To start, please review slides 29-39 of our 12/16 presentation on Emerging Markets, which outlines a probable fundamental case for EUR parity and a re-test of the August ’98 lows on the JPY with respect to the intermediate term. Those just might be 11 of the most important ~20 charts in all over global macro by this time next year. CLICK HERE to access that presentation.
Moving along, let’s review where consensus is on rates:
- We know the sell-side is bullish on rates (i.e. bearish on Treasury bonds). Always have been; always will be. To my knowledge, there simply aren’t enough banking and trading fees associated with being bullish on long-term Treasury bonds in lieu of other asset classes. Along those lines, it’s worth noting that since the onset of the economic recovery, the start-of-year Bloomberg consensus forecast for the 10Y Treasury note yield at the end of the corresponding year has been off by an [astounding] average absolute value of 106bps! Sell-side consensus thinks rates put on +87bps from today’s price to close out 2015 at 3.05%.
- The buy-side is perhaps even more bullish on rates (i.e. bearish on Treasury bonds) at the current juncture. The net SHORT position of 215k 10Y Treasury note futures and options contracts is the widest net SHORT position since April of 2010. On a TTM Z-Score basis, which we use to show deviations that are typically indicative of crowded trades, the buy-side hasn’t been this net SHORT of long-term Treasuries since March 2012, October 2011 and April of 2010. The subsequent draw-downs in the 10Y Treasury note yield from those peaks in bearish sentiment are -99bps, -45bps and -160bps, respectively.
Source: Bloomberg L.P.
Source: Bloomberg L.P.
So, is this time different? Will “the crowd” finally be right on long-term Treasuries? Having been appropriately bearish on rates (i.e. bullish on Treasury bonds) in 2014 (after having been bullish on rates in 2013), we are in an enviable position of lacking the kind of baggage that might cloud our judgment.
Regarding that judgment, we strongly believe the aforementioned dynamics in the currency market are likely contribute to a “reflexive deflationary spiral” whereby continued global macro asset price deflation and reported disinflation both contribute to rising investor demand for long-term Treasuries, at the margins.
Here’s how that process would work:
Step 1: Both the BoJ and ECB accelerate their monetary base expansion, at the margins, during a time where the Fed is on hold and deliberating [out loud] the appropriate timing of their first [and subsequent] rate hikes. Looking to our proprietary G3 Monetary Policy Model, which contextualizes trends across 10 key economic and financial market indicators, the ECB is clearly facing immense pressure to ease. The Fed should maintain a neutral-to-ever-so-slightly-dovish bias, while the BoJ should maintain a slight hawkish bias. That said, the BoJ’s current composite score is roughly equivalent to its late-October score, when Kuroda pushed through a contentious expansion of the BoJ’s QQE program. That signals to us that politics, not economics, are the primary driver of the BoJ’s current easing bias.
Step 2: As G3 monetary policy continues to diverge, the currency market responds by appropriately inflating the value of the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis peer and emerging market currencies. We think the implied ~3% appreciation of the U.S. Dollar Index through year-end 2015 as currently assumed by Bloomberg consensus is way off the mark. The DXY is up over +3% since the end of October alone!
Step 3: As the dollar strengthens, commodity prices continue their deflationary descent.
Step 4: As commodity prices continue to fall, both expected and reported CPI readings continue to fall. At first, breakevens and headline CPI rates will bear the brunt of the aforementioned deflationary forces. We anticipate core CPI readings are likely to follow those rates lower on a lag.
Step 5: As reported inflation slows in all three of the world’s major economies, the pressure for each central bank to get marginally dovish will heighten. The central bank closest to achieving its mandate (i.e. “full employment” and “price stability” in the U.S., “price stability” in the Eurozone and “5% monetary math” in Japan) is likely to see its currency bear the brunt of global capital flows as investors anticipate relatively weaker monetary policy for longer in the other two economies. For now, that is undoubtedly the U.S. dollar.
Step 6: Repeat steps #3-5.
Scary stuff if you bought the dip in Russia (RSX) or domestic E&Ps (XOP)…
Have a great weekend,
Associate: Macro Team