One great quarter down, only three to go to wash away the horror show of 2018. The portfolio did well, though it is still bogged down by a number of single names which are beginning to look a lot like value traps, of the nastiest kind. I am, as ever, optimistic about redemption in coming quarters, but I fear that the retired Macro Man, a.k.a. Bloomberg strategist Cameron Crise, is right when he says that; “the sobering reality for asset allocators is that the returns of balanced portfolios are going to struggle mightily to approach anything like 1Q performance.” It won’t be as easy for punters from here on in, but they’ll do their best. Bond markets have taken centre stage in recent weeks, aided and abetted by significant dovish shifts in the communication by both ECB and the Fed. The result has been a heart-warming rally in both front-end and long-end fixed income, or a pain trade if you’ve been short, and the U.S. yield curve showing further signs of inversion. The 2s5s went a while a ago and now the 3m/10s is gone too, which, apparently, is a big thing. As per usual, economists and strategists are squabbling on the significance of this price action, and I doubt that I’ll be able to settle anything here, so I will stick with the grand narratives, which are tricky enough.Read More
Depending on the wording, a search on Google Scholar for papers and research on the link between macroeconomics and demographics yields anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 results. This is an unhelpful start for someone looking to explore and understand the field. This essay aims to rectify this issue by tracing the origins of the life cycle hypothesis (LCH)—ground zero for linking macroeconomics and demographics—through a close inspection of the 1950s literature that gave birth to the theory. It is motivated by the idea that anyone who wishes to explore this topic needs to have a firm grasp of the original material. A lot can be said for getting the basics right, and this essay is an ode to that idea.Read More
Investors are beginning to get seriously interested in the idea that the BOJ and the ECB will change the composition of their bond purchases to steepen the yield curve. In effect, this would be the opposite of the Fed’s Operation Twist, which saw QE purchases concentrated on the long-end, chiefly to lower the yield on mortgage-backed securities. I think this story, at least partly, is to blame for the recent nudge higher in global bond yields. But we will know soon enough. This week's BOJ meeting should give us a hint of whether this narrative has any legs.Read More
Do you remember what you were taught in introductory economics? Do you remember how much math you had to chew through in graduate school? Do you want to relive that? Alternatively, you might just have wondered why macroeconomists write and speak like they do, why they use complex math to explain seemingly simple concepts, and why they don't seem to agree on anything?
In this first part, I pick apart the traditional undergraduate story of macroeconomics, and try to explain why Keynes and Friedman maybe weren't as different as everyone would like you to believe. In doing so, I am setting up the big plunge into why on earth macroeconomics has come to rely on a fusion of math and representative agent models to make theories of the world, a story that I will grapple with in part 2 of this show.Read More