As I write this at 2:10 PM Eastern time, yesterday’s “turnaround Tuesday” rally has been reversed. We are finally seeing the beginnings of capitulation in stock traders, as the volatility index with the symbol VIX finally break above 20. Last year, it surged above 45, and I use 25 and above as a rule of thumb of when to trade stocks from the long side if I am liking the bullish case.
We are seeing the deflationary market events occur that I recently suggested were most likely. One of several recent posts on this topic was titled Goldman Wrong on Rates, Zero Hedge Wrong on Oil As Deflationary Side of Biflation Begins Its Ascendancy. Next-month oil prices on the futures market have dropped to a multi-month low around $95/bbl. Gold, Treasurys and the US dollar are safe havens for the moment, and I suspect will be so for a while yet.
Short-term interest rates up to the 6-month range remain lower in the US than in Japan. If you, along with the great majority of investors, think that interest rates here have nowhere to go but up, you might be interested in perusing a multi-year chart of Japanese interest rates in the 5-30 year range. This is linked to from freely available data from the consultancy www.KShitij.com, which specializes in Forex.
To summarize, the Japanese have been locked since the 1990s into a near-zero interest rate policy. It is clear that investors did not want to believe that there could be such a persistence of this policy. Investors in the 10 year bond, and in the 30 year bond that was introduced during the time frame of the chart, apparently “knew” that rates had to rise. But they did not.
What is being called a “credit collapse” is a reasonable title for the dissipation of real capital in the booms, first of the late ’90s and then in the aughties, but it is a bit too gentle. The amazing leverage of companies’ capital bases led to insolvency when that limited real capital vanished. Until the stock market gets real with its valuation of operating companies, I remain unconvinced that a Japanese-type fate does not await, meaning a multi-decade stagnation/decline of prices of these pre-owned equities. There simply is a fundamental difference between stocks and bonds. Low rates on the latter is historically consistent in the US as well as Japan with low valuations on the former. To the extent that stocks are an inflation hedge, got gold? To the (more important) extent that stocks reflect the current value of the assets of the companies plus the (unknowable) present value of future profits, it just might be that today’s low interest rates are forecasting below-trend and below-expectations growth of said profits.
Today’s outside reversal (so far) of yesterday’s rally in stocks and oil is, as stated, finally beginning to get some bulls to throw in the towel. With no (public) interest in suggesting what tomorrow or the next day will bring, I think the most likely course is for more disappointing economic news in the months ahead, and that gold and only gold is the optimal hedge against a new round of money creation by the Fed.
COpyright (C) Long Lake LLC 2011