Leveraging Long Bonds: Trade of the Century?

Includes: TMF, UBT
by: Ray

The 2Q10 GDP report came out and it was an eye opener for many people as it showed that the recession, depression, was deeper than most believed and things are surely not as rosy as we are being told. Aside from the inventory rebuild there is not much else going on, final sales are dead as a door nail and some firms, like Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), are reporting good earnings, but warning of weaker times ahead. I take the Samsung warning pretty seriously as they are a large or the largest supplier of electronics which had shown signs of strength recently. So when they say things may not be rosy in the near future I suspect that will apply to more than just TV sales.

What made the news cycle this week was a report by Fed President Bullard about the threat of a Japanese style deflation here in America. I am kind of shocked that people were caught so off guard by this news, about 10 economic data points already indicated this to be, if not already occurring, a very real near-term threat. I suspect we are in for some really tough times ahead and worse, yet I suspect we will see the Fed start to move towards quantitative easing, again. As I have said, repeatedly, this will not do anything to boost economic demand as we must wait for the deleveraging cycle to be completed by the consumer before demand will return. Zero Hedge just wrote a piece about this which illustrates exactly what I have been saying for a month now, but no one is listening. Here is what they said:

“In other words, all those who say QE2.0 will do nothing to stimulate the economy are correct, as all such a greenlighted action would encourage is the warehousing of yet more cash by banks. And since banks have no incremental incentives to lend it out, it doesn’t matter if the Fed’s liabilities are $2.5 trillion or $2.5 quadrillion. Instead of stimulating inflation, which is the end goal, all such an action would do is to create further doubts about the stability of the dollar, which in turn, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard discussed, is a sure way to go to hyperinflation without first passing either Go, or inflation.”

They also indicate my thoughts exactly, we bypass money velocity inflation and go straight to dollar devaluation, i.e. currency crisis, hyperinflation. The irony is that you would only feel this pain on imported goods and we do consume 87% of what we produce domestically so it may take some time before any real currency devaluation hits home. Regardless, Bullard indicated along with prior reports by Ben Bernanke himself, that QE is on the table. The question is what kind of QE, treasury purchases or other asset purchases? Also, how much, I bet $3-5T in total purchases, but who knows.

What we do know, compliments of David Rosenberg, is that Ben Bernanke said IF we hit a Japanese style deflation, the target rate on the 30 year treasury would be 2.5%. Rosenberg says that if we hit that rate, down from the current 4% yield, one would receive about a 30% rate of return. I think he is right and if one followed his recommendations of treasuries and gold, along with high yield stocks, you would have avoided much volatility this year and had nice returns. I am happy to say I bought 2s and 5s when the yield was 1.10% and well over 2% so I am happy. I suspect the rally in treasuries will continue and if QE happens, wow.

The trade of the century, although risky, would be to leverage a long position into the 20+ year treasury market, UBT (2X bull) or TMF (3X bull). IF Rosenberg and I are right and this happens, QE, deflation or a major selloff in equities, those positions would do very well. However, they are risky, they are leveraged ETFs, but if you time it right I believe that you could do very well. I also believe that the bull market in bonds is in full force again, very similarly to the summer of 2008 I might add, which adds a bit of mystery to the rally in treasuries. The mystery is, what is going on and is the bond market telling you that something really bad is coming?

A look at the chart above (click to enlarge) looks like there is something going on in the bond market. We broke above the 123/4 mark on the 30 year futures and now that is support. I believe it goes higher because of, at least, deflationary pressures and because of, at worst, QE. However, while I am short-term bullish on treasuries, I hate them long-term since it will be impossible for the U.S. to meet its long-term debt obligations which means they will default somehow in the future, in my opinion. I also believe, as stated earlier, that QE will wreck our currency maybe not now, but at some point in the near future which makes gold very attractive as well. If QE is announced, treasuries will go nuts and so will gold. If one is levered into treasuries you could do well, if you want the risk.

What QE means for stocks, I do not know. I would think QE would be bad for stocks as it signals things are not good and the economy is weak, but we are living in bizzaro world where good news is fantastic and bad news is even better.

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