“Bond King” Gross Retires, Dudley “Amazed and Baffled” About Fed’s Balance Sheet Unwind And World’s Largest Pension Fund Suffers Catastrophic Quarter (Boogie In The Dark?)

I feel like investors are doing the “Boogie In The Dark” when it comes to understanding this broken market.

What’s going on?

First, bond king Bill Gross (formerly of PIMCO then Janus-Henderson) has thrown in the towel after 50 years.  His success at PIMCO was in the greatest bond bull run in modern history. But his Janus fund started near the peak of The Fed’s QE3 balance sheet expansion. Then his fund underperformed when The Fed started unwinding their balance sheet (and raising their target rate). Translation: The Fed got bond king Gross dizzy … and he retired.

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And that brings me to the former New York Fed President William Dudley.

(Bloomberg) — Former Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley said he’s “amazed and baffled” at the attention the wind-down of the U.S. central bank’s balance sheet has been receiving from investors, pointing to other culprits as the likely cause of recent volatility in financial markets.

Amazed and baffled? Just ask Bill Gross about the importance of Fed’s wind-down.

Then we have the world’s largest pension fund, Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund that lost 9.1 percent, or 14.8 trillion yen ($136 billion), in the three months ended Dec. 31. The decline in value and the rate of loss were the steepest based on comparable data back to April 2008. Domestic stocks were the fund’s worst performing investment, followed by foreign equities. Assets fell to 150.7 trillion yen at the end of December from a record 165.6 trillion yen in September.

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But who helped break the market by distorting asset prices and returns? The Federal Reserve and other global central banks.

With so many uncertainties in global market (Brexit, trade wars, Venezuela’s meltdown, The Fed’s uncertain policy path, Italian debt crisis. etc., …

(Bloomberg) — Italy is preparing to sell as much as 1.8 billion euros ($2.1 billion) of state-owned real estate as it seeks to rein in soaring debt, people with knowledge of the plan said.

investors should hedge their risk exposure across markets … or move to cash or short-term Treasuries. In other words, take out some insurance.

Lastly, down in Virginia, we are suffering through yet another embarrassing governor (Northam) after McAuliffe and his electric call debacle.

Bye, bye Bill Gross. I can’t stand to see you go.

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IMF Downgrades Eurozone Growth To 1.6% (Global Forecast At 3-Year Low)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has downgraded economic growth for the Eurozone to 1.6 for 2019. weoupdatejan2019.  But Japan is even worse at a forecast of 1.1% for 2019.

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Russia is also forecast to be sub-2% as 1.6%.

The Eurozone and Japan are drunk as a skunk on global Central Bank zero interest rate policies.

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Bubble Trouble? Household Net Worth Rising Faster Than GDP (Debt Bubbles In Canada, Australia And China)

The Federal Reserve’s zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and quantitative easing (QE) helped to rebuild US household net worth. But it was rebuilt with asset bubbles that invariably burst.

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And courtesy of Kevin Smith at Crescat Capitalm here is a chart of asset bubbles and household/corporate debt as percentage of GDP. The most vulnerable? Canada, China and Australia.

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Canada, Australia and China represent 3 of the lowest 5 countries in terms of % of stocks with negative annua free cash flows.

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Shrimp on the barbie, mate?

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Why Interest Rates Are Not Likely To Rise Much In The Near Future (Ford Cutting Thousands Of European Jobs, China Car Sales Plunge 13% YoY, Etc.)

Since early November 2018 when the 10-year Tteasury note yield hit 3.24%, both the Treasury yield and 30 year mortgage rate (MBA) have plunged.

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Partly to blame is the slowing economies around the globe, particularly in Europe (check out Ford’s announcement of job cuts in Europe: Ford Motor Co. will shed thousands of jobs at its European operations as part of a bid to return the business to profitability with a broad restructuring that could include shuttering factories).

And then there is that 13% YoY decline in China Passenger Car Sales.

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So, despite global zero-interest policies (except for the US), global economies are slowing.

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It is difficult to push US interest rates higher when the global economy is slowing down.

To be sure, there are a whole host of wild cards that could send interest rates rising again: 1) US-China trade agreement, 2) ending the US government shutdown, 3) resolution of the neverending BREXIT issue, 4) France and Germany’s struggles to raise energy prices (Paris Accord?), etc.

The implied probability of a Fed rate hike in this global environment is pretty low.

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And both the US Treasury actives curve and Dollar Swap curve remain kinked.

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Will The Fed emulate Frank Booth from “Blue Velvet” and provide more oxygen to markets?

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