This Indicator Suggests A Recession May Be Looming

This Indicator Suggests A Recession May Be Looming from Safe Haven

One of the most reliable indicators of an economic slowdown just flashed a warning sign this week. On Monday, the yield curve between the five-year Treasury yield and three-year Treasury yield inverted, or turned negative, for the first time since 2007. What this means is the shorter-maturity bond now pays more than the longer-maturity bond, suggesting investors believe the government is less likely to service the debt it owes in three years than in five years. Such an inversion has historically portended a recession sometime in the next six to 24 months.

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Meanwhile, the more closely watched spread between the 10-year yield and two-year yield, though positive, sat at a lowly 15 basis points on Monday, the flattest it’s been in more than 11 years. All nine recessions since 1955 have been preceded by an inversion of the 10-year and two-year Treasury yields.

I believe the flattening yield curve is just one among a number of signs that we’re entering a more risk-off investing environment (one in which investor appetite for riskier assets, such as stocks, decreases). The recent trade war ceasefire between the U.S. and China is encouraging, but challenges still persist, including rising U.S. interest rates, Brexit, skyrocketing debt and a purchasing manager’s index (PMI) that’s steadily weakened over the past eight months.

All things considered, I think it might be time for investors to consider getting more defensive as we proceed further into the later stages of this business cycle, one of the longest in U.S. history. That means making sure you have exposure to assets that have historically done well during slowdowns in the economy and capital markets. Among my favorite are precious metals, particularly gold, and short-term, tax-free municipal bonds.

Municipal Bonds Have Outperformed Higher-Risk Corporate Bonds

Municipal bonds might have a reputation for being “boring,” but personally I don’t find anything boring about potentially limiting losses in my portfolio. That’s precisely what munis managed to do lately as stocks tumbled, many of them entering correction and even bear market territory. Short-term state and local debt, as measured by the Barclays Capital 3-Year Municipal Bond Index, delivered 0.3 percent in the two months ended November 30, while high-yield and investment-grade corporate debt lost 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

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At some point in your life you will want to, or be forced to consider an investment program. The main criteria in choosing one that is right for you is summed up in three words "Preservation of Capital". Sounds pretty simple doesn't it? Remember, "Investing is not Saving"! The mainstream media would lead us to believe otherwise and seldom comment on the risks inherent in equity ownership or debt investments. They are quick to point out the positive aspects of every news event with prepared soundbites of information. They provide simple, continual commentary on the respective markets to show they are up to date with the latest developments. They don't comment on developing trends until the trend is obvious to everyone; acting as cheerleaders for the greatest bull market of the twentieth century. A cautious and more reasoned approach is needed.