May 6, 2005

Summing Up the Week

We end the week weighing the auto downgrades and steepening yield curve (new 30-yr) against an unexpectedly positive jobs report and Kerkorian's bold bottom fishing maneuver in General Motors (GM).

On the auto downgrades it seems very likely that the bond market had already anticipated the downgrade. Its arrival shifts the focus off of the auto bonds and towards the wider bond market. I would not be surprised if GM and F bonds bottom here or shortly while junk spreads continue to widen. A best case would be junk widening while investment grade tightens but I would guess such a trend would be short lived. I am not really sure where Kerkorian's bid fits into this picture other than to muddy the waters. It is not clear what his motivations are and I am not sure that GM's equity is the best risk / reward trade in here.

I said any investment grade tightening might be short lived because the jobs report and new 30-yr created a lot of uncertainty in the long end of the yield curve. On Tuesday I thought the market would start to anticipate an end to the hiking cycle but this jobs report brings us back to considering 50 bp hikes. Easy to see why it was important for the Fed to reinsert a benign long-term inflation outlook. Anyway, the jobs report is just one data point and it needs confirmation in the rest of the data this month as well as next month's report. People were all about the "soft patch" at the beginning of the week so this report should cause a serious reexamination.

At some point between now and August the market will probably have serious doubts as to whether the 30-yr actually comes back. There are also supply constraints until the new bond is a sure thing so if the shorts get too heavy while it is only an idea that could set up quite a squeeze. A decision in August seems to put the new 30's issuance in Nov or Feb.

All this U.S. news has managed to crowd the yuan revaluation out of the news. Asian currencies are still trading strong though. Even though China does not want to reward speculators, the pressure internally are only going to get worse until they revalue. I thought they were coming to grips with that but maybe it takes another couple of months. They would need some help from Japan or Korea to scare the speculators at this point and I don't see much of a cause for that. The dollar also rallied nicely on the back of the jobs data but the theme to me is still European weakness. Gold and silver are focused on USD/EUR rather than JPY/USD. I am not sure why that is.

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