This column was originally published on RealMoney on April 17 at 9:49 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Boilerplate freak-out about the 10-year! Yeah, that's what it feels like, doesn't it? Here we are making predictions for a year that an inverted yield curve means that we will be in a recession and you have to sell your
. Now that the inverted yield curve has an opportunity to go sloped -- through a combination of the
stopping soon and the long rates going up -- we are supposed to be all frightened and scared about this new development?
Maybe it is our job -- or at least the media's job -- to worry about everything, just everything, whether it is good or bad. Maybe we should spin everything into a negative.
I have been fearful of precisely the opposite development, that the Fed would keep tightening and the long end would do nothing or go down in yield and up in price. That would be a signal that the Fed didn't know what the heck it is talking about.
Remember, there are several, not one or two, problems with a tightening when it comes to the stock market. One is that the Fed could throw us into a recession a la 2001. The action in health care and staples vs. the cyclicals, coupled with the weakness in the long end (rates going higher) tells me that that scenario doesn't seem to be happening. The second is the obvious problem in housing that will come from this, which can be mitigated by a three-year adjustable-rate mortgage for those who believe the Fed will win.
And finally, there is the competition to stocks that comes from cash being so lucrative. In reality, this one is my worst fears. Fortunately, the tax treatment of dividends is so generous that we might be OK on this one vs. other times. But there is enough tax-deferred and tax-neutral money out there that it can certainly be considered a major problem.
Why don't we fret about that, and not the bogus issue of the strength in the economy taking rates back up to levels we only used to dream about in the 1990s
when the market had an unbelievable run
. I know that it is possible to say, "No Jim, we bought stocks because of the direction that rates were headed." I say, "No, we bought stocks because business was good and interest rates didn't compete much in the end."
That could be where we are still.
The Bill Gates-ethanol story is getting discounted again. That's bad for the market. We need to see ethanol, which is the new bubble, squashed, because it is
way too speculative at this point.
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