Get ready for a ‘massive interest rate shock’ soon

8/27/13
 
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from CNBC,
8/27/13:

Wall Street and Washington love to spread fables that facilitate feelings of bliss among the investing public.

For example, recall in 2005 when they inculcated to consumers the notion that home prices have never, and will never, fall on a national basis.

We all know how that story turned out.

Along with their belief that real estate prices couldn’t fall, one of their favorite conciliatory mantras that still exists today. Namely, that foreign investors have no choice but to perpetually support the U.S. debt market at any price and at any yield.

But, unlike what their mantra claims, the latest data show weakening demand in overseas purchases of Treasurys.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, there was a record $40.8 billion of net foreign selling of Treasurys in June. That was the fifth straight month of outflows in long-term U.S. securities. China and Japan accounted for $40 billion of those net Treasury sales.

Those two nations are important because China is our largest foreign creditor ($1.27 trillion), and Japan is close with $1.08 trillion in holdings.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to those who are able to accurately assess the ramifications from the Federal Reserve removing its massive bid for U.S. debt.

In truth, yields currently do not at all reflect the credit, currency or inflation risks associated with owning Treasurys.

If the Fed were not buying $45 billion each month of our government bonds, investors both foreign and domestic would require a much higher rate of return.

In addition, holders of U.S. debt must discount the inflation potential associated with a record $3.6 trillion Fed balance sheet, which is still growing at $85 billion each month. Also, foreign investors have to factor into their calculation the potential wealth-destroying effects of owning debt backed by a weakening U.S. dollar.

Of course, some people may claim that Japan has more debt outstanding as a percentage of its GDP than we do and yet the nation’s interest rates are much lower than ours…so what’s the problem?

But, unlike the U.S., Japan has a long history of deflation and only 10 percent of its debt is in foreign hands. The U.S. has not enjoyed any such history of deflation and is also a country that has only 50 percent of its debt held domestically.

Therefore, there hasn’t been any real concern about foreigners abandoning the Japanese bond market because of a fear that the Yen may collapse.

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