The Treasury bond market has just suffered one of the most horrific selloffs in recent memory, taking the yield on ten year paper up from 1.38% to an eye popping 1.83% in weeks, a three month high.
Yields have just risen by an amazing 38%. This has dragged the principal Treasury bond ETF (TLT) down from $132 to $120. Those who were pining to get into this safe haven at a better entry point now have their chance.
Rumors for the plunge have been as numerous as bikinis on an Italian beach. Some have pointed to a suspected unwind of China's massive $1 trillion in Treasury bond holdings. Others point to the incredibly thin summer market trading conditions. Add to that a relentlessly heavy new issue calendar by the government. After all, they have a $1.4 trillion budget deficit to finance this year. That works out to $4 billion a day.
Long term strategists point to more fundamental reasons. The spread between the ten year yield and the S&P 500 dividend yield is the narrowest in history. Even after the recent slump, equity yields still beat bonds by 20 basis points. This has never happened before. The smarter money began shifting money out of bonds into stocks months ago.
However, I think that an excellent trading opportunity is setting up here for the brave and the nimble. There is a method to my madness. Here are my reasons:
*US corporate earnings are slowing at a dramatic pace. Some 40% of those reporting in Q2 delivered revenues misses. They made up the bottom line by firing more people. This is the worst performance since early 2008. Remember how equity ownership worked out after that?
*The high price of oil is now starting to become a problem and will inflict its own deflationary effects. If we maintain the 24% price hike we have seen in recent months, that will start to present a serious drag on the economy.
*Fiscal Cliff? Has anyone heard about the fiscal cliff? This 4% drag on GDP growth, another name for a recession, is looming large.
*Don't forget that the rest of the world economy is going to hell in a hand basket. The China slowdown continues unabated, and a hard landing is still on the table. Europe is in the toilet. Japan's growth is on life support.
*The Chinese aren't selling. They told me so. They are merely reallocating a larger portion of their monthly cash flow to Europe where yields are a multiple higher. They are doing this because I told them to. This helps support the Euro. Keeping the currency of its largest trading partner strong to preserve exports is in its best interest.
*QE3? Remember QE3? Even if the Federal Reserve doesn't implement this expansionary monetary policy, Europe will. And the Fed will probably join in 2013 when we head into the next recession.
*Paul Ryan for VP? If elected, his death wish for the Federal Reserve will send asset prices everywhere plummeting, including stocks and bonds. Since Romney's fumbled announcement, Treasury bond yields have soared by 25 basis points.
There are many ways to play this game. Just pick your poison. The obvious pick here is to buy the (TLT) just over the 200 day moving average at $119. You could buy an October $120-$125 (TLT) call spread in the options market for a quick bounce. If you really want to get clever, you can sell short the $110-$115 call spread, which has a breakeven in terms of the ten year Treasury yield of 2.10%.
The safe haven trade is not gone for good. It's just enjoying a brief summer vacation.