Tag Archives: Bond Market

Interest Rate Time Bomb May Kill Hedge Funds

As March began, hedge funds placed one of their biggest bets of all time. It may be their undoing.

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Traders placed the largest bet in history on increasing short term interest rates. But as a banking crisis spreads, rates may fall, exposing them to huge losses.

From a report out this morning in Reuters:

Hedge funds face huge losses on their record bet that the Fed will go full steam ahead with its aggressive interest rate-raising campaign, after some of the most abrupt and violent swings in U.S. rates and bond market pricing in living memory.

Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data shows that speculators held the largest ever net short position in three-month SOFR rate futures in the week ending March 7, only a few weeks after amassing a record short position in two-year Treasuries futures.

Now, their trade is deeply underwater:

Implied rates then plunged as much as 200 basis points in a week as traders drastically redrew their Fed outlook. The two-year Treasury yield posted its biggest fall since the Black Monday crash of 1987, and U.S. bond market volatility surged the most since Lehman’s collapse.

Many funds have already lost 10% of their assets or more so far this month. And as bank after bank fails, the bleeding may get even worse.

A month ago, most of us thought the Federal Reserve would keep raising rates. Inflation was the priority.

Now, with a cascade of bank failures, the Fed may cut rates to stop the crisis. Markets are predicting the Fed will lower rates this summer.

Already, hedge funds are going bust.

Adam Levinson’s Graticule Asia lost 25% this year, most of it in a few days after the SVB collapse. The fund has closed its doors.

As an investor, sometimes I think I know where markets are heading. But I never put too many eggs in one basket.

I’m playing with my own money. But most hedge funds aren’t.

And it’s not hard to tell.

What do you think will happen to these funds?

Leave a comment and let me know!

More on markets:

Executives Dumped Shares Shortly Before First Republic Rescue

SVB Fallout

Goldman Sachs Under Federal Investigation

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Australia Takes the Lead As Governments Move to Reign in Interest Rates

Government bond yields are increasing in many countries, including the US. Australia is already taking action. Europe and Japan also appear to be close:

This morning, Australian three-year government bond yields reached as high as 0.15% at the market open, far above the 0.1% ceiling established by the Reserve Bank of Australia last November under its yield curve control policy.  The RBA accordingly pledged to buy up to A$3 billion ($2.3 billion) in three-year paper in an unscheduled operation just one day after undertaking the largest purchases since March, successfully pushing yields back down towards that 0.1% bogey by day’s end.  

In a report predicting that the RBA will wait until July before deciding whether to tweak its existing policies, Andrew Boak, Goldman Sachs chief economist for Australia and New Zealand, noted yesterday that “there are no modern day precedents for a central bank exiting yield curve control.” 

A similar struggle is underway in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Japan, which instituted yield curve control back in 2016 with a targeted 0% yield on the 10-year government bond, is now facing a test of its resolve:  The yield on 10-year government debt reached 0.175% this morning, the highest since the debut of that program.  “I want you to understand that we aren’t aiming to raise our target from around 0%,” BOJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda declared in an address to parliament this morning, a message surely intended for Mr. Market as well. 

Meanwhile, a scaled-down bond selloff on the Old Continent looks to spur the powers that be to further impose their will on the market. Yesterday, German 10-year yields reached minus 0.23%, near a one-year high and up from minus 0.53% one month earlier, three days after ECB president Christine Lagarde declared she is “closely monitoring the evolution of longer-term nominal bond yields.”  

In light of that dizzying ascent to minus 0.23%, one of her colleagues appears ready for action. “In my view, there is an unwarranted tightening of bond yields, so it would perhaps be desirable for the ECB to accelerate the pace of [asset] purchases to ensure favorable financing conditions during the pandemic,” Greek central bank governor Yannis Stournaras told Reuters this afternoon.

More here (see the Feb 26 post).

Higher interest rates on government bonds tend to lead to higher interest rates throughout the economy. This can be a problem for stocks, since it can make it more expensive for companies to borrow to fund expansion, etc. It can also make bonds more attractive compared to stocks, which hurts the stock market.

If we see sustained upward pressure on US rates, I expect to see the US follow Australia and try to get the rates back down.

For more on interest rates on markets, check out these posts:

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Photo: “Pebbly Beach Kangaroos Australia – 095” by Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. is licensed under CC BY 2.0