Imagine you’re aboard a flight that’s on its final approach into the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India. For most of the flight, the plane, a 787, has been traveling at about 903 km/hour (that’s around 560 miles/hour). As the flight attendants collect that last few plastic cups, the plane starts to slow and banks gently to line up with the runway. The man next to you, oddly distraught over the change in airspeed, yelps as the pitch of the engines audibly lowers. Panicking, he unbuckles his seatbelt, stands up and yells, “It’s slowing down!! Why is it slowing down?!? I’m bailing out!!”
While you’d never expect this sort of thing to actually happen on a real flight to India, something similar is happening with emerging market investors. Read more
For those involved in trading the fixed income markets, August is usually one of the more mundane months. Issuance of new corporate debt slows down significantly since many global investment professionals are on vacation, forced two-week leaves, or holidays, which results in liquidity that is much more challenging. But unlike past years, we’re entering into a September time frame that is poised to be anything but boring, thus causing a likely increase in volatility. So just like the coming attractions at your local movie theater, this is what we have to look forward to in the month of September:
Specific events and their release date:
- “The Last Picture Show” (September 6) – On this Friday, the final major piece of the employment puzzle, the August non-farm payrolls, will be released to the market. This will either confirm the prevailing wisdom regarding the underlying strength of the U.S. economy and the likelihood of tapering of the Fed’s quantitative easing program, or it will provide a difficult conflicting perspective only days before the FOMC meeting. Read more
Mark Carney has really put his stamp of authority on the Bank of England (BoE). After just one month as the BoE’s new governor, he’s already shaking things up. At the latest meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), he introduced forward guidance that would have been almost unimaginable under the previous Governor, Mervyn King.
Here’s what Carney’s forward guidance looks like. The MPC intends not to raise their benchmark bank rate from its current level of 0.5% until the unemployment rate falls to a threshold level of 7%. This is subject to three caveats:
- inflation is no higher than 0.5% above the 2% inflation target at the 18-24 month horizon
- medium-term inflation expectations are contained
- and the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) believes that an accommodative monetary policy stance doesn’t pose a risk to financial stability. Read more
We can give three simple reasons to support the use of volatility products to hedge tail risk in fixed income portfolios. First, equity volatility and bond prices have a strong conceptual link. If you think of a corporate bond as functionally equivalent to a risk-free asset (like a Treasury bond) plus a short put option on the issuer’s assets, then the additional yield you receive above the Treasury rate (a.k.a., credit spread) can be thought of as compensation for the sale of that put option. When equity market volatility jumps drastically (as it does during a tail-risk event), the implicit liability from the short put position increases in probability. In a nutshell, the value of bonds will fall as market volatility (yes, even equity market volatility) rises. Read more
The Reserve Bank of Australia must be feeling pressure to provide financial markets with explicit forward guidance on the long-term direction of its interest rate strategy. These days, with central banks all over the world providing markets with forward guidance on rates in an effort to shape market expectations, the RBA is one of the few remaining major central banks to maintain a sense of anticipation at each meeting – rates could just as easily go up as they could go down. Even the European Central Bank has finally backed away from its sacred no “pre-commitment” policy. Check out my previous post on forward guidance here.
Increasingly these days, what was once considered to be “abnormal,” markets are beginning to construe as “normal.” A central bank that doesn’t provide forward guidance is increasingly seen as hawkish (“do they have something to hide?”) and markets tend to react by driving up its bond yields and their respective currency – effectively tightening financial conditions.
In a recent economic commentary (here’s the link), Bob Baur and I examined the pros and cons of the two top candidates to succeed Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve: Janet Yellen and Larry Summers. Today, I’d like to use this blog post to examine a few different avenues where Yellen and Summers might differ were each to get the Fed’s top job.
The first way I’d look at this would be from their respective statements on Fed policy. Almost everything we’ve heard from Yellen suggests that she’ll be Spider-Man 2 to Bernanke’s Spider-Man…more of the same, still pretty good, but not saddled with the task of having to explain how this all started. Summers is harder to read. Read more