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Bonds

Finding Solace in a Bond ETF Without Surrendering

Amid the wave of selling caused by war in Ukraine and the continued effects of supply chain disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some investors are…

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Amid the wave of selling caused by war in Ukraine and the continued effects of supply chain disruptions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some investors are turning to bonds and bond-related exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as sources of solace in an increasingly turbulent and unstable world.

That, of course, is easier said than done. Not only are there many different types of bonds, including Treasury, savings, agency, municipal and corporate, each sector of the bond market attracts different buyers and sellers.

Their respective bonds also contain different levels of duration, as well as levels of risk and reward. Indeed, the level of complexity in the bond market might cause more than a few aspiring bond traders to raise their hands skyward, as if to surrender, and exit.

However, there are more than a few bond-related ETFs that aim to demystify this process. One of these has appeared in my Successful Investing trading service: iShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEARCA: LQD).

This ETF draws on bonds from the Markit iBoxx USD Liquid Investment Grade Index. Since this index only contains bonds that are three years to maturity, this exposes LQD to a higher-level of interest-rate-related risk than other bond ETFs. While the lion’s share (85.87%) of LQD’s bond portfolio is comprised of U.S. bonds, LQD’s portfolio also contains bonds from the United Kingdom (4.47%), Canada (2.41%), Japan (2.24%) and beyond.

The top four holdings in the portfolio are BlackRock Cash Funds Treasury SL Agency Shares, Anheuser-Busch Cos. LLC 4.9% 01-FEB-2046, CVS Health Corporation 5.05% 25-MAR-2048 and T-Mobile USA, Inc. 3.875% 15-APR-2030.

As of June 14, LQD has been down 3.57% over the past month and down 8.70% for the past three months. It is currently down 18.08% year to date.

Chart courtesy of www.stockcharts.com

The fund has amassed $31.43 billion in assets under management and has an expense ratio of 0.14%.

In short, while LQD does provide investors with an access point into the bond market, this kind of ETF may not be appropriate for all portfolios. Thus, interested investors always should conduct their due diligence and decide whether the fund is suitable for their investing goals.

As always, I am happy to answer any of your questions about ETFs, so do not hesitate to send me an email. You just may see your question answered in a future ETF Talk.

The post Finding Solace in a Bond ETF Without Surrendering appeared first on Stock Investor.

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Bonds

Is Bitcoin Really A Hedge Against Inflation?

The long-standing claim that bitcoin is a hedge against inflation has come to a fork in the road as inflation is soaring, but the bitcoin price is not.

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The long-standing claim that bitcoin is a hedge against inflation has come to a fork in the road as inflation is soaring, but the bitcoin price is not.

This is an opinion editorial by Jordan Wirsz, an investor, award-winning entrepreneur, author and podcast host.

Bitcoin’s correlation to inflation has been widely discussed since its inception. There are many narratives surrounding bitcoin’s meteoric rise over the last 13 years, but none so prevalent as the debasement of fiat currency, which is certainly considered inflationary. Now Bitcoin’s price is declining, leaving many Bitcoiners confused, as inflation is the highest it’s been in more than 40 years. How will inflation and monetary policy impact bitcoin’s price?

First, let’s discuss inflation. The Federal Reserve’s mandate includes an inflation target of 2%, yet we just printed an 8.6% consumer price inflation number for the month of May 2022. That is more than 400% of the Fed’s target. In reality, inflation is likely even higher than the CPI print. Wage inflation isn’t keeping up with actual inflation and households are starting to feel it big time. Consumer sentiment is now at an all-time low.

(Source)

Why isn’t bitcoin surging while inflation is running out of control? Although fiat debasement and inflation are correlated, they truly are two different things that can coexist in juxtaposition for periods of time. The narrative that bitcoin is an inflation hedge has been widely talked about, but bitcoin has behaved more as a barometer of monetary policy than of inflation.

Macro analysts and economists are feverishly debating our current inflationary environment, trying to find comparisons and correlations to inflationary periods in history — such as the 1940s and the 1970s — in an effort to forecast where we go from here. While there are certainly similarities to inflationary periods of the past, there is no precedent for bitcoin’s performance under circumstances such as these. Bitcoin was born only 13 years ago from the ashes of the Global Financial Crisis, which itself unleashed one of the greatest monetary expansions in history up until that time. For the last 13 years, bitcoin has seen an environment of easy monetary policy. The Fed has been dovish, and anytime hawkishness raised its ugly head, the markets rolled over and the Fed pivoted quickly to reestablish calm markets. Note that during the same period, bitcoin rose from pennies to $69,000, making it perhaps the greatest-performing asset of all time. The thesis has been that bitcoin is an “up and to the right asset,” but that thesis has never been challenged by a significantly tightening monetary policy environment, which we find ourselves at the present moment.

The old saying that “this time is different,” might actually prove to be true. The Fed can’t pivot to quell the markets this time. Inflation is wildly out of control and the Fed is starting from a near-zero rate environment. Here we are with 8.6% inflation and near-zero rates while staring recession straight in the eyes. The Fed is not hiking to cool the economy … It is hiking in the face of a cooling economy, with already one quarter of negative gross domestic product growth behind us in Q1, 2022. Quantitative tightening has only just begun. The Fed does not have the leeway to slow down or ease its tightening. It must, by mandate, continue to raise rates until inflation is under control. Meanwhile, the cost-conditions index already shows the biggest tightening in decades, with almost zero movement from the Fed. The mere hint of the Fed tightening spun the markets out of control.

(Source)

There is a big misconception in the market about the Fed and its commitment to raising rates. I often hear people say, “The Fed can’t raise rates because if they do, we won’t be able to afford our debt payments, so the Fed is bluffing and will pivot sooner than later.” That idea is just factually incorrect. The Fed has no limit as to the amount of money it can spend. Why? Because it can print money to make whatever debt payments are necessary to support the government from defaulting. It’s easy to make debt payments when you have a central bank to print your own currency, isn’t it?

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute, you’re saying the Fed needs to kill inflation by raising rates. And if rates go up enough, the Fed can just print more money to pay for its higher interest payments, which is inflationary?”

Does your brain hurt yet?

This is the “debt spiral” and inflation conundrum that folks like Bitcoin legend Greg Foss talks about regularly.

Now let me be clear, the above discussion of that possible outcome is widely and vigorously debated. The Fed is an independent entity, and its mandate is not to print money to pay our debts. However, it is entirely possible that politicians make moves to change the Fed’s mandate given the potential for incredibly pernicious circumstances in the future. This complex topic and set of nuances deserves much more discussion and thought, but I’ll save that for another article in the near future.

Interestingly, when the Fed announced its intent to hike rates to kill inflation, the market didn’t wait for the Fed to do it … The market actually went ahead and did the Fed’s job for it. In the last six months, interest rates have roughly doubled — the fastest rate of change ever in the history of interest rates. Libor has jumped even more.

(Source)

This record rate-increase has included mortgage rates, which have also doubled in the last six months, sending shivers through the housing market and crushing home affordability at a rate of change unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

30-year mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months.

All of this, with only a tiny, minuscule, 50 bps hike by the Fed and the very beginning of their rate hike and balance sheet runoff program, merely started in May! As you can see, the Fed barely moved an inch, while the markets crossed a chasm on their own accord. The Fed’s rhetoric alone sent a chilling effect through the markets that few expected. Look at the global growth optimism at new all-time lows:

(Source)

Despite the current volatility in the markets, the current miscalculation by investors is that the Fed will take its foot off the brake once inflation is under control and slowing. But the Fed can only control the demand side of the inflationary equation, not the supply side of the equation, which is where most of the inflationary pressure is coming from. In essence, the Fed is trying to use a screwdriver to cut a board of lumber. Wrong tool for the job. The result may very well be a cooling economy with persistent core inflation, which is not going to be the “soft landing” that many hope for.

Is the Fed actually hoping for a hard landing? One thought that comes to mind is that we may actually need a hard landing in order to give the Fed a pathway to reduce interest rates again. This would provide the government the possibility of actually servicing its debt with future tax revenue, versus finding a path to print money to pay for our debt service at persistently higher rates.

Although there are macro similarities between the 1940s, 1970s and the present, I think it ultimately provides less insight into the future direction of asset prices than the monetary policy cycles do.

Below is a chart of the rate of change of U.S. M2 money supply. You can see that 2020-2021 saw a record rise from the COVID-19 stimulus, but look at late 2021-present and you see one of the fastest rate-of-change drops in M2 money supply in recent history. 

(Source)

In theory, bitcoin is behaving exactly as it should in this environment. Record-easy monetary policy equals “number go up technology.” Record monetary tightening equals “number go down” price action. It is quite easy to ascertain that bitcoin’s price is tied less to inflation, and more to monetary policy and asset inflation/deflation (as opposed to core inflation). The chart below of the FRED M2 money supply resembles a less volatile bitcoin chart … “number go up” technology — up and to the right.

(Via St. Louis Fed)

Now, consider that for the first time since 2009 — actually the entire history of the FRED M2 chart — the M2 line is potentially making a significant direction turn to the downside (look closely). Bitcoin is only a 13-year-old experiment in correlation analysis that many are still theorizing upon, but if this correlation holds, then it stands to reason that bitcoin will be much more closely tied to monetary policy than it will inflation.

If the Fed finds itself needing to print significantly more money, it would potentially coincide with an uptick in M2. That event could reflect a “monetary policy change” significant enough to start a new bull market in bitcoin, regardless of whether or not the Fed starts easing rates.

I often think to myself, “What is the catalyst for people to allocate a portion of their portfolio to bitcoin?” I believe we are beginning to see that catalyst unfold right in front of us. Below is a total-bond-return index chart that demonstrates the significant losses bond holders are taking on the chin right now. 

(Source)

The “traditional 60/40” portfolio is getting destroyed on both sides simultaneously, for the first time in history. The traditional safe haven isn’t working this time around, which underscores the possibility that “this time is different.” Bonds may be a deadweight allocation for portfolios from now on — or worse.

It seems that most traditional portfolio strategies are broken or breaking. The only strategy that has worked consistently over the course of millennia is to build and secure wealth with the simple ownership of what is valuable. Work has always been valuable and that is why proof-of-work is tied to true forms of value. Bitcoin is the only thing that does this well in the digital world. Gold does it too, but compared to bitcoin, it cannot fulfill the needs of a modern, interconnected, global economy as well as its digital counterpart can. If bitcoin didn’t exist, then gold would be the only answer. Thankfully, bitcoin exists.

Regardless of whether inflation stays high or calms down to more normalized levels, the bottom line is clear: Bitcoin will likely start its next bull market when monetary policy changes, even if ever so slightly or indirectly.

This is a guest post by Jordan Wirsz. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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Economics

Why Government Anti-Inflation Plans Fail

Why Government Anti-Inflation Plans Fail

Authored by Daniel Lacalle,

Governments love inflation. It is a hidden tax on everyone and a transfer…

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Why Government Anti-Inflation Plans Fail

Authored by Daniel Lacalle,

Governments love inflation. It is a hidden tax on everyone and a transfer of wealth from bank deposits and real wages to indebted governments that collect more receipts via higher indirect taxes and devalue their debts. That is why we cannot expect governments to take decisive action on inflation.

To curb inflation effectively, interest rates must rise to a neutral level relative to inflation, to reduce the excessive increase in credit and new money from negative real rates. Additionally, central banks must end the repurchase of bonds, exchange traded funds and mortgage-backed securities as this would immediately reduce the quantity of currency in circulation. Finally, and most important of all, governments need to cut deficit spending which is ultimately financed by more debt and monetized with newly created central bank reserves. These three measures are crucial. One or two would not be enough.

However, governments are unwilling to cut deficit spending. The increase in outlays from 2020 due to extraordinary circumstances has been largely consolidated and is now annual structural expenditures. As we have seen in previous crises, many of the one-off and temporary measures become permanent, driving mandatory spending to a new all-time high.

Citizens are suffering the elevated inflation and consumer confidence is plummeting to historic lows in the economies that massively increased money supply growth throughout the pandemic, fuelling inflationary pressures through money printing well above demand and demand-side state expenditure plans financed with newly created currency. What do governments implement when this happens? More demand-side policies. Spending and debt.

Imagine for a second that we believed the myth of cost-push inflation and the argument that inflation comes from a supply shock. If that were the case, governments should implement supply-side measures, cutting spending and reducing taxes.

Reducing taxes does not drive inflation higher because it is the same quantity of currency, only a bit more in the hands of those who earn it. Cutting taxes would only be inflationary if demand for goods and services would soar due to higher consumer credit and demand, but that is not the case. Consumers would only have less difficulties to purchase daily essential goods and services that they acquire anyway. And some would save, which is good. That same money in the hands of government, which weighs more than 40% in the economy, will inevitably be spent and more, with rising public debt.

One unit of currency in the hands of the private sector may be consumed or invested-saved. The same unit in the hands of government is going to current spending and will be multiplied by adding debt, which means more currency in circulation and higher risk of inflation. Currency supply does not drive more currency demand. It is the opposite. If inflation ends up destroying the private sector consumption ability and the economy goes into recession, demand for currency will fall further from supply growth, keeping inflation elevated for longer.

The rules of supply and demand apply to currency the same as to everything else.

Rising discontent is leading governments to present bold and aggressive anti-inflation plans, yet almost none of those are supply-side measures but demand-side ones. Furthermore, the vast majority imply more spending, higher subsidies, rising debt, and increased money supply, which means higher risk of inflation.

Giving checks with newly printed money creates inflation. Providing more checks to reduce inflation is like stopping a fire with gasoline.

The Bank of International Settlements recently said that “leading economies are close to tipping into a high-inflation world where rapid price rises are normal, dominate daily life and are difficult to quell”. However, it is only difficult to quell because governments and central banks keep elevated levels of deficit and monetization. In the 70s media and analysts repeated constantly how difficult it was for governments to cut inflation, but they never explained that you cannot reduce price pressures destroying the purchasing power of the currency that governments monopolize.

Prices do not rise in unison for the same amount of currency. Anti-inflation plans as they have been presented in numerous countries are inflationary and hurt those that they pretend to help. Governments should stop helping with other people’s money and supporting by demolishing the purchasing power of their currency. The best way to reduce inflation is to defend real wages and deposit savings.

Tyler Durden Mon, 06/27/2022 - 14:45

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Economics

What Future Volatility Could Look Like for Eurozone Rates

Repo Funds Rate Indices reveal that the UK repo market may provide insight into what to expect once ECB rates increase.

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Repo Funds Rate Indices reveal that the UK repo market may provide insight into what to expect once ECB rates increase.

As inflation readings around the world come in well above targets, many central banks have sped up their plans to tighten monetary policy after years of historically low-interest rates and bond purchase programs.

Graphic: EU, US, and UK Monthly CPI (trailing 5 years)

However, the European Central Bank (ECB) is notably absent from the list of central banks that have implemented rate increases. Unlike its counterparts in the United States (Federal Reserve) and the United Kingdom (Bank of England), the ECB has not yet made a move against inflation; its deposit facility rate is currently at -0.5% and its main refinancing rate is at 0%. The ECB did not lower interest rates in response to the covid-19 pandemic that began in the first quarter of 2020 as its deposit facility rate was already at -0.5% at the time – meaning the ECB has held rates persistently at negative or zero since 2014.

Graphic: Key Interest Rates – ECB, Fed, and Bank of England (trailing 5 years)

In addition, the ECB has only committed to raising interest rates after it stops purchasing bonds in the third quarter of 2022. The ECB has added over €3.8 trillion to euro area balance sheets since March 2020.

Graphic: Euro Area Central Bank Assets (millions of Euros, trailing 5 years)

Two bond-buying programs facilitated sovereign debt purchases during this time – the Public Sector Purchase Program (PSPP) and the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program (PEPP). These two programs bought a total of €1.95 trillion of sovereign bonds between March 2020 and April 2022. Three countries – Germany, France, and Italy – accounted for 66% of all sovereign purchases by the ECB.

Graphic: Cumulative ECB Public Sector Bond Purchases, March 2020 to April 2022 (thousands of Euros)

Insights From Repo Funds Rate Indices

The Repo Funds Rate (RFR) Indices, compiled by CME Group, looks at daily overnight lending rates in ten sovereign bond markets across the eurozone in addition to an overarching rate for the EU. The indices provide data on two subcomponents – general collateral and specific collateral – of the repo market:

General collateral (GC) are repo transactions where the underlying asset consists of a set of similar-but-unspecified securities.

Special collateral (SC) are transactions where specified securities (such as a certain bond issue) are exchanged and thus are often in high demand. 

Graphic: Insights From Repo Funds Rate Indices

These rates offer key insights into European money market participants and there are two recent and notable themes, which are worth highlighting.

Key Theme No. 1: Repo Rates are Becoming More Negative

Many EU countries’ RFR rates trade more negatively now than at the beginning of 2021 despite an unchanged short-term interest rate policy. German, Italian, and French repo reached highs in the first quarter of 2021. All three countries have lower average rates in 2022 than in 2021. Lower rates are multifaceted; however, data suggests that collateral is becoming scarcer over time. 

Graphic: RFR Rates  – DE, IT, FR 
Graphic: RFR Spreads (GC - SC) – Germany

Key Theme No. 2: UK Repo Market may Give Insight into Future of the Eurozone

Relative to the ECB, the BoE has taken significant action to curb inflation with four interest rate increases since Dec 2021. The subsequent changes that have occurred in the Sterling repo market may provide eurozone participants with some insight into what they can expect once ECB rates increase.

UK GC rates have closely followed the bank rate since the beginning of a series of rate increases in Dec 2021.

Read More about Repo Funds Rates

Graphic: RFR Rates – UK

However, during this time, GC-SC spreads have widened and increased in volatility. This suggests that while GC rates may change alongside the bank rate, SC rates may be “sticky” or subject to technical factors beyond BoE short-term interest rate policy.

Graphic: UK Bank Rate – RFR Collateral Type Spreads

ECB monetary policy and market conditions will likely experience significant uncertainty in the short- and mid-term. RFR Indices are a rich source of data for any market participant looking to navigate uncertain markets.

Read more articles like this at OpenMarkets

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