Tag Archives: 10yr note

Trading’s Gut Check

Actively participating in the markets comes with the understanding that the trader’s gut will be checked frequently and deeply. The primary cause of this is the trader’s degree of certainty in an uncertain world. It’s been proven over and over again that once an individual feels that they have enough information to make a decision, they will. Additional information provided after the fact typically raises the degree of certainty that the correct decision was made, rather than raising the degree of accuracy. So, I sit in front of the Federal Reserve Board’s announcement this afternoon involved up to my eyeballs in the US Dollar, Euro currency, 10-year Treasury Notes and the Russell 2000 stock index.

Each one of these positions is the result of mechanical trading programs that I’ve developed, tested and traded. Therefore, there are no arbitrary decisions or adjustments to be made. This leaves me in front of the screens sitting on pins and needles waiting for a range of possibilities to materialize. Given my experience with the markets, I expect the outcome to be somewhere in the middle. Rarely does it turn out one sided either positively or, negatively.

Let’s review the possible outcomes and the gut wrenching turmoil that comes with sitting on several large positions as I try to close out the books for 2013. My oldest position on the books is short the Euro FX. I stand to profit if the Euro currency weakens against the US Dollar. I’m short the market near the top of its range based on my research into the Commitment of Traders Reports. I know that there’s about a 60% chance the Euro will back off these highs by about a penny and a half. However, the market’s continuing consolidation near these highs puts me in a position where I could be stopped out of the market with a loss even before the Fed announces its decision this afternoon. The market’s proximity to my stop loss order contributes greatly to my angst.

The opposing position to the Euro is my long US Dollar Index position. Again, I’m long the US Dollar Index against a basket of currencies, which is dominated by the Euro. If the Fed suggests that they will begin to taper quickly, the Dollar should rally. Pulling stimulus out of the economy will place fewer Dollars in future circulation thus, increasing the value of the Dollars already in the market. The Dollar would rally and the Euro would fall. Both of my currency positions would be profitable.

Tapering by the Fed would most likely crush my 10-year Note position. Frankly, the discretionary trader in me can create the strongest case for owning 10-year Notes and betting against taper talk. Based on my analysis of the commercial traders in the 10-year Note I fully expect any decline in Treasury prices to be short lived. Commercial traders have accumulated their largest net long position in the 10-year Note since April of 2005. Commercial traders have dominated the big moves in the Treasuries with uncanny accuracy. If they’re right about no taper talk this afternoon, Treasuries will rally substantially and I’ll profit from my position….while losing on my currency trades.

This leads to my final position. I use a pretty fancy program for developing my day trading systems. Whereas my swing-trading program is based on the fundamental data inferred from the collective positions of the markets’ participants, my day trading programs are strictly technical. Knowing that the markets will unfailingly put a man to the test, it should come as no surprise that my day trading programs now have me long two units of the Russell 2000 stock index heading into this afternoon’s announcement. Furthermore, while I have some expectations of how the currencies and Treasuries will react to the Fed’s decision, the stock market’s reaction is far less predictable. If the Fed tapers, the stock market may rally further based on the assumption of a strong economy leading to further gains. However, the collective reaction could very well be violently lower as tapering could signal the end of the free money that many believe has fueled the rally to this point.

Discretionary traders face conflicting data like this all of the time and pick and choose which markets they’re in and when they’re in them. Systematic traders follow the signals generated by their programs without question. The cruelest aspect of trading is the market’s uncanny ability to seek out a traders’ weak spot and twist agony’s knife. I’ve been actively trading for more than 20 years and the trepidation of a pending report never goes away. This is where the classic line, “Plan your trade. Trade your plan” has the most value. Remember, additional information acquired after the fact doesn’t increase the odds of being right, it simply tricks the mind into greater certainty of the existing thought pattern.

Tidal Shift in the Bond Market

The recent spike in Treasury yields could very well be signaling a change in trend direction. We rarely try to pick tops or bottoms in major trending markets. It simply doesn’t pay. However, we’re seeing lots of corroborating evidence that this may signal a shift in the global macroeconomic outlook. Therefore, this is one of the rare times when a pull back within the interest rate sector may not be a buying opportunity. In fact, if this is the beginning of the Great Unwinding we need to focus on all of the evidence to obtain a complete picture view, all the way from the trading screens to the man on the street.

The trading screens always provide the first clues of market direction. It’s important to remember that prices and yields trade inversely to each other. Therefore, when the price of the security rises, the interest rate declines. The opposite is also true. This is why we can talk about all time high prices and record low yields in the same sentence. The 10-year Treasury Note is the global proxy for US interest rates.

The last leg of this rally began in late November of 2007. The employment situation was starting to deteriorate and interest rate adjustment was the primary tool the Federal Reserve used to pump life into a faltering economy – prior to the economic collapse. The Fed lowered rates by a quarter point in four out of the last five months of 2007. They lowered rates eight more times in 2008 and finally committed to a zero rate policy in February of 2010.

The combined inventive efforts at the Fed eventually drove the 10-year rate to an all time low just under 1.5% in the cash market and an all time low on the 10-year futures of 2.3%. This is where it starts to get interesting. The 10-year Note has been trading at a negative real return for over a year. This means the interest generated by the instrument’s yield would not keep pace with inflation’s erosion of principle. The recent sell off has pushed its nominal yield above 2% while inflation is expected to remain a hair under that mark. Thus, bringing our first, “normal” look at a yield curve in ages.

The high water mark set in early May was fueled in part by Japan’s concerted depreciation of the Yen. The markets were well prepared for this. The US has provided massive stimulus over the last five years. Europe has added their share over the last three years through Greece, Spain and now, Cyprus. The logical next step in a globally competitive devaluation race was obviously a form of Quantitative Easing by Japan. Commercial traders here in the US stocked up on 10year Notes, accumulating their largest long position since February of 2008. Their expectation was that we would continue pushing the zero bound interest rate plan.

This may very well be one of the rare times when the commercial traders are just plain wrong. Historically, they’ve been very good at forecasting rate direction. This time the largest trading group may have been faked out as a whole. Two important points bring this home. First of all, their buying did fuel a rally to new highs…by a hair. Secondly, the weekly chart is beginning to show an obvious reversal bar. Will this turn into an, “Everybody out of the pool,” moment? I doubt it. However, I do expect them to continue to offload recent purchases, which will build up resistance on any attempted rallies.

The other primary point to make is the effect of the rise in interest rates on the housing market and its effect on the anemic economic recovery 99% of us have participated in. The national average 30-year mortgage has climbed by nearly 25% over the last few weeks rising from 3.4% to 4.2% according to Bankrate.com. This will have a big impact on the housing market, which had just begun to clear some inventory. This will also affect mortgage refinancing just as the deadline for governmental forgiveness approaches. The result of the spike in interest rates has caused a decline in the broad S&P 500 of nearly 4%. Meanwhile, the homebuilders ETF (XHB) has declined by almost 10%. The homebuilders have been a primary driver of the broad market’s rally since 2012 gaining nearly 100% in two years.

Higher interest rates are the last thing any of the major economies can afford. Half a decade’s worth of rate cuts, Quantitative Easing and Operation Twist, etc. have created a coiled spring of leveraged money hunting for that last bit of yield. The major reversal bar in the 10-year futures coupled with a large, unprofitable, commercial trader’s position could leave them left holding the hot potato. At its worst, this spike in rates steers us towards stagflation. An environment with rising inflation and no growth characterizes this. How far it spills over into the markets is unsure. Please call with any questions as this may well mark the inflexion point of what has been THE dominant trend over the last five years.

This blog is published by Andy Waldock. Andy Waldock is a trader, analyst, broker and asset manager. Therefore, Andy Waldock may have positions for himself, his family, or, his clients in any market discussed. The blog is meant for educational purposes and to develop a dialogue among those with an interest in the commodity markets. The commodity markets employ a high degree of leverage and may not be suitable for all investors. There is substantial risk of loss in investing in futures.