Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Geopolitical Risk and Bonds

Syria- Bullish for Bonds?

Geopolitical concerns have resurfaced as the main market mover as pressure builds on the US to back up its words with action.  The market is clearly in flight to quality mode with the largest percentage moves in the front end of the curve along with a rise in gold/silver, the yen and the Swiss franc.

This morning, the S&P/Case Shiller headline hit with robust growth of 12.1%, pretty much in line with expectations.  The headline numbers have a couple of problems, however.  The numbers are for June, clearly a time when potential buyers rushed into contracts as mortgage rates rose.  Also, the monthly number, despite the rush to buy, missed with a 0.89% increase when 1.00% was expected.  That miss annualizes to 1.32%.  The miss is also the second consecutive miss.  If it were just a two-month miss, this would be not be big news.  The problem is that it comes in the context of falling Mortgage Bankers Assoc. numbers.  Bloomberg put together a nice chart (below) showing the decline in the applications index to the lowest level in two years.  The chart shows the plunge in the index as interest rates rose over the period.  Additionally, the purchases index rose from a low of 157.9 last August to a high of 220.60 at the beginning of May (a 39.7% increase in 9 months).  Since the peak, the index has declined 16% to 184.90.  So, we have lost 40% of the recovery in the purchase index in the last 3 months…ouch!