"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Friday, May 10, 2013

Aussie Breaks Par with US Dollar

Yesterday the Japanese Yen broke "PAR" with the US Dollar, a significant development. Today it is the Australian Dollar or "Aussie" which has now broken par.

I mentioned this currency because of its ties to the commodity sector in general. While it is not an exact relationship, the Australian Dollar as a general rule of thumb tends to perform strongly when commodities are in a rising trend. This is  because of the nature of a large part of the Australian economy, which is involved in the production of raw materials. Remember, it was soaring Chinese demand for commodities across the board which helped fan the flames of Australia's economy and contributed to its growth. With Chinese demand apparently slowing somewhat, Australia is feeling the impact. Just this week the RBA lowered interest rates there and brought about a wave of selling into the currency as a result.

Today we are seeing across the board weakness in the commodity sector with hardly a single commodity in the green except for copper and feeder cattle, which are moving higher on the bearish USDA grain reports. That is resulting in more selling of the Aussie. Even the Canadian Dollar is lower today as it too is getting some residual selling coming in as commodity prices, most notably, crude oil are sinking.

This is what makes the move in the interest rate markets even more interesting. The Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) is really taking it on the chin in today's session even as interest rates soar higher. One has to wonder which one of these signals is more accurate right now. So far the macro funds are jettisoning commodities as the strong US Dollar has their algorithms selling across the board in the sector. If however, some begin to suspect that the Central Bankers might just get their wish of generating "benign" inflation, then we might see some bottoms forged in the commodity sector although that is way too premature to look for at this point in time. It is just something that we will see if and when we do get a solid shift in sentiment towards inflation and away from deflation.

I might make a note here and tell you that the weakness in the Yen is beginning to impact consumers over in Japan. A large number of products are imported into that country, particularly energy, and with the Yen collapsing, the cost of those imported goods is rising rapidly. This is no doubt the reason that we are seeing such volatility in the Japanese government bond markets over there right now.

Abe and company are getting their wish - they are going to win the battle against deflation no matter what, but the "no matter what" is that which should worry the citizenry over in the land of the rising sun.

Yields Spiking Higher

I am not quite sure what to make of it just yet but we are seeing yields rising across the latter end of the curve today. Yields have generally been quietly sneaking up in the last few sessions but when the Yen fell below PAR with the US Dollar yesterday, something changed in the interest rate markets and they are now spiking.

So far we have watched stocks rally into the stratosphere without a large outflow from bonds in general. I think this is because traders/investors still are a bit leery of this broad based equity market rally especially given the signs of a general slowing of overall global economic conditions. With commodity prices sinking, there has been a consensus that inflation is a non-factor and thus bonds are an okay place into which to diversify some money, "JUST IN CASE".

This week however seems to have brought an indication that things might just be shifting a bit. As you can see from the chart, the Ten Year is pushing back towards the 2% level. Rates have not been able to sustain themselves above this level for any length of time. If they do, then we will want to take note of it since it would be a very serious indicator that sentiment towards bonds and thus inflation, could be undergoing some re-evaluation.

What is especially interesting to me is that this spike higher in interest rates is occurring against a backdrop of sinking commodity prices. On the one hand we are getting deflationary signals in that sector. On the other hand, interest rates are rising. Hmmm......

We keep getting comments from the various Fed governors that inflation is not a concern. As a matter of fact, some were just recently concerned that it was perhaps too low! Needless to say, this assessment does not square with a rise in rates on the back end of the curve. The market is obviously beginning to contradict this although I want to repeat that this is not as of yet confirmed.

Stay tuned on this one.... These interest rates are the single most important market on the planet in my opinion and any shift in sentiment, albeit even a small one, must not be ignored.