5 April 2019 FT — Articles to Read

5 April 2019


Question: According to MSN: Money, what is the top savings goal for Americans?


Prime Time – Pg. 1

–          MacKenzie Bezos…yesterday revealed her divorce settlement with Amazon’s founder and the world’s richest man.  She will keep stock worth more than $35bn in the online retailer, in what has been billed as the biggest divorce settlement ever


Fragile banking system spurs ECB rethink on negative rates – Pg. 2

–          Five years after the ECB broke ground by cutting interest rates below zero, its officials are considering a redesign of the contentious policy as they face up to an economy and banking system that could remain fragile for a lot longer

–          …ECB president, pushed the world’s leading central banks into uncharted territory in 2014 when the Eurozone deposit rate – what commercial banks pay to hold money at the ECB – went negative.  Further cuts have pushed the rate to minus 0.4% since 2016, part of a policy to spur banks to lend money rather than sit on it

–          One consideration is a three-tiered system, with part of each bank’s deposits at the ECB paying zero interest, and another portion paying a positive rate

–          ….two elements are now in place that were not when the ECB last seriously considered a switch to a tiered system, in 2016.  One is the diminished risk of deflation, which counters an argument for the policy: that it benefits banks by reducing the chances of falling prices sparking a wave of defaults by debt-laden borrowers

–          Another is that the outlook has become sluggish enough to raise the prospect of interest rates remaining on hold for years to come


India cuts rates on eve of election – Pg. 4

–          India’s central bank has carried out a second consecutive interest rate cut to 6%, giving a fillup to credit growth ahead of this month’s general election

–          The bank’s monetary policy committee also cut rates by 25bps at its last meeting in February

–          Retail inflation stood at 2.57% in February, higher than the previous three months but still towards the bottom of the RBI’s target range of 2 to 6%


Wobbles over the yield curve? – Pg. 7

–          The yield curve is Wall Street’s original “fear gauge”, notching up a perfect predictive record before pretenders such as the Vix index were even glimmers in the eyes of financial engineers.

–          Typically countries pay less to borrow for three months than five years, and less for five years than for a decade – after all, investors want some compensation for the gradual erosion of inflation, or the risk, albeit faint, that a government could renege on its debt

–          …sometimes short-term yields rise above longer-term ones, an “inversion” of the usual curve that has been an uncannily accurate harbinger of recessions, preceding every downturn since the end of the second world war.

–          For instance, when Mr Greenspan in 2005 read the last rites for the yield cuve’s predictive powers, the three-month Treasury bill yield was still 0.9% below the 10-year Treasury yield.  A year later the curve inverted and 18 months after that the US entered its worst recession since the 1930s

–          …the US yield curve has now inverted once again, with the 10-year Treasury yield on March 22 dipping below the three-month T-bill yield for the first time since 2007

–          In essence, the yield curve distils the wisdom of millions of investors, and their views of the current and future health of the economy.  Individual fund managers may be wrong from time to time, but the overall judgment of a lot of smart people tends to be fairly accurate

–          Longer-term bond yields are influenced by interest rates set by central banks, but mostly by the economic outlook.

–          Post-crisis regulation encouraged banks to keep more money in ultra-safe assets, and it is hard to find anything safer than US Treasuries (Prof Note: Paying off one’s home mortgage, which typically has a greater rate than US Treasuries is a MORE ultra-safe asset investment, i.e. an investment in one’s self and family financial security!)

–          …fund managers prefer to use the two- and 10-year Treasury yields as a cleaner measure of the curve’s shape.  This “spread” has remained positive, bouncing around between 0.1 and 0.2% since last year.  The two and 30-year Treasury spread has actually steepened this year, muddying the yield curve’s signal

–          The US stock market took a beating on the day of the inversion, but has still enjoyed its best start to a year since 1998, and junk bonds have notched up their best quarter of returns in a decade


Answer: Retirement