Hang ‘Em High! US Treasury 10Y-2Y Yield Curve Inverts To Near Lowest Since 1981, Credit/Equity Spread Turns Positive As Fed Tightens Monetary Noose

Hang ’em high!

As inflation remains persist (thanks to endless Fed stimulus and endless Federal spending splurges), we are seeing The Federal Reserve finally withdrawing the monetary stimulus (tightening the monetary noose). And with it, the US Treasury yield curve (10Y-2Y) goes down with it.

Another sign of distress is the spread between credit and equities which has turned positive as it does in times of crisis.

UPDATE! Recession predictor the US Treasury yield curve just went “red alert”, inverting to -100 basis points.

Terminal Velocity! Fed Implied Terminal Rate Now 5.363% At July ’23 FOMC Meeting As US GDP Report Revised Lower On Weaker Consumer Spending In Q4 ’22 (GDP PRICE Index Revised UP To 3.9%)

Yesterday, we saw The Federal Reserve release the minutes of the last meeting. In a nutshell, The Fed is going to keep raising rates.

The terminal Fed Funds target rates is now 5.363% for the July FOMC (Fed Open Market Committee) meeting in 2023.

This comes as US Q4 GDP was revised lower on weaker consumer spending, revised downward to 1.4%

With the revision of Personal Consumption, real GDP was revised downward to 2.7% annualized QoQ.

The Taylor Rule estimate for The Fed Funds Target rate is 10.15%. The Fed is only at 4.75%, so there is a long way to go! Except that The Fed doesn’t follow any useful rule like the Taylor Rule. Just the “seat of the pants” rule.

Don’t Be Misled By The Low US Unemployment Rate, It Goes Low Just Prior To A Recession (Treasury Curve Remains Deeply Inverted, Mortgage Rates Rise)

Biden’s State of the Union address saw him bragging about his record job creation (actually, it was the private sector, not Biden than created jobs) and historic unemployment rate. What Biden didn’t mention (along with not discussing the porous Mexican border with fentanyl pouring across or why he failed to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon until after it has passed over numerous military reservation) is that the unemployment rate always hit a low point just prior to a recession.

So, here we sit at 3.4% unemployment. But we also see the US Treasury yield curves (10Y-3M and 10Y-2Y) remaining deeply inverted.

The US Treasury 10-year yield is up 5.5 basis points today.

And Bankrate’s 30-year mortgage survey rate is up slightly today.

Pension Funds in Historic Surplus Eye $1 Trillion of Bond-Buying (Consumers In Bad Shape With Personal Savings Down 53.5% YoY And Real Weekly Earnings Negative For 21 Straight Weeks, GOLD Soaring!)

Despite polticians like President Biden cheerleading his great economic accomplishments and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen dipping into Social Security to fund the Federal government (much like Biden’s dipping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve), there are serious problems facing America’s middle class and low-wage workers. Inflation is still brutal (but slowing) and REAL weekly earnings growth has been negative for 21 straight months (meaning that Biden’s bragging about wage growth has been destroyed by the inflation created by his energy policies and massive spending sprees). Personal spending rate YoY has plunged -53.5% to cope with inflation. To quote Joe Biden (Chauncy Gardner), “All is well in the garden.” But all is not well in the garden. As a result, we are now seeing pension funds jumping from stocks to bonds.

(Bloomberg) For some of America’s biggest bond buyers, the soft-versus-hard-landing debate on Wall Street might be a sideshow. They’re getting ready to swoop in with as much as $1 trillion, no matter what happens.

One of the pillars of the trillion-dollar pension fund complex is now awash in cash after struggling under deficits for two decades. This rare surplus at corporate defined-benefit plans, thanks to surging interest rates, means they can reallocate to bonds that are less volatile than stocks — “derisking” in industry parlance. 

Strategists at Wall Street banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. say the impact will be far-reaching in what’s already being coined “the year of the bond.” Judging from the cash flooding into fixed income, they’re just getting started.

“The pensions are in good shape. They can now essentially immunize — take out the equities, move into bonds and try to have assets match liabilities,” Mike Schumacher, head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo, said in an interview. “That explains some of the rallying of the bond market over the last three or four weeks.”

An irony of pension accounting is that a year like last year, with its twin routs in stocks and bonds, can be a blessing of sorts to some benefit plans, whose future costs are a function of interest rates. When rates climb, their liabilities shrink and their “funded status” actually improves.

The largest 100 US corporate pension plans now enjoy an average funding ratio of about 110%, the highest level in more than two decades, according to the Milliman 100 Pension Funding index. That’s welcome news for fund managers who suffered years of rock-bottom interest rates and were forced to chase returns in the equity market.

Now, they have an opportunity to unwind that imbalance and Wall Street banks pretty much agree on how they’ll use the extra cash to do it: buying bonds, and then selling stocks to buy more bonds. 

Already this year fixed-income flows are outpacing those of equity funds, marking the most lopsided relationship since July. 

How much of that is due to derisking by pension funds is anyone’s guess. Some of the recent rally in bonds can be ascribed to traders hedging a growth downturn that would hit stocks hardest.

But what’s obvious is their clear preference for long-maturity fixed-income assets that most closely match their long-dated liabilities.

Pension funds need to keep some exposure to stocks to boost returns, but that equation is changing. 

Once a corporate plan reaches full funding, their aim is often to derisk by jettisoning stocks and adding fixed income assets that line up with their liabilities. With the largest 100 US corporate defined benefit funds riding a cash pile of $133 billion after average yields on corporate debt more than doubled last year, their path is wide open.

With yields unlikely to go above their peak level once the Federal Reserve hits its terminal rate of about 5% around the middle of the year, there’s rarely been a better time for them to make the switch to bonds. 

Even if growth surprises on the upside and yields rise, causing bonds to underperform, the incentive is still there, said Bruno Braizinha, a strategist at Bank of America.

“At this point and considering where we are in the cycle, the conditions are favorable for de-risking,” Braizinha said in an interview. 

JPMorgan’s strategist Marko Kolanovic estimates derisking will lead pension managers to buy as much as $1 trillion of bonds; Bank of America’s Braizinha says a $500 billion buying spree is closer to the mark.

How about gold? As the probability of a US debt default looms (as Bride of Chucky Schumer stomps his feet and says ” No budget cuts!”) and the US Treasury 10Y-3M yield curve remains inverted, gold is soaring.

Perhaps pension funds should by gold rather than cryptos.

Good News, Bad News! US New Home Sales Rise 2.3% In December, But DOWN -23% YoY (Median Price UP 7.8% YoY While M2 Money Growth Goes Negative)

The December new home sales report is good news and bad news.

The good news? US new home sales rose by 2.3% in December from November to 616k units sold SAAR. That is the good news.

The bad news? Since December of 2021, new home sales fell -23% year-over-year (YoY).

The median price of new home sales rose 7.8% YoY, but the trend as The Fed withdraws monetary stimulus (orange line) is not good.

Perhaps there is a communications breakdown between the Biden Administration and The Federal Reserve.

Coping With Inflation? US Personal Savings Declines -64.8% YoY In November As M2 Money Growth Falls To Lowest In History (0% YoY)

US headline inflation began to soar as soon as Joe Biden became President. A combination of massive stimulus spending related to the Covid economic shutdown and his war on fossil fuels, driving up gasoline and diesel fuel prices. In other words, headline inflation rose from 1.4% Year-over-year (YoY) at the end of December 2020 to 9.1% YoY in June 2021. It has now simmered down to 7.1% YoY as The Fed continues to remove monetary stimulus.

How have consumers coped with inflation caused by massive Federal spending and Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies? In November, personal savings dropped -64.8% YoY. This marks 20 straight months of declining personal savings.

US M2 Money growth YoY is now … 0%. That is the lowest in US history.

Wow, when The Fed puts its foot on the brakes, …

Silvergate Tumbles After Bank Posts Loss, Fires 40% of Staff (Fed Tightening Making Matters Worse)


Silvergate Capital Corp. shares plunged after the bank said the crypto industry’s meltdown triggered a run on deposits, prompting the company to sell assets at a steep loss and fire 40% of its staff.

Customers withdrew about $8.1 billion of digital-asset deposits from the bank during the fourth quarter, which forced it to sell securities and related derivatives at a loss of $718 million, according to a statement Thursday. Executives said on a conference call that Silvergate may become a takeover target.

“In response to the rapid changes in the digital asset industry during the fourth quarter, we took commensurate steps to ensure that we were maintaining cash liquidity in order to satisfy potential deposit outflows, and we currently maintain a cash position in excess of our digital asset related deposits,” Chief Executive Officer Alan Lane said in the statement. 

The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX sparked a crisis for Silvergate, which held deposits for FTX units and Alameda Research, the trading firm at the heart of the crypto exchange’s downfall. Lawmakers are also scrutinizing the bank. 

Silvergate plunged 44% to $12.34 at 9:48 a.m. in New York, the steepest decline since the La Jolla, California-based company went public in November 2019. The stock is down 91% in the past 12 months. Signature Bank, which said in December that it intended to shed as much as $10 billion deposits from digital-asset clients, fell 5.8% to $111.05.

Silvergate Capital Corporation operates as a bank holding company. The Company, through its subsidiary Silvergate Bank provides a banking platform for innovators, especially in the digital currency industry, and developing product and service solutions addressing the needs of entrepreneurs. Silvergate Capital serves customers in the United States.

Silvergate once saw the crypto industry as giving it a huge growth opportunity. Over the course of a decade, it transformed itself from a firm catering to small businesses into a publicly traded company known for providing banking services to major crypto clients such as Coinbase Global Inc. and Gemini Trust Co. — as well as FTX and Alameda Research.

At least Solana is on the rise.

Sam Bankman-Fried will go down in history as commiting one of the greatest financial frauds in world history. Why did he have four meetings with Biden’s top staffers prior to FTX’s crash and burn?

Surviving Inflation And The Fed: ARK’s Cathie Wood or TSLA’s Elon Musk? Or Bitcoin? (Answer: All Are Down Around -68% YoY)

Trying to survive high inflation is difficult, but surviving The Federal Reserve’s counterattack to inflation is even more difficult.

Two people who constantly appear in the business are ARK’s Cathie Wood and TSLA’s Elon Musk. A third we can add is Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX and Alameda Research infamy.

So which one was the best at surviving inflation and The Fed’s counterattack? Answer? None of them.

Since the same day last year, we have seen M2 Money growth plunge and The Fed Funds Target rate rise rapidly from 25 basis points to 4.50%, a rapid increase. But over the last year, Cathie Wood and ARK fell -68.4%, Elon Musk’s Telsa fell -68.9% and Bitcoin fell -65.1%

So, ARK, Tesla and Bitcoin were demolished in 2022 thanks to inflation and The Fed’s counterattack. But the NASDAQ index was down too, but only -35.2% YoY.

Fed’s Highest Rates In 15 Years To Fight Bidenflation Are Derailing the American Dream (Mortgage Rates Near High Since 2001, Home Costs Double)

The highest interest rates in 15 years are delaying home dreams, putting business plans on ice and forcing many Americans to agree to loan terms that would have been unimaginable just nine months ago. Biden’s anti-fossil fuel policies are helping drive up prices and The Federal Reserve is hiking rates to cool it off.

Most of all, the surge in borrowing costs is punishing the cash-poor. And it’s about to get worse as the Federal Reserve carries on with its anti-inflation campaign and keeps hiking rates next year.

As the Fed’s most aggressive interest-rate hike cycle in a generation filters through the US economy, the gap is widening between the haves and the have-nots. Even without a recession, households and businesses are feeling the financial pain.

Here’s a look at pockets of the economy that are bearing the brunt of the impact.

Housing in Holding Pattern

Manda Waits from Suwanee, Georgia, feels lucky that she and her husband bought their townhouse near Atlanta a year ago with a 3% loan — less than half of where mortgage rates are now. 

To trim expenses amid soaring consumer prices, the couple recently bought a freezer and stocked it with a quarter cow and half a pig sourced from an agricultural school. But they shelved their plan to upgrade to a single-family home for the time being.

“We would like to buy some land to build on, but these rates aren’t making it attractive, so we are in a holding pattern,” said Waits, who receives disability benefits.

Even in the once red-hot market of Tampa, Florida, a few people showing up at an open house is now considered a good day. “People are just waiting on the sidelines,” said Rae Anna Conforti, a realtor with Re/Max Alliance Group.

As mortgage rates hit their highest levels since 2001 this year, real estate agents suddenly found themselves hunting for clients again — if not losing their jobs. Thousands of mortgage employees have already been laid off at lenders including Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The higher rates, coupled with a surge in home values during the pandemic, pushed the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced house to more than $2,000, up from about $1,100 just before Covid-19 hit.

‘Vicious Circle’
The widening gap between the cash-rich and the cash-strapped is playing out at car dealerships across the nation. The former are paying more upfront, while the latter are stuck with high-rate auto loans that will leave them underwater — or forced to settle for cheaper and less reliable vehicles.

Almost one in three car buyers are now taking out six- to seven-year loans on used vehicles to help lower monthly payments.

When consumers are locked for so long, the outstanding balance quickly exceeds a used car’s value, said Oren Weintraub, whose California-based service helps consumers negotiate better prices with dealers for a fee. When they buy their next car, that balance will get tacked onto to the new loan.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” he said.

Matt Tambornini was hoping to take out a car loan to build his credit history. The 22-year-old, who lives near Knoxville, Tennessee, with his parents, figured he’d be in a position to buy a house when mortgage rates eventually come down.

His plan stumbled when a local car dealership offered a 23% loan rate and a 60-month term, a deal that would’ve had him paying thousands more than he wanted. He bought the car anyway, quickly got buyer’s remorse and returned it for a refund.

For now, he’s driving a 15-year-old pick-up he bought with cash.

“It seems like everything is just unaffordable,” Tambornini said.

Soaring Credit Debt 
Interest rates on credit cards that averaged 16.3% at the beginning of the year have climbed to just over 19%, according to Bankrate.com, the highest level in data going back to 1985.

That’s a massive increase especially for lower-income consumers, who may be making the minimum payment and carrying a balance for 20 years, said Scott Sanborn, chief executive officer of LendingClub Corp. 

“I don’t think consumers have fully internalized yet how much their cost of living has actually increased,” Sanborn said.

The  surge in APRs to historical highs isn’t affecting consumers the same way. It makes no difference to those who pay off their balances monthly — many don’t even notice the rate increases — but it’s hitting those who are falling behind.

Mike Lauretti, 24, has about $12,000 in debt on four cards, as well as car, student and private debt. The high school social worker, who lives near Hartford, Connecticut, is working on paying off the card with the smallest amount first before moving to the next — known as the snowball method. He also took an extra job as a coach of the girls basketball team to supplement his income.

“I am using the snowball method to pay off the cards first and then it’ll eventually lead to me paying the private loan,” the largest, he said.

American consumers will end the year with about $110 billion more in credit-card debt than they started with, which would be close to an annual record, according to WalletHub, an online personal finance data firm.
The reality may hit next year, when many economists predict the US will enter a recession. Household debt delinquencies are still well below their end of 2019 levels, but they’re picking up.

“We expect delinquencies to continue to increase, with new credit-card and auto delinquencies reaching pre-pandemic levels in the first half of next year,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report.

Small Businesses

In Dayton, Ohio, Clara Osterhage would love to add to her 82 Great Clips hair salons and she knows people who are looking to sell. 

“But I can’t put myself in a place to buy them, because the interest rates on any money that we would borrow would be astronomical,” she said.

Matt Haller, chief executive of the International Franchise Association, said high loan rates will keep smaller buyers of franchises out of the market, while bigger companies with more access to capital consolidate.

Meantime, some would-be buyers are demanding that sellers help finance the deal, said Dustin Zeher of Horizon Business Brokers in Virginia.

“We’re talking about 50% to 80% of the transaction, because they are cognizant and aware of the rising interest rates and how that has effectively reduced their buying power and has increased the cost of the transaction,” Zeher said.

Greg Vojnovic, owner of a small fast-food chain in the Youngstown, Ohio area, said the debt service — or debt payments — on his Small Business Administration loan has risen by $70,000 annually, and he expects it to climb at least another $15,000 as the Fed continues to raise rates. He’ll have to cut two part-time corporate-office positions to lower costs. 

“If bacon goes up, people understand if you raise prices,” said Vojnovic, owner of the Hot Dog Shoppe. “If chicken goes up, people understand that. If debt service goes up, you just kind of have to eat that.”

Here is Joe Biden, shooting the hopes of millions of Americans in the tuchus.

Stimulypto! US REAL 10Y Yield, REAL Fed Funds Target Rate And REAL Wage Growth Have Been Negative Under “Inflation Joe” Biden And An Overly Generous Fed

Like the Mel Gibson movie “Apocalypto!”, we are seeing the US middle class and low-wage workers being economically sacrificed by The Federal Reserve, the Biden Administration and Congress.

Despite the rhetoric that Fed stimulus (aka “Stimulypto!”) is being removed, the US remains plagued by NEGATIVE real 10-year Treasury yields, NEGATIVE real Fed Funds Target rate and NEGATIVE real average hourly earnings growth under Inflation Joe.

This chart demonstrates the Stimulytpo problem. Prior to Covid, US wage growth was consistently higher than headline inflation. But starting in March 2021, three months after Biden became President, headline inflation became higher than wage growth.

Even with all these negative REAL rates, the US economy is forecast to have almost no growth in 2023.

To quote Peggy Lee, Is That All There Is? Trillions in Federal spending and Fed monetary stimulus and all we get it 0.50% Real GDP??