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@theMarket: Bond Yields Higher, Inflation Lower With Stocks Caught in Middle

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires columnist
This week, bond yields across the board rose on the back of several disappointing U.S. Treasury bond auctions. However, the Fed's key inflation index, the PCE, for last month came in a touch cooler. It helped, but not enough to keep stocks in the green for the week.
 
Three bond auctions this week met with tepid interest from buyers sending bond yields to their highest levels in over a month. The scorecard on government debt sales was 0 for three as two-, five-, and seven-year notes worth a total of $183 billion faced a chilly reception from bond investors worldwide. Who can blame them?
 
As the months pass, the U.S. debt level continues to rise. All most investors can see is a long road ahead of billions of dollars in Treasury bond auctions. The fundraising is necessary to fund the government's multi-trillion dollar spending programs.
 
 U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has purposely confined most of the country's need for financing to shorter maturities, rather than auctioning 10- and 20-year bonds.
 
There is a method to that madness since selling billions of dollars in longer-duration bonds would jack up yields and might send the benchmark, U.S. Ten-Year bond above 5 percent from its current yield of 4.50 percent. She knows that would surely pressure equities lower. In an election year, a sitting president would not be happy to see a sinking stock market when he is already in a tight race to regain the White House.
 
And while yields climb, the Fed's policymakers continue to warn the markets that there is not enough inflation progress to warrant a cut in interest rates just yet. However, they continue to assure us that sometime down the road a cut is possible. Some members, like Minneapolis Fed President Neil Kashkari, have gone the other way and suggest that a rate hike is still entirely possible. That leaves investors in limbo.
 
The economic data is not helping either. First quarter of 2024 Gross Domestic Product was revised downward from the already weak growth rate of 1.6 percent to 1.3 percent. Over in the housing market, pending U. S home sales fell much more than expected. Month-over-month decline was minus-7.7 percent versus minus-3.6 percent expected. The shortfall in sales was blamed on the escalating rise in mortgage interest rate loans in April.
 
That data was bound to set tongues wagging as more traders worry about a possible stagflation scenario. They argue that rather than revisiting the 1970s era of full-blown stagflation, a milder version of the same may be in the offing.
 
Readers may recall that the 1970s was a period with both high inflation and uneven economic growth. High budget deficits, lower interest rates, the OPEC oil embargo, and the collapse of managed currency rates were the hallmarks of that period. Not all those conditions are present today. However, some argue that history does not need to repeat itself, but only to rhyme.
 
The Personal Consumer Expenditure Index (PCE) did come in a touch lower than expected. The core PCE, which strips out the cost of food and energy, rose 0.2 percent in April, which was in line with Wall Street's expectations but lower than the 0.3 percent increase seen in March. 
 
Last week, I warned readers that we would see some profit-taking. The S&P 500 Index fell almost 100 points from 5,304 to 5,214 as of Friday morning. This summer, I expect that we will be entering a period of consolidation. I don't see the averages making much headway until the end of August. It won't be all downhill. We could see bounces as markets get oversold, but it will be difficult to achieve new highs.
 

Bill Schmick is the founding partner of Onota Partners, Inc., in the Berkshires. His forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of Onota Partners Inc. (OPI). None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-413-347-2401 or email him at bill@schmicksretiredinvestor.com.

Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of OPI, Inc. or a solicitation to become a client of OPI. The reader should not assume that any strategies or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold, or held by OPI. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct. Investments in securities are not insured, protected, or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal. This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements, and we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.

 

     

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