Sunday, February 4, 2018

Markets Turn Ugly As Bond Yields Soar in Ground Hog Day Massacre

Even as January's non-farm payroll report painted a rosy employment picture, adding 200,000 jobs for the month, the 10-year note crested over the 2.80% level on Friday, sending stocks into as vicious tailspin in a mid-winter crash.

The nearly 666-point decline on the Dow was the sixth largest one-day point drop in market history, though in percentage terms was the mildest of the top ten, all of which have occurred in the 21st century.

The fact that all of the major point losses happened since 2000 is made obvious by the enormity of the index, still standing at more then 25,000, an epochal figure in market terms. Notably, the Dow Jones Industrial Average first passed the 10,000 mark in 1999, amid the notorious dotcom boom, prior to the dotcom bust, which took a full three-and-a-half years to fully play out.

Friday's drop was the largest since a 634.76-point loss on August 8, 2011 which sent the blue chips down 5.55%, to 10,809.85. Noting the relative percentage puniness of the Ground Hog Day Massacre, it may be wise to expect larger point and percentage losses in the near to mid-range future (three months to one year).

While it may be simplistic to point to the gaudy valuations placed on equities in the current market dynamic, it is nonetheless a significant factor in the current shaky environment and as good a reason to sell out of stocks as any, though the other major catalyst - rising bond yields - provides a more granular perspective.

The long end of the Treasury yield curve was extended on Friday as the 30-year bond smashed through the psychological 3.00% barrier, signaling to long-term investors that the aging bull market in stocks (and bonds) may be coming to a quick conclusion.

Bull and bear markets do not begin nor end in vacuums, which is why this most recent pullback should be regarded as a change of tone in market functioning. Nothing gos on forever, and empirical data suggests that while stocks have enjoyed salad days for years, the general economy and the welfare of millions of Americans has been less than a full meal.

It's easy to look at macro data and conclude that all is well and central banks have the markets and global economies under control, but sometimes one needs to look around and actually see the mountains of debt, stock buybacks, and central bank meddling which have fueled the gigantic recovery and historic stock gains.

Money is undoubtably becoming tighter and the labor market - according to government figures - is straining at full employment, but wages gains have not nearly kept pace with either inflation or taxes for at least the past 15 years. A breaking point is coming, wherein multi-national corporate behemoths are going to have to sacrifice the massive salaries bestowed upon top executives in exchange for pay increases for Mr. and Mrs. America.

With the Federal Reserve ready to hike the federal funds rate another 25 basis points at their upcoming March FOMC rate policy meeting, the world's central bank seeks to create a buffer against an almost certain recession, one which they, by their own reckless actions, will have caused.

If stock declines continue through February, expect the Fed to pause on their quest to raise rates and unload debt at the same time. The outward absurdity of their position is dangerous to the welfare of not only business entities, but individuals and governments as well.

What may have been the most telling circumstance from Friday's demolition of all asset classes, gold and silver also took precipitous drops, action which harkens back to the tumultuous days of the fall of 2008, when precious metals were slammed along with stocks. Notably, it was the metals which recovered first, but under the current conditions of mad money mindlessness, the shiny stuff may be suppressed even further, simply because central banks don't appreciate competition for their various fake currencies by real money.

The era of easy money is ending.

Real assets will endure.

At the Close, Friday, February 2, 2018:
Dow: 25,520.96, -665.75 (-2.54%)
NASDAQ: 7,240.95, -144.92 (-1.96%)
S&P 500: 2,762.13, -59.85 (-2.12%)
NYSE Composite: 13,085.35, -296.62 (-2.22%)

For the Week:
Dow: -1095.75 (-4.12)
NASDAQ: -264.83 (-3.53%)
S&P 500: -110.74 (-3.85%)
NYSE Composite: -551.67 (-4.05%)

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