New Articles

230 years of Data Show Rates Will Soon Hit to 0.50 Percent

rates

230 years of Data Show Rates Will Soon Hit to 0.50 Percent

While everyone has been concerned about the sell-off in the stock market in the past two weeks, this decline should be contrasted with the rapid rise in the price of government bonds. For the first time in history, the yield on the 10-year government bond fell below 1%.

As Figure 1 illustrates, the 75-year interest rate pyramid is continuing its path toward new lows. The pyramid began on November 30, 1945, when the 10-year bond yielded 1.55%. The yield gradually rose for the next 36 years, peaking at 15.84% on September 30, 1981. The yield has trended downward for the past 39 years and now has sunk below 1%. The past 75 years have provided a near mirror image in bond yields.  So what does it mean?

Before the current downturn, the lowest yield on the 10-year bond was 1.37% which occurred on July 5, 2016. We analyzed the 75-year interest rate pyramid in the blog “Government Bond Yields and Returns in the 2020s” which was published on January 8. We predicted the continued decline in government bond yields in the United States during the coming decade. With negative interest rates on most 10-year bonds in Europe and Japan, there is no reason why yields in the United States shouldn’t continue to decline.

The 10-year bond yielded over 3% in November 2018 and by December 31, 2019, the yield on the 10-year bond had fallen to 1.92%.  Today, the yield is half that. This decline has provided an 8% return to fixed-income investors during the past two months as the price of government bonds has risen. A 10-basis point decline in the yield rewards investors with a short-term gain of about 1%.

In the blog “300 Years of the Equity-risk Premium” published on February 5, we predicted that the total return to government bonds over the next 10 years will be around 2% per annum or less. This return can only occur through the continued decline in bond yields and increase in the price of government bonds. As we explained, government bonds have outperformed stocks since 2000; however, our analysis indicates that the return to bonds will be lower than the return to stocks over the coming decade.

The 5-year bond yield fell to almost 0.5% back in 2012.  So why can’t the 10-year bond yield decline to 0.5%in 2020? Figure 2 provides 230 years of bond yield data, which shows each decline building a deeper valley indicating that interest rates will soon reach a lower low. We believe it is only a matter of time before the yield on the U.S. 10-year bond hits 0.5%.

______________________________________________________________________

Dr. Bryan Taylor is President and Chief Economist for Global Financial Data. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in Economics writing about the economics of the arts. He has taught both economics and finance at numerous universities in southern California and in Switzerland. He began putting together the Global Financial Database in 1990, collecting and transcribing financial and economic data from historical archives around the world. Dr. Taylor has published numerous articles and blogs based upon the Global Financial Database, the US Stocks and the GFD Indices. Dr. Taylor’s research has uncovered previously unknown aspects of financial history. He has written two books on financial history.

portfolio

Is It Time To Play Defense with Your Investment Portfolio?

The bull market has been charging ahead for more than a decade now, but financial professionals are starting to wonder whether the good times are about to come crashing down on the American public’s prosperous portfolios.

That means it could be time to become a bit more defensive with your investments, says Dr. Joseph Belmonte, an investment strategist and author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection(www.buffettandbeyond.com).

“People will talk about having good luck or bad luck in the market, and you never want to depend on blind luck,” says Dr. Belmonte says. “But another definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation. And if a recession is coming, as so many people fear, then you want to make preparations.”

One suggestion for doing that, he says: Stay away from cyclical stocks, which are stocks that perform well when the economy is humming along, but struggle when things turn sour. These are companies that provide something that’s not essential to daily living or that consumers can at least postpone purchasing when times are tough.

Examples are car manufacturers, higher-end retail stores, and mortgage companies. Specific examples are Ford, General Motors, Caterpillar and Macy’s.

With the potential for a recession looming, Dr. Belmonte says, it’s vital that you review your portfolio, examine whether you have cyclical or non-cyclical stocks, and decide whether you need to make adjustments.

He says a few things worth remembering as you shift your portfolio to the defensive mode include:

-Look for efficiency. The companies you seek for your portfolio should be efficient. “They must have a relatively high return on equity and a consistent return on equity,” Dr. Belmonte says. “If the ROE is high and consistent, we know the firm has the capacity to create value because it is already doing so.”

-Examine a company’s history. Dr. Belmonte says that Warren Buffett likes to look at a company’s average return on equity over a 10-year period, most likely because over any 10-year period the economy goes through recessions and also economic expansions. “As the economy goes through these cycles, expectations about a company’s future will rise and fall with the mood of all of us,” Dr. Belmonte says. “Buffett probably feels that over a 10-year period, we see the average of at least one complete economic cycle, and of course, the ensuing mood swings that accompany both the good and bad times.”

-Consider value. Price follows value, Dr. Belmonte says, so invest in stocks that increase their value “every minute of every day.” He says McDonald’s is one example. The stock’s price may drop in tough times, but eventually the price catches back up to the company’s overall value. To find such companies, he says, look at how a stock performed during the last recession from June 30, 2008, to March 30, 2009. Value-added stocks didn’t fall as far as the overall market, and recovered much more quickly.

-Focus on businesses you understand. A company might sound good in theory, but if you don’t really have a good grasp of what it does and how the market for it might develop over the long haul, then it could be a risk for you. Dr. Belmonte suggests looking at businesses you have a good understanding of, so you can make an educated guess of where they likely are headed. “If you take a business you understand, and that company has a high and relatively consistent ROE, you are probably looking at a pretty good contender for your stock portfolio,” he says.”

“I always tell people to remember the good, the bad and the ugly,” Dr. Belmonte says. “The good stocks should be in our portfolios; the bad stocks should be in someone else’s portfolios; and the ugly stocks should be in nobody’s portfolio.”

 

 

Dr. Joseph Belmonte, author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection (www.buffettandbeyond.com), is an investment strategist and stock market consultant. He is fond of saying, “If you want to live on the beach like Jimmy Buffett, you’ve got to learn how to invest like Warren Buffett.” Dr. Belmonte has developed hedged growth income strategies for family offices, and has lectured to numerous professional and investment groups throughout the country. His weekly video newsletter is sent to thousands of investors, money managers, and academics both nationally and internationally.

If The Bull Market Turns Bear, Is Your Portfolio On The Right Cycle?

The current bull market – at 10 years and counting – is the longest in the nation’s history. But instead of celebrating that longevity, plenty of people are worried about how much longer the good times can last, and whether we could be headed for a recession.

What does that mean for investors fretting that the next bear market will devastate their investment portfolios?

For one thing, those investors might want to ask themselves whether the stocks they are invested in are cyclical or non-cyclical, says Dr. Joseph Belmonte, an investment strategist and author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection (www.buffettandbeyond.com).

The answer could be critical, he says, because cyclical stocks perform well when the economy is humming along, but struggle when things turn sour. That’s largely because cyclical stocks are companies that provide something that’s not essential to daily living or that consumers can at least postpone purchasing.  

“Sometimes a cyclical stock will begin to decline nine months before the market begins to weaken because of a pending recession,” Dr. Belmonte says.

Examples are stocks for companies such as car manufacturers, higher-end retail stores, and mortgage companies. Specific examples are Ford, General Motors, Caterpillar and Macy’s.

Non-cyclical stocks, on the other hand, are the stores or companies people flock to for bargains when times grow tough. Some of these stocks are Dollar Tree, Costco and Ross Stores.

But for investors, just knowing the answer to the cyclical, non-cyclical question is not enough, Dr. Belmonte says. They still need to review a company’s numbers.

“If properly used, the numbers will tell us almost everything we need to know about a company,” he says. “If we use the correct numbers in the correct way, the bottom-line results will tell us which companies we want in our portfolio.”

The problem, Dr. Belmonte says, is that most analysts and investors use the wrong numbers when trying to decide whether a stock is a good or not-so-good option.

A comparable method of measuring the efficiency of a company’s operations. That’s why Dr. Belmonte is a proponent of what’s known as clean surplus accounting. He says the most prominent investor who uses this method is Warren Buffett. Here’s a quick overview of how clean surplus accounting works:

-Traditional accounting determines the return on equity (ROE) by using earnings from the income statement divided by the book value (owners’ equity) from the accounting balance sheet. “This is not a good measure of comparing one company to another because that’s not what it was meant to do,” Dr. Belmonte says.

-Clean surplus instead uses net income from operations as the “return” portion of the ROE. It then constructs its own “owners’ equity” as the “equity” portion of ROE.  The return on equity, as configured by clean surplus accounting, is truly a comparable method of measuring the efficiency of a company’s operations, Dr. Belmonte says.

-Net income minus dividends, of course, will net a different owners’ equity than will earnings minus dividends. It is this new calculation of owners’ equity (net income minus dividends) that allows a truly comparable return-on-equity ratio to be developed. And it is this comparable ROE ratio that is the foundation of the success of clean surplus, Dr. Belmonte says.

With a potential recession looming on the horizon, Dr. Belmonte says, it’s vital that you review your portfolio, examine whether you have cyclical or non-cyclical stocks, and then put those companies to the clean surplus accounting test.

About Dr. Joseph Belmonte

Dr. Joseph Belmonte, author of Buffett and Beyond: Uncovering the Secret Ratio for Superior Stock Selection (www.buffettandbeyond.com), is an investment strategist and stock market consultant. He is fond of saying, “If you want to live on the beach like Jimmy Buffett, you’ve got to learn how to invest like Warren Buffett.” Dr. Belmonte has developed hedged growth income strategies for family offices, and has lectured to numerous professional and investment groups throughout the country. His weekly video newsletter is sent to thousands of investors, money managers, and academics both nationally and internationally.