatory policies, central bankers became the rescuers of last resort as they snapped up government bonds, mortgage securities, and corporate bonds. For the first time, regulatory agencies became the worlds’ largest investment group. The strategy served as a temporary band-aid as countries slowly recovered from the global recession. The actual result, however, has been a tremendous distortion of asset valuation as interest rates remain low, allowing banks to continue a debt-backed lending spree.

It’s a monopoly game on steroids.

The results of the central banks’ intervention were mixed. While a small, elite wealthy segment was purchasing assets, the rest of the population felt the widening income gap as wage increases failed to meet expectations and the cost of consumer goods kept rising. The policies of the Federal Reserve were not having the desired effect. While the Federal Reserve Bank began to reverse its quantitative easing policy, other central banks, such as the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, and the European National Bank have become even more aggressive in the quantitative easing strategies by continuing to print money with abandon. By 2017, the Bank of Japan was the owner of three-quarters of Japan’s exchange-traded funds, becoming the major shareholder trading in the Nikkei 225 Index.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Screen-Shot-2018-03-21-at-1.13.42-AM-703x400.png?itok=AVRy-VSj

The Swiss National Bank is expanding its quantitative easing policy by including international investments. It is now one of Apple’s major shareholders, with a $2.8 billion investment in the company.

Centrals banks have become the world’s largest investors, mostly with printed money. This is inflating global asset prices at an unprecedented rate. Negative bond yields are just one consequence of this financial distortion.

While the Federal Reserve is reducing its investment purchases, other global banks are keeping a watchful eye on the results. Distorted interest rates will hit investors hard, especially those who have sought out riskier and higher yields as a consequence of quantitative easing (malinvestment).

The policies of the central banks were unsustainable from the start. The stakes in their monopoly game are rising as they are attempting to rectify their negative-yield bond purchasing with purchases of stocks. This is keeping the game alive for the time being. However, these stocks cannot be sold without crashing the market. Who will end up losers and winners? Middle America certainly isn’t going to be happy when the game ends. If central banks continue in their role as stockholders funded by fiat currency, it will change the game completely.

Middle America has cause to feel uneasy…

Source: ZeroHedge

Budget Deficit Surges As Interest On US Debt Hits All Time High

February is traditionally not a good month for the US government income statement: that’s when it usually runs a steep monthly deficit as tax returns drain the Treasury’s coffers. However, this February was worse than usual, because as spending rose and tax receipts slumped, the US deficit jumped to $215 billion, the biggest February deficit since 2012.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/US%20deficit%20february.jpg?itok=ooSwHJ2S

According to the CBO, receipts declined by 9.4% from last year as tax refunds rose and the new withholding tables went into effect. On a rolling 12 month basis, government receipts rose only 2.1%, a clear slowdown after rising 3.1% in December after contracting as recently as March 2017. At this rate of decline, the US will post a decline in Federal Receipts by mid-2018.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/federal%20receipts%20yoy.jpg?itok=f43sRIib

Outlays meanwhile rose by 2% due to higher Social Security and Medicare benefits rose and additional funds were released for disaster relief.

Putting these two in context, in Fiscal 2000, Treasury receipts in the Oct-Feb period were $741.8 bn, nearly matching outlays of $741.6 bn. In Fiscal 2018 meanwhile, receipts in the Oct-Feb period are $1.286 tn while outlays are $1.677 tn. Receipts are growing an average 4% per year, while outlays are rising an average 7%.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/tsy%20receipts%20months.jpg?itok=yIZ8tAG3

Here is a snapshot of February and Fiscal YTD receipts and outlays.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/monthly%20budget%20march%202018.jpg?itok=VHiRArSG

But most troubling was the jump in interest on the public debt, which in the month of February jumped to $28.434 billion, up 10.6% from last February and the most for any February on record. In the first five months of this fiscal year, that interest is $203.234 bn, up 8.0% y/y and the most on record for any Oct-Feb period. The sharp increase comes as the US public debt rapidly approaches $21 trillion. And with the effective interest rate now rising with every passing month, it is virtually assured that this number will keep rising for the months ahead.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/feb%20debt%20interest.jpg?itok=mB5LmJvl

Source: ZeroHedge

* * *

Dollar Dumps, Treasury Yields Erase Post-Payrolls Spike

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/styles/inline_image_desktop/public/inline-images/2018-03-12_11-32-27.png?itok=jF791WCK

Fed Admits ‘Yield Curve Collapse Matters’

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018-03-12_9-31-33.png?itok=69-Q3Eqm

 

Bonds Finally Noticed What Is Going On… Are Stocks Next?

It is safe to say that one of the most popular, and important, charts of 2017, was the one showing the ongoing and projected decline across central bank assets, which from a record expansion of over $2 trillion in early 2017 is expected to turn negative by mid 2019. This is shown on both a 3- and 12-month rolling basis courtesy of these recent charts from Citi.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/central%20bank%20rolling.jpg

The reason the above charts are key, is because as Citi’s Matt King, DB’s Jim Reid, BofA’s Barnaby Martin and countless other Wall Street commentators have pointed out, historically asset performance has correlated strongly with the change in central bank balance sheets, especially on the way up.

As a result, the big question in 2017 (and 2018) is whether risk assets would exhibit the same correlation on the way down as well, i.e. drop.

We can now say that for credit the answer appears to be yes, because as the following chart shows, the ongoing decline in CB assets is starting to have an adverse impact on investment grade spreads which have been pushing wider in recent days, in large part due to the sharp moves in government bonds underline the credit spread.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/credit%20react%20CB.jpg

And, what is more important, is that investors appear to have noticed the repricing across credit. This is visible in two places: on one hand while inflows into broader credit have remained generally strong, there has been a surprisingly sharp and persistent outflow from US high yield funds in recent weeks. These outflows from junk bond funds have occurred against a backdrop of rising UST yields, which recently hit 2.67%, the highest since 2014, another key risk factor to credit investors.

But while similar acute outflows have yet to be observed across the rest of the credit space, and especially among investment grade bonds, JPM points out that the continued outflows from HY and some early signs of waning interest in HG bonds in the ETF space in the US has also been accompanied by sharp increases in short interest ratios in LQD (Figure 13), the largest US investment grade bond ETF…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/IG%20short%20interest.jpg

… as well as HYG, the largest US high yield ETF by total assets,

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/junk%20short%20interest.jpg

This, together with the chart showing the correlation of spreads to CB assets, suggests that positioning among institutional investors has turned markedly more bearish recently.

Putting the above together, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a big credit-quake is imminent, and Wall Street is already positioning to take advantage of it when it hits.

So what about stocks?

Well, as Citi noted two weeks ago, one of the reasons why there has been a dramatic surge in stocks in the new years is that while the impulse – i.e., rate of change – of central bank assets has been sharply declining on its way to going negative in ~18 months, the recent boost of purchases from EM FX reserve managers, i.e. mostly China, has been a huge tailwind to stocks.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/CB%20rolling%203%20month%20FX%20adjusted_0.jpg

This “intervention”, as well as the recent retail capitulation which has seen retail investors unleashed across stock markets, buying at a pace not seen since just before both the 1987 and 2008 crash, helps explain why stocks have – for now – de-correlated from central bank balance sheets. This is shown in the final chart below, also from Citi.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/CB%20equities%20change.jpg

And while the blue line and the black line above have decoupled, it is only a matter of time before stocks notice the same things that are spooking bonds, and credit in general, and get reacquainted with gravity.

What happens next? Well, if the Citi correlation extrapolation is accurate, and historically it has been, it would imply that by mid-2019, equities are facing a nearly 50% drop to keep up with central bank asset shrinkage. Which is why it is safe to say that this is one time when the bulls will be praying that correlation is as far from causation as statistically possible.

… age makes absolutely no difference

Source: ZeroHedge

 

 

Bloomberg’s Cudmore Stands By His Call: “The Dollar Is In A Multi-Year Down Trend”

This week on Erik Townsend’s MacroVoices podcast, Bloomberg macro strategist Mark Cudmore (a frequent contributor to ZeroHedge) and Townsend discussed last week’s “lower low” in the US dollar index and what this means for the near-term future of the greenback – a trade that will have profound ramifications for financial markets.

Back in October, Cudmore projected that the rise in the US dollar still had room to run as a shift in Chinese monetary policy (keep in mind this was months before the rumors about China cutting back on purchases of US debt emerged) would cause Treasury yields to climb, dragging the US dollar higher. The dollar finished the year on an upswing, but has slumped in recent weeks, ignoring the bounce in Treasury yields.

Treasury yields finished last week at their highest levels in years, but the dollar index slipped to its weakest level since late the final days of 2014. 

Cudmore started by contrasting the consensus view heading into 2017 with the view heading into this year: Early last year, markets were dominated by the expectation that the US would lead a global reflation trade – but, as things turned out, the US wound up in the middle of the pack in terms of growth and inflation in terms of the G-10 economies.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018.01.21dollaryields.JPG

This year, there’s been a shift: The US is still expected to be one of the fastest-growing G-10 economies this year. Yet positioning is much more bearish. Case in point: Two-year yields have gained about 70 basis points during the past four months.

And so, suddenly, that massive negative real yield you had in the US has kind of disappeared. So both the rates argument and the growth argument are much more supportive of the dollar this year than 12 months ago. And yet the kind of positioning and sentiment have switched massively.

Now I should say that this is kind of making me feel that the dollar is vulnerable to probably a sustainable bounce that could last several weeks, several months. But I think overall, structurally, in the much more longer term, I do kind of stick by my call from January of last year that the dollar is in a multi-year down trend.

And the background picture here is that the dollar still makes up roughly 63.5% of global reserves. And yet the US economy is a slowly shrinking part of the global economy. It’s currently about 24.5%.

Now, the US is the world’s reserve currency. It’s always going to retain a premium in terms of large financial markets. But that premium is going to shrink more and more. So the fact that it’s still 63.5% of reserves seems too high.

While Chinese authorities denied reports that they would scale back Treasury purchases, several European central banks, including – most notably – the German Bundesbank, said they would begin including yuan reserves for the first time. To make room on their balance sheets, they said, they would replace dollar-denominated assets with yuan-denominated assets.

Chart courtesy of Quartz

…This would support Cudmore’s long-term view that the level of dollar-denominated reserves held by the largest central banks is “too large” – one reason Cudmore sees the long-term dollar downtrend continuing.

And the background picture here is that the dollar still makes up roughly 63.5% of global reserves. And yet the US economy is a slowly shrinking part of the global economy. It’s currently about 24.5%.

Now, the US is the world’s reserve currency. It’s always going to retain a premium in terms of large financial markets. But that premium is going to shrink more and more. So the fact that it’s still 63.5% of reserves seems too high.

So I think, structurally, the world is still long dollars and will slowly start trimming that position.

And that’s going to be a headwind for the dollar. But for the next couple of months I think people are maybe over their skis and being bearish, and I think there’s a chance of a bounce.

That’s the dynamic I’m looking at, at the moment.

Asked about the possibility that the impact of rising interest rates on the dollar might be delayed, resulting in a mid-year rally for the greenback as Powell continues his predecessors’ plan to raise the Fed funds rate at least three times this year, Cudmore argued that the reality is closer to the inverse of that view.

Instead of rising interest rates having a delayed effect on the greenback, Cudmore believes currency traders were far too eager to price in rising interest rates back in 2014, when the Bloomberg Dollar Index rallied more than 25% between mid-2014 and early 2017.

So, basically, when there were only two rate hikes we saw a 25% increase in the dollar on the trade weighted index. That’s because FX markets tend to front run the expectation of the rate hiking cycle. And this rate hike cycle was very much forecast, it was expected, it was predicted.

And, in fact, it kind of came through slower than expected. So what we saw was actually the FX already made that massive appreciation. And this is why we kind of saw the dynamic last year that, even though the Euro – Europe has done very little to withdraw stimulus. They’ve done a small bit of tapering and some signaling, but still they’ve got negative yields. We’ve seen the Euro benefit. And that’s because FX markets drive it ahead.

And I think people who get very excited about the fact that there were rate hikes in 2017 and wonder why isn’t the dollar rallying – they’re not really looking at history. We generally see this in US rate hiking cycles; we quite often see that the dollar trades poorly.

The notion that the dollar would weaken during interest-rate hiking cycles actually isn’t all that counter-intuitive: When the global economy is expanding rapidly, investors in developed markets pour money into the emerging world, which generally involves selling the world’s reserve currency – the dollar.

Another factor driving the dollar’s weakness is the new yuan-denominated oil futures contract which was slated to start trading on the Shanghai Futures Exchange this week, but was recently delayed. Asked if he believes the contract will have a lasting impact on the greenback, Cudmore said its impact will likely be more nuanced, starting with the notion that the impact will be gradual: Though ultimately it will help change the narrative surrounding the dollar at the margins.

I think this is another step in the process of the dollar’s dominance of world trade, world commodity pricing, being slightly eroded at the margin.

But it’s not going to be a sudden thing. The dollar will remain the world’s reserve currency for a number of years to come. There’s just no viable alternative. It’s just that its complete share of global trading will continue to be eroded. And that’s another step in this process.

I think it is also important about how successful China manages to make this whole oil contract. And I think this may tie in with the – some people speculate this may tie in with the Saudi Aramco IPO, that maybe they can exchange some kind of support there, from Saudi Arabia for their pricing in terms of maybe investing in the IPO.

In recent months, Bill Gross has doubled down on his call that the 30-year bull market in bonds is over. DoubleLine’s Jeffrey Gundlach has made a similar argument, though the two disagree on details like timing (“Bill Gross is early”) and the location of the crucial barrier in the 10-year yield that, once breached, will trigger a correction in US equity prices.

Cudmore says he agrees that great bond bull market has ended. But having said this, Cudmore cautioned that he’s “absolutely not a bond bear.”

I think the 30-year bond bull market ended a year or so ago. I don’t think that suddenly means we need to go into a bear market. I think that – I’m absolutely not a bond bear and I think we kind of stay in this slightly volatile range for a long time to come.

And I’ll even go further and say that I don’t think the long end yields in developed, functioning societies, and developed, functioning markets are rising substantially for many years to come.

So I don’t think we’re going to see much higher yields at the back end of the curve. We can see tickups and they’ll kind of move back and forth. But, to me, there are structural disinflationary pressures which are still underestimated in the market. Particularly from technology. But also from demographics.

Townsend then moved the conversation to a painful topic for both himself and Cudmore: The rally in oil that has brought WTI futures north of $70 for the first time since 2014.

Both Townsend and Cudmore had gone on record to predict that the bounce in energy prices would be temporary – the result of worsening instability in Venezuela and certain Middle Eastern energy producers. However, the sustained rally has forced Cudmore to reevaluate his views on the energy market.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2018.01.21oilspec.JPG

While speculative long positions have become dangerously stretched (net longs on NYMEX recently touched an all-time high), Cudmore says he only recently came around to the notion that speculators can dominate the directionality of commodity markets for long periods of time.

I thought we’d see spikes when we saw Middle East tension. I thought there would be various reasons for supply spikes. And I thought they could be very large spikes. But I thought they’d be a thing that would last for a month or so and then we’d see prices come down. Instead we’ve just seen oil continue to trend higher. And definitely this has taken me by surprise.

I think, though, that it’s not a permanent change of situation. One of the things that’s driving the markets at the moment – and I didn’t really pick up on this into December so much – is that, importantly for oil markets, speculators can actually dominate the price action for such a long period of time.

And, at the moment, we still have this backwardation in the oil curve, which means it rewards speculators for being long oil. And so a lot of people look at the market and go, oh my God, speculative positioning in oil is just completely stretched, it’s crazy, it’s due a massive correction. And people were saying this from a couple of months ago.

Yet it continues to motor higher. And that’s because, you know what, these speculators are getting paid to hold this position. So, even if it falls back a little bit, they’re not too worried. And that means it’s a very comfortable position. That will change at some point.

Over the long term, of course, oil prices will likely decline as alternatives like solar – and to a larger degree natural gas – eat into demand. 

Listen to the rest of the interview below:

https://publisher.podtrac.com/player/NzE4NDQ1/MTM20

Source: ZeroHedge