Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rising US Treasury Yields: Credit Quality Concern or Symptoms of Bubble Cycle?

The Wall Street Examiner writes,

For those who argue it does matter, one number being tossed around is the level at which debt service equals 30% of tax revenues. Once interest payments take 30% of tax revenues, a country has an out-of-control debt-trap issue. When you think clearly about it, this just makes sense as the ability to dodge, weave, and defer is pretty much removed, as is the logic that it will be repaid in a low-risk manner. The world is going to be a different place when the US is perceived to be in a debt trap.

I suspect the problem will rear its ugly head well before this 30% number is hit as markets start discounting the trajectory by hiking interest rates because of poor credit quality and/or inflation (or more accurately stranguflation). Naturally that question should be asked in terms of the recent and sudden uptick in Treasury note and bond rates that appeared strongly correlated to the latest round of tax “stimulus” and handouts, and the “unexpected” reaction to QE2. The latter is nothing more than a brazen, dangerous gamble to monetize the debt. Sure, one crowd is claiming economic growth is the causa proxima, but that feels like utter nonsense. Could it be that the markets at long last are anticipating a very bad result from QE2 and even more government largess? (emphasis added)

Although I sympathize with this observation, in my opinion, this looks more like a cart before the horse analysis when it comes to forecasting.

Two observations:

the analysis does not say how such mayhem would be triggered, except to presuppose intuitively that rising rates signifies implied doubts on on credit quality and

second it also does not say how authorities are likely to respond to such environment.

For instance, the claim that rising rates from economic growth feels like utter nonsense may not seem consistent with a seemingly tranquil credit environment in many parts of the world.

An environment manifesting concerns about of the credit quality would look like this…


In other words, the rising interest will be accompanied by turbulent credit markets (e.g. rising CDS) perhaps globally.

Yet we are not seeing this today YET (see below chart)


charts above courtesy of Danske Bank research

While the PIIGS episode today could likely foreshadow the milieu of tomorrow’s crisis, the difference is that the interest rate, credit and other financial markets have, for now, demonstrated benign reaction.

And this has allowed governments to continue with the current orthodox responses to the crisis—bailouts and the flooding of liquidity in the system.

A full blown crisis would likely occur when global government’s hands are tied.

And there are two likely series of events that would pose as trigger: accelerating inflation on a worldwide scale (symptoms-consumer, producer, commodity), and or another major bubble bust elsewhere around the globe (China?, Emerging markets?).

In my view: rising US treasury yields appear to be indicative of a brewing bubble cycle (in many parts of the globe) that is likely being transmitted from the disparities in monetary policies between developed economies and the emerging market economies.

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