Bloomberg reports that if the US defaults on its debt, which could happen as soon as June 1 if President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy fail to reach a deal on raising the ceiling, homebuyer borrowing costs may surge to 8.40%. As a consequence, the typical home’s monthly payment would increase by 22.00% and cool property sales; the monthly payment on a $500,000.00 mortgage may rise to $3,800.00, compared to about $3,095.00 at the current rate of 6.30%.
In prior letters, we concluded that past monetary action made stocks less sensitive to interest rates, quoting JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) strategists that the market would likely continue to “artificially suppress perceptions of fundamental macro risks,” barring surprises like a debt limit breach.
With a debt limit breach a potential reality, Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO) says a breach may compound recessionary pressures; expect a drop in equities, a volatility spike, and a disruption of funding markets.
“Data show that short-term bonds have the most predictable reaction – with interest rates and default insurance costs rising significantly – before quickly returning to normal after the uncertainty has passed,” Nasdaq’s Phil Mackintosh writes. “In reality, a crisis was averted in all [prior] cases, with the government able to increase or suspend the debt limit before the X Date.”
Notwithstanding the short-term uncertainty regarding the debt limit, Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC) is adamant there will be a recession that manifests cracks in “credit and tech,” similar to the situation in 2008. BAC sees the bubble in technology, media, and telecommunication stocks soon deflating as they face higher-for-longer interest rates and a tempered earnings outlook.
Compounding the recessionary pressures BAC sees, EPB Research adds, are banks’ funding costs, which have increased too much relative to prevailing asset yields. If the spread drops too low, bank lending tightens, and a recession occurs. Also, other data suggests tightening is finally starting to have an impact. Bloomberg reports that initial claims for unemployment insurance are on the rise. There has been a drop in overall wage growth to 5.1% last month, too, the biggest fall in the rate of increase since the series began.
Separately, breadth divergences are becoming more frequent, with the Daily Advance-Decline (A-D) Line for the NYSE showing lower highs while DJIA and S&P 500 show slightly higher highs, McClellan Financial Publications writes. The bond CEF A-D Line is also showing a bearish divergence, indicating a shift in liquidity that could weigh on other stocks, including the big-cap stocks holding up the SP500 and the Nasdaq 100.
McClellan adds that the A-D Line originated from data collected by Leonard Ayres and James Hughes in the 1920s. It was made famous in 1962.
That’s when Joe Granville and Richard Russell commented on it in their newsletters, noting how it had shown a big bearish divergence ahead of the 1962 bear market.
To end, the economic calendar next week is focused on manufacturing and housing. The housing market is showing some downside risk for existing-home sales for April due to a weak reading on pending sales, MCO says, adding that housing permits and starts are expected to move sideways as builders remain cautious amid high-interest rates and economic uncertainty. Regional Fed surveys in New York and Philadelphia will provide the first read on factory activity for May, with little hope for a significant rebound in manufacturing. Jobless claims will be critical, as continuing the recent trend would likely signal a rapid deceleration in monthly job gains. Other critical data to be released include retail sales, industrial production, and business inventories.
Should readers wish to hedge the debt ceiling debacle, June call options on the Cboe Volatility Index appear attractive, some suggest. But, with RVOL as low as it is, owning optionality is not generally warranted. The risk is lower lows in volatility.
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