Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Have the Bond Vigilantes Finally Woken Up?

Bonds sold off hard today after the results of the 5 year auction were announced. As you can see below, it wasn't pretty:

The bid to cover ratio of 2.55 can only be described as ugly. The primary dealers got stuck eating just about half of the auction which is another sign of weak demand.

My Take:

So now we need to ask ourselves: Has Bondzilla awoken as a result of the passage of healthcare reform? The last time we saw the bond vigilantes was back in the early '90's after Bill Clinton was voted in as President.

Ironically, the trigger for the sell off in bonds back then focused around the exact same issue except it was called "Hillary Care" last go around.

Here is the cliff note version of what occurred:

Clinton announced colossal spending programs when he got into office. The largest piece of the spending revolved around nationalized health care. The bond vigilantes responded immediately and sent yields threw the roof until Clinton backed off on his spending.

Clinton eventually backed down, and a few years later the economy soared when the tech boom hit. Our deficit rapidly turned into a surplus over this span because the bond market forced the government to keep their spending in check.

What scares me about today's problems is the economy is much more fragile and vulnerable this go around versus the early 1990's. If the bond vigilantes decide to run up yields in response to our deficits and spending on massive programs like health care reform, the economy is going take a dramatic turn for the worse.

The problem this go around is our deficits are trillions not billions. There is no way that this can be turned around anytime soon. If rates shoot up, the banks are going to be in a world of hurt because their balance sheets will deteriorate significantly. Home values will drop as a result of higher borrowing costs. This will put further strain on the consumer.

Sophie's Choice

It must be hard to be a "bond vigilante" right now. Basically they can't win. All of them know that our spending is ridiculous and completely out of control. The problem they have is if they take rates higher, they risk blowing themselves up in the process because it could very well take down the whole economy.

If they continue to ignore the problem and let our deficits continue to overwhelm our GDP than we risk becoming the next Greece or Iceland.

I am glad I am not in their shoes! Let's hope that they have the strength to do their job and force the government to stop all of this insanity.

Let's face it, the only fiscal "cops" left in this economy are the bond vigilantes. If they don't wake up and force the government to reign in it's spending, this country is in serious trouble.

Its has become clearly obvious that Wall St, Washington, and the Fed have a spending "addiction". The disease has totally taken them over, and they can now no longer control themselves.

It's up to the bond vigalantes to clean up this mess because none of our politicians have shown the desire to stand up and prevent this economic trainwreck and its catastrophic consequences.

The Bottom Line

The market is really starting to get interesting. You have the dollar soaring as Europe falls apart. Adding to the fireworks is the fact that the Fed plans on exiting the MBS and treasury markets at the end of the month.

This event should be really interesting to watch if rates continue to rise. Talk about a recipe for disaster!

Equities meanwhile have continued to rise in the process which has surprised a lot of the pros. Many traders expected equities to move to the downside when the dollar started to soar. To date this hasn't been the case.

IMO, the one thing that has defined the stock market during this meltdown is the contrarion way in which it moves. It consistently yings when it should yang. Assets that should collapse rise and sometimes even soar.

The examples of this are endless:

Commercial real estate


Fannie, Freddie, AIG

Junk Bonds

Treasuries(until today)

I could go on and on but I will leave it there. You can thank the speculators for these unrealistic ridiculously inflated values!

Recently(while I have been watching the stock and bond markets) I have been asking myself: Where is all of the money coming from to support both bonds and stocks like this? The only answer I could even think of was that Europe might be fleeing to the safety of US investments as a result of their sovereign debt issues.

I concluded that there was no way it was sustainable and today we got some confirmation of this. We should also realize that one day does not make a trend. Especially in this whacky market!

Keep a close eye on the bond market as the Fed begins to pull out of MBS and treasuries.

If appears that the bond vigilantes might begin to do their job. Health care reform may have been the straw that broke the camels back. If you are in the long bond for yield, you might want to consider shorting treasuries via TBT as a hedge.

Fasten your seatbelts folks! Things are about to get very interesting.

Disclosure: Long TBT in longer term accounts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Healthcare Reform or a Disguised Tax Increase?

It's Official!

Healthcare Reform has passed in the House. I can't believe that this 2700 page monstrosity is about to possibly become law. We are now one step closer to socialism in this country as the government continues to tighten its grip around how we live our lives.

There has been a lot of chatter on the Internet around the sudden resurgence of this legislation. Many are asking if this is really about healthcare reform. Some folks(including myself) are starting to believe that this legislation is all about increasing taxes in order to keep the country running versus changing healthcare.

Two years ago I would have said this was tinfoil....Not anymore! Tax receipts have collapsed and we continue to borrow at record levels. The politicians in DC fully understand that they need tons of cold hard cash in order to fund this record level of spending.

Remember, the actual healthcare reform doesn't kick in for around 3 years. The taxes however are implemented almost immediately after Obama signs it into law. This gives the government a nice revenue stream that it desperately needs in order to stay solvent.

It is so sad to see what is happening to this country. The government is slowly becoming the "employer of last resort" because there are virtually no jobs in the private sector. This reform will only strengthen this trend.

The USA is slowly turning into a country filled with leeches that want to do nothing but suck off the government tit.

Just look at the numbers below:

My Take:

As you can see above, the leech employment levels are soaring as the private sector crashes.

We have an issue here folks: Without a private sector we cannot support a nation of Leeches!

This is best described by Dr. Adrian Rogers who said this back in 1931(right before the market crashed):

"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it." ~~~~ Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931"

Very well said Dr. Rogers!

Let me be blunt: Minus government spending, the economy has essentially collapsed. Job losses continue to mount with no end in sight, and I have yet to hear one logical arguement as to how we intend to create jobs in this country on a wide scale basis.

The government thinks we need to "spend" our way out of this until the REAL economy recovers. This idiotic mentality will eventually destroy this country because we have created debtloads that will be impossible to finance over the long term.

When interest rates rise as a result of concerns around our solvency, the majority of our GDP will have to be used to pay interest on our debts(treasuries). The economy will then collapse because the government will no longer have the funds to hide the weakness in the economy.

The approval of healthcare reform in my view simply allows the government to kick the can down the road a little further because they now have a new revenue stream that they can tap into.

The Bottom Line:

I need to learn more about this bill and its consequences. The one thing I do know from this bill is that taxes will be rising sharply at all income levels.

This will have devestating consequences on the economy in my view. The average American can barely afford his mortgage and other debt payments as it is right now. Adding ANY taxes will do nothing but trigger more defaults and foreclosures.

This will also trigger another round of layoffs from small businesses because they won't be able to afford the double whammy of higher taxes and an increase in the cost of health insurance for their workers.

The average business owner can barely keep the doors open as it is! This could very well be the blow that forces many of them to go under.

A Few Questions Before I Go

I have a few questions to ponder in terms of how this "healthcare reform" will impact the economy:

How do they expect this economy(ie. small businesses)to grow in such a high tax environment?

How many businesses are just going to say "screw it" and just close the doors once these tax increases hit?

How many Americans are going to simply "drop out" of society and not even work anymore or work for cash only?

How badly will tax revenues crater as a result of businesses and Americans "checking out"?

How many healthcare jobs will this cost us after they peel off the $500 billion of Medicare spending thats proposed in this bill?

How many hospitals will go bankrupt after seeing their reimbursements from Medicare drop as a result reduced spending?

How many doctors will "walk away" from their practices out of disgust as they see nothing but increased patient loads and falling salaries in their future?

How will we handle a 30 million patient influx when these doctors begin to walk away?

How many years in advance will you need to make a doctors appointment in order to get a checkup? Anecdote: I have a friend in Boston(where a version of national healthcare is already in place) who told me she just booked a primary care appointment for LATE 2011!

Ahhhh......I feel my blood pressure rising so I better stop asking questions.

Before I end this rant:

Let us also not forget about the other group of leeches that depend on the government to survive in the form of social benefits. I don't have an issue with most of these folks because most of them have no other choice. However, it must be noted that all of them also suck off of the government tit.

The demand for social programs is soaring as the economy continues to nosedive . This is putting added pressures on the governments reserves.

As the leech levels soar, the government is slowly running out of fiscal options.

Don't be fooled folks: Healthcare Reform is nothing but an excuse for the government to raise cash.

Some suggest that we will never even see the reform but I disagree.

I have said it before and I will say it again: This is not sustainable and it's not going to end well!

The government tit is rapidly running out of milk and those who rely on it are in for some tough times.

Disclosure: No new positions at the time of publication.