Bill Gross warned investors to watch for the 10-year Treasury yield to exceed 2.6% as a signal that a bear market in bonds had begun. Here we go with another bond market scare, just like the wrong one of 2013 known as the taper tantrum.
Market history shows that a rising rate environment causes a short-term bond-price dip only, and that account balances soon recover as distributions rise and bond prices rebound.
More important, if you’re worried about what interest rates and yields will do to your bond funds, you’re investing the wrong way. Do what I do: Use bond funds as a repository for stock-market buying power, then you’ll benefit from changing prices on both sides of the equation.
Hello, I’m Jason Kelly. Thank you for joining me.
Should you avoid bonds?
Ever since the taper tantrum of summer 2013, investors have worried about a bond crash.
Last week brought a fresh warning from bond guru Bill Gross at Janus. He says to watch the 10-year Treasury yield for signs of a bear market in bonds, and believes crossing above 2.6% will be the signal.
Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions, so a rising yield will indicate falling prices.
Let’s get some perspective. Take a look at this chart.
This shows the 10-year Treasury yield over the past five years. It spiked above 2% in 2012, then settled back to 1.6%.
The surge to more than 2.6% in 2013 that lingered into 2014 was the taper tantrum.
Now, the taper tantrum was kicked off by then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saying in spring 2013 that the central bank might cut the pace of its bond purchases, or “taper” them, and that’s what sent yields soaring.
This Bloomberg story dated May 23, 2013 captures the tone of that time.
Notice that exceeding just 2% was considered headline worthy at the time. Nobody could have known that the yield would rise all the way to 3% by the end of December 2013.
Now, what was Bill Gross saying back then? He warned that low interest rates could persist for a long time because the economy was bad.
Two years ago, with the yield back down below 2%, he wrote that “The good times are over.” Bearishness at that time was laced with references to falling yields, falling stock prices, and falling oil prices.
But, the Fed didn’t raise interest rates until December 2015, then again in December 2016. The taper tantrum of 2013 was premature, which is often the case, as you’ll see in a moment.
Even after interest rates rose, did bonds crash? No.
Look at BND, the Vanguard Total Bond fund.
As yields soared in the taper tantrum, down went bond prices. As yields soared after the election and rate hike last December, down went bond prices.
But, look at the event in the middle. The Fed’s first rate increase happened just before that price spike. Shouldn’t the yield have risen along with the Fed’s key rate, and shouldn’t prices have gone down? That’s conventional wisdom, but it didn’t happen. So who’s to say what will happen next?
Nobody can know what action the Fed will take, nor when, nor how bonds will react to that action.
Even more important, bond investors should not fixate on price change. Why? Because most of a bond fund’s total return, that is overall profit, comes from distribution payments, not price change.
If you need money from your bonds right away, you should be in a bond fund that doesn’t fluctuate much: a short-term bond fund.
If you don’t need the money soon, it can keep collecting distribution payments through short-term price volatility and come out ahead over time.
This makes sense, right? If yields are rising as prices fall, eventually the payouts from bond funds will rise, too. Bond funds will acquire newly issued, higher-yielding bonds, so their payouts will rise. The key is, you need time.
Rob Williams at Schwab looked at this phenomenon in a paper he published last November. He found, quote:
“In the past three cycles, the six months just prior to and few months just after the first rate hikes were the most volatile. Markets, after all, are forward looking. They often try to anticipate future moves in fundamentals — for example, interest rates — in advance. After the initial rate hikes, prices stabilized or recovered, and income payments gradually helped returns rise.”
Now, this is exactly what we’re talking about here. Notice, for example, how bond funds of various categories fared following the rate-hiking environment of 2004 to 2006.
Rates rose from 1.25% to 5.25% in 25 months. Following the rough patch in the beginning, all bond funds recovered just fine. This is probably how it will go in the current cycle as well.
Now, in addition to making sure you’re in the appropriate type of bond fund for your time frame, I recommend that you use bond funds the way I do in The Kelly Letter: as storage for safe capital used for buying the stock market during down periods.
My signal system either buys or sells stocks once per quarter. If it sells, the proceeds go into a bond fund. If it buys, the money comes out of the bond fund. This means that both sides of the equation can benefit from fluctuating prices, and that investors don’t need to fret over whether now is a good or bad time to own either asset class.
Just run the system. It’ll react appropriately to whatever the dual price lines do.
So, should you care whether the 10-year yield hits 2.6%, the way Bill Gross suggests?
If you’re worried about what-ifs like that, you’re investing the wrong way.
Use bond funds the right way and you’ll never have to care where rates are going — which is good, because nobody knows.
If you’d rather not think about how to run bonds the right way, and just want to begin an automated system that manages them for you, consider joining The Kelly Letter.
I’ll get you all set up to run the signal once a quarter, and start beating the market with no stress from indecision.
To learn more about the letter, please visit jasonkelly.com.
Have a great weekend. Kelly Letter subscribers, I will see you Sunday morning.
Thank you for watching!
For more punditry gone wrong, see the Z-Val Zone Stock Market Forecasts page.
To check the performance of my stock/bond signal system, please visit my Strategies page.
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Look insideThe Kelly Letter
Stock market permabears forever warn about a crash, and for good reason. It makes for reliable marketing because the stock market declines multiple times per year, on average. Soon after making their predictions, the permabears can often say they told us so.
What they leave out is that their advice costs investors who follow them gobs of money. Yes, the stock market goes down sometimes, but it comes back and nets out to a positive result. It doesn’t matter when stock prices will rise and fall next, just that you react rationally, in a predefined manner, to what they do.
Hello, I’m Jason Kelly. Thank you for watching!
Is the stock market about to crash?
Well, the usual chorus of permabears thinks so, and with a new president on the way and interest rates having gone up last month, many investors are nervous.
Now, some background here: Last year, the S&P 500 gained 12%, a good year despite the permabears saying the whole time that it’s going to go down. Remember, we had a rough January and then they said that’s never a good sign, then we had the Brexit fears, and then we had the US election, right?
But last month, on December 14, the Fed raised its key interest rate by 0.25% to a range of 0.50% to 0.75%. Which was only the second time in a decade.
Now, the permabears, of course, say everything is sliding into the mud. That’s what they always do, right? But Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said this: “Economic growth has picked up since the middle of the year. We expect the economy will continue to perform well.”
OK, well that sounds pretty good.
Now, how had stocks done up to the Fed’s announcement? Very well. Here’s the S&P SmallCap 600 via the IJR ETF, one of my favorites. Look at that. Steady climb higher over the year, and a rocket shot up from the beginning of November, right?
Now, the day after the Fed’s announcement, David Stockman went on Fox Business and said that President-Elect Donald Trump, Donald Trump, must oust Yellen on his first day in office.
Now, who’s David Stockman? Take a look.
He’s the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan Administration, now a permabear pundit. His career resume conveys too much authority for a man whose stock market commentary has cost investors enormous profit.
I mean, just look at his post-Fed-rate-increase view on Fox.
He said Yellen has “no clue that this is a massive bubble,” complained about a giant rise in small-cap stocks, and claimed the “Fed has created massive distortions, total mispricing in bonds and stock markets. Very unstable bubble everywhere.”
Now, higher markets are only a “mispricing” to him and other permabears who’ve missed their rise. To those of us who’ve owned this 8-year-old bull market, there’s nothing amiss at all.
I mean, if rising prices are Janet Yellen’s fault, let’s keep her a while longer, shall we?
She’s been chair of the Fed for just two years. Before her, Ben Bernanke [was the chair, and] Stockman accused him of distorting markets for the first six years of the current bull market.
This is the same David Stockman who warned last February that bulls would get slaughtered, watched stocks rise like mad after that, then said on CNBC in early November that investors should sell everything.
That was the very bottom. He was wrong in February, wrong in November, and wrong again in December. Now, here’s that IJR chart extended through January 6th, [with Stockman’s warnings highlighted.]
He’s a contrary indicator, telling investors to sell stocks just when they should be buying, and then reiterating that warning forever until it will one day come true.
Meanwhile, the more the market rises after he warns investors away from it, the more dangerous he claims it’s becoming.
He will repeat his warnings until the market inevitably turns down one day, then he’ll say he told us so.
He’ll keep sidelining investors who should have been profiting off this run. After they’ve missed everything and the market takes a dip, he’ll announce that he foresaw the whole thing.
For more on Stockman’s antics, see my installment after his “sell everything” warning in November. It’s linked in the description below.
It’s not just Stockman, of course, it’s all the permabears. They’re engaged in a game of marketing, not forecasting. They scare investors into paying attention. It’s not about helping people profit. It’s about frightening them into handing over money for management services or something related.
They’re clever to predict declines. Why? Because declines appear regularly along the long-term march higher. They’re a normal part of the stock market, not some catastrophe to be fretted over.
Ben Carlson, writing at awealthofcommonsense.com, researched the frequency of market declines. In his January 8th article, “How Market Crashes Happen,” he reported the average frequencies of declines in the S&P 500 from 1928 to 2016:
Have a look at this. Here’s his four-bullet list:
5% losses happen 3 times a year, about.
10% losses once a year.
15% losses once every 2 yrs.
20% loss once every 3-4 yrs.
These are averages, of course. Declines don’t happen on a schedule, but this is instructive in showing that they are inevitable and not rare — and not catastrophic.
The regularity of normal stock market setbacks is what powers permabear marketing. They know that they’ll eventually have a chance to say, “I told you so.”
Now, don’t let them fool you away from powerful stock market profits. Manage your money with rational price reaction only.
Of course markets will decline periodically. Don’t lose sleep trying to avoid the declines, and failing to avoid them. Instead, expect them and build a rational reaction to them into your money management plan.
That’s what I do. It works without any stress from indecision.
In 2016, while David Stockman’s followers made zero sitting in cash on the sidelines, the Kelly Letter subscribers gained 18.9%. I’m proud of that: 58% more than the S&P 500’s 12% gain, simply by following the letter’s predefined plan of price reaction.
Eventually, smart investors realize that this business is just about a moving price line. It doesn’t matter why, when, or where the line moves, only how your money reacts to where it did move.
Forecasting is completely pointless and, more important, unnecessary. All you need is price movement in both directions, up and down, and the right reaction to it, to make money in stocks.
Notice: You need price movement. It’s a condition of the stock market to be used, not feared.
Above all else, ignore the forecasters! They don’t know what’s coming, and it doesn’t matter anyway.
Alright. Thank you for watching. Have a great week!
For more on Stockman, see How David Stockman Got the 2016 Stock Market Wrong.
For more punditry gone wrong, see the Stock Market Forecasts page.
To see the performance of rational reaction the way I do it, please visit my Strategies page.
In this video, I remind you of the need to ignore pundit commentary on the stock market. As an example, I shine a light on David Stockman, former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan Administration, who got the 2016 stock market entirely wrong, pointing investors to the sidelines during a very profitable year.
Stop following pundits. Stop paying attention to forecasts. Start a plan of rational reaction to beat the market without stress from indecision. To follow others on this better path, subscribe to The Kelly Letter.
This year, in 2016, per usual, the pundits have gotten it all wrong.
Now, it’s very important to understand how ineffective forecasting is, so I want to go through how they got this year wrong, and I’m going to focus in particular on one “z-val” — there’s a term I use a lot: zero-validity forecaster.
He’s not alone, but he’s very convenient because he’s been totally wrong this year and keeps reiterating the same mistake.
The one we’re going to look at is David Stockman, who is the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan Administration, and now he forecasts the stock market, goes on TV and tells people to do the wrong thing.
And we’re going to go through one way that David has been wrong this year as he’s been in many years, just to use him as an example of why you should ignore these guys.
Alright, on November 3rd, on CNBC Stockman told people to sell everything. Now, November 3rd was the absolute bottom of the recent stock market rally, it was the beginning of the take-off. The worst possible time anybody could have been told to sell stocks is when Stockman went on CNBC and said “sell everything.”
Now let me read to you part of what he said here:
“If Hillary wins it’ll be very bad. If Trump wins, it’ll be worse. … If you have a paralyzed Congress, if you have a Fed out of dry powder, and you have a market that’s basically been chopping for 700 days … the markets are hideously inflated … delusional that the business cycle has ended … there could be a 25% drawdown.”
That’s what he was saying on there at — I have to repeat — the very, very bottom of the recent market cycle. From there it was all up. I mean, the market just absolutely rocketed higher.
On November 25, just over three weeks after that forecast, iShares S&P SmallCap, IJR, one of my favorite small-cap funds, was up 17%. [Up] 17% in three weeks! That’s what David Stockman warned you away from.
Now, at the end of this did Stockman come back and say, “Well, we got that wrong. Turns out, it would have been better to stay in the market.” No, of course not.
[He] comes back on last week, just ahead of [the end of] that three-week wonderful run, says again on CNBC [that] this strong rally is being caused by a “robo machine trying to tag new highs.”
Now, first of all, what does that mean? I guess he’s referring to algo trading or something. But even if so, even if that’s why the market went higher, so what? Don’t you ever think about this?
So what, David? Stocks went up. Those of us who owned stocks did just fine. Why do we care if the reason they went up is a robo trading algorithm, a weather pattern, an election, a political outcome somewhere that’s not the United States, why do we care?
All of these subjects that pundits bring up are just price pressures. Some are up, some are down, nets out to the stock market rising twice as often as it falls over time. Really. Historically, the stock market has gone up two thirds of the time and declined about one third of the time. So the odds are really against these guys from the get-go.
Alright, back to it.
So, he says “sell everything” again. He just totally ignored the runaway stock rally, and he said, now notice bonds have “cratered by nearly $2 trillion worldwide.” Cratered by nearly $2 trillion worldwide. Now doesn’t that sound just horrible? Oh my gosh, $2 trillion. I must be getting killed on my bond funds.
First of all, hasn’t David, and haven’t any of the other pundits, noticed that stock prices and bond prices tend to move differently? And, you’re supposed to, as an investor — and Stockman presents himself as a professional investor — you’re supposed to allocate accordingly.
So, in other words, when bond prices are dropping — nothing to say about distributions, payments, right, just the prices — are dropping, many times stock prices are rising. And, indeed, that was exactly the case this time! Stocks were roaring higher as bonds went down.
Now, the $2 trillion worldwide makes it sound so horrible, doesn’t it? But let’s look at the real effect. Check it out.
This is the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF, symbol BND. How much did it go down in November? A whopping … hold your breath … 2.8%. [Just] 2.8%, David! Yeah, wow, that really matches the “$2 trillion meltdown,” doesn’t it?
And, by the way, when bonds were going down 3%, small-cap stocks were going UP 17%. I’ll take that combination! Gee, if that’s what we’re being warned against, count me in! And count you in, too. This is why we’ve got to ignore these guys.
Now, he has, you know, he called this “slaughtered,” right? “They’ve been slaughtered.” And he loves that term, “slaughtered.” Here you go. He’s been saying it for a long time. Look at this.
Back on February 6, Stockman wrote an article [titled “Why The Bulls Will Get Slaughtered”]. This was after stocks crashed in January, and he joined all the other bears in saying, “As goes January, so goes the year.” And so, of course, he tells everybody at the very bottom of the January crash that it’s time to get out. And he said that the thing he was talking about then was the job market being fishy, the jobs report being fishy.
There’s always something. So, it was the election at the beginning of November that he got wrong, it was the jobs market being fishy at the end of the January crash that he got wrong and he joined everybody else saying “As goes January, so goes the year, get out, get out, get out.”
And, then there was the chorus of bears for the Brexit, right? Look at that one. Out came the warnings. More crashing ahead. The UK votes on June 23rd to exit the European Union, and stocks had a quick, very quick, crash. And of course the headlines go up, the images go up, scary, scary, scary. The bears come out, “Get out of stocks. Here we go. The big one we’ve been warning about!”
Wrong. Again, stocks did just fine.
Now, what’s the big picture here? It’s not just about David Stockman. If it’s not him it’s Jim Cramer, it’s Marc Faber, it’s another one. Insert name here. These guys are paraded on TV to keep the traffic coming, giving their dire warnings, make a great headline and then disappear while you languish on the sidelines with no profit if you followed their advice.
Look at the big picture this year.
This is a 2016 chart of the small-cap market. Thanks a lot, bears! Thanks for these warnings. Look at that. They told us the declining January meant a bad year. They told us the Brexit would collapse markets. And then they told us the US election would kill the markets.
Meanwhile, look what happened. Steady march higher. That’s not a chop sideways, that’s a march higher. That’s the wall of worry. That is stocks rising through thick and thin, the way they have always done! The way they’ve always done!
These guys are not new, and stock market behavior is not new, and you need to understand this if you’re going to keep your money on track the way we do around here.
So, ignore the pundits, ignore the z-vals, and stick to what works: rational price reaction in the stock market.
More on that later.
The Upheaval of 2016
by Jason Kelly
The polls and the pundits, they got it all wrong,
this year’s election that lasted so long.
Crowds cheered outsiders from the left and the right,
but the pros dismissed both crowds as just impolite.
Saying Bernie and Trump did not belong,
they flagged Hillary as their winner all along.
They loved her experience, they loved her style,
they did not care she might have to stand trial.
With friends at Goldman and a million miles flown,
she was simply “inevitable,” we heard them intone.
Her email server never bothered them a bit,
though she could not explain it, they had to admit.
Her need to hide everything from light of day,
they thought would be fine for the U.S. of A.
Her party disagreed as voters felt the Bern,
but the cronies at the top refused to learn.
They colluded and schemed to thwart the desire
of people wanting leaders they could actually admire.
Down went the Bern, up came the Hill,
away went the chance to ever fulfill
the dream of progressives for a leader to resist
every flirtation from a lobbyist.
Meanwhile, across the other side of the aisle,
an unlikely candidate rose from the pile.
They laughed at the “Drumpf,” his money and his hair.
They called him a blue-collar billionaire.
They said he shouldn’t say most things that he said.
They wanted a normal politician instead.
He ignored them to speak what people wanted to hear,
about immigration, and jobs, and the need to steer
away from globalist open-border pitchmen,
to make America great for Americans, again.
They poked fun at The Donald’s “disdain for the facts,”
never grasping the way his message attracts
voters tired of promises made but not kept
by career politicians entirely inept.
Smug in their fact-checking obsession of late,
critics missed Trump’s message in every debate.
Of Washington’s mistakes, the one that was worst,
was forgetting to care for Americans first.
When media fail and political parties look alike,
the people are left with no choice but to strike.
This year of the outsider brought two to the stump,
but Democrats killed Bernie, leaving only Trump.
Hillary dragged a list of mistakes to retry,
attracting the attention of the F.B.I.
With Bernie relegated to the political dump,
Dems nominated a person less popular than Trump.
Blame? They say it lies with a low-info crowd,
but it’s hard to find fault with what voters disallowed.
Their wants from politicians are depressingly minimal,
but do include the preference that they not be criminal.
This basic sniff test smelled bad on the left,
leaving the presidential ballot bereft
of a person the progressives could rally around
to prevent the “Orange Menace” from claiming the crown.
The only outsider candidate on voting day
was an outcast the media dismissed with “no way!”
With his Twitter account and a straight-shooting style,
Trump surged to the front in the campaign’s last mile.
When the nation looks back on this race for the ages,
they’ll call it a year when voters blew off the sages.
The “experts” said Trump was a racist, and evil,
but the unpolled masses backed his upheaval.
“No puppets on strings for us!” they said,
as the big-money donors looked on with dread.
“No pay-to-play foundations, no meaningless choice.
We’re mad as hell and we want a new voice!”
With Princeton odds for Hillary pegged at 99 percent,
defiant American voters made Donald Trump their president.
Off he goes to the White House, and let’s wish him all the best.
For the world, for the country, for the culture of the West.
To the pundits and the pollsters who did such awful jobs,
to the arrogant academics, to the tone-deaf political snobs:
Put down your cocktail glasses, leave your ivory steeple.
Take a walk down Main Street and meet American people.
Listen to the things they say, find what their lives are missing.
Come to see their point of view and stop your incessant hissing.
This republic of ours is not your toy, it’s not a game to play.
There’s a history to honor, a future to build, and debts we must repay.
Reflect on your duty to honestly report — a skill that’s been forsaken.
Perhaps next time when it’s all on the line, you won’t be so mistaken.
Sam Wang at Princeton Election is going to be eating a bug, after all.
He’s the poll aggregator who assigned a greater-than-99% chance of Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, who wrote at Twitter on October 19: “It is totally over. If Trump wins more than 240 electoral votes, I will eat a bug.” Bon appetit, Sam.
Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the President Elect of The United States of America, a stunning victory for a nominee who was ridiculed by the establishment from the moment he declared his candidacy on June 16, 2015 at Trump Tower in New York City.
We as stock investors will now need to deal with a knee-jerk reaction to this surprise, but it shouldn’t last long, as I explained in last Sunday’s special Election Edition of The Kelly Letter.
I wrote that “the equivalent of Truman beating Dewey would be Trump beating Clinton. The latter is favored to win. A Trump victory would be a shock, and would likely send stocks lower in the short term.”
Indeed, here in Japan, the Nikkei 225 rolled over at 10am our time when it became clear that Hillary did not have it in the bag. The rolling over turned into a steep ramp down that left the index 5.4% lower by the close.
In New York, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite futures both headed toward a 4% decline in pre-market trading.
We’re getting that short-term drop in prices that we knew was a possibility. This can be unnerving for people, particularly given the widespread wringing of hands in the media over what Trump will mean to the world, so I want to reiterate last Sunday’s message:
Therefore, rather than panic, now is a fine time to:
The signal advised a sale a month ago, ahead of the bulk of this slide, creating buying power for those already running the plan. Should the current discount persist, we’ll be able to put that capital to work in January. If not, then at least we’ll enjoy the holiday cheer of watching a market recovery.
I can already anticipate the most popular response I’ll receive to this message, which is a reply asking whether it would be wise for people already running a signal plan to put more capital into their stock fund right now.
The official answer is “no,” because the plan should be run by the book. However, it will not crater your plan if you really want to take action in this moment and buy some shares of IJR or other stock fund. The plan is resilient enough to get through whatever unfolds.
So, do whatever you want — as long as it’s not selling today. Do not do that. Buying or sitting tight are fine. Selling is not.
I am not worried about the future to any greater degree due to Trump’s victory.
The worries I had prior to the election, I still have. I don’t have new ones. I do not believe he’s apt to start a nuclear war or cause another calamity, as was suggested repeatedly during the campaign. American government includes many checks and balances. Even with a Republican majority in Congress, Trump will run an administration, not a monarchy.
To those who supported Trump, congratulations.
To those who did not, try to find comfort in knowing it’s possible for a complete outsider to violate political convention and win. The mere idea of that is refreshing, regardless of the specific candidates involved.
Don’t let the stock-market fallout get you down. It will pass. Those who buy into it or keep running their plan uninterrupted through it will thank themselves later.
Have a good rest of the week.
Subscribers, I’ll see you Sunday, as usual. See? You can still count on some things.