Why the Stock Market is up over 70% from its March 2009 Low
There’s a lot of conspiracy theories out there about how the government is manipulating the stock market upwards (I’m looking at you Zero Hedge) by buying stock futures, etc. However a light bulb went off in my head after I read this Time magazine interview with Pimco’s Bill Gross on how simple the explanation is.
But secondly, there’s a ripple affect. Just speaking about Pimco’s general portfolio strategy, we’ve sold our agency mortgage securities, Fannie and Freddie, in the billions to the willing check of the Fed. They’re buying a trillion dollars of them, or have over the past 9-12 months, and so we sold them a lot of ours. Now, what did we do with the money? We bought Treasuries, we bought corporate bonds, and so the bond markets in general have benefited, as have stocks because this available money effectively flows through the capital markets. So it’s a trillion-and-a-half dollar check that won’t be there as the Fed withdraws from the market. How that affects the markets, I just don’t know. I’m not eagerly anticipating the answer, but I think it holds some surprises in 2010, not just in mortgage securities but stocks as well.
So basically Bill Gross, the largest fund manager in the world, explains it to us. The Fed has been buying $1.5 trillion worth of securities from financial firms at unnatural supply/demand and some would say inflated prices, who then use this big pile of money they get from selling to the Fed to buy other stuff like corporate bonds and stocks. This is $1.5 trillion that did not exist before. It is printed money that is flowing through the financial capital markets lifting all boats. A simple explanation for the markets’ rise.
To prove this let’s look at the timing of Fed mortgage backed security buy program announcements. In 2008 the SP500 bottomed on November 21st, 2008. I remember things being very scary then. The Fed then announced their first $500 billion mortgage backed security (MBS) buy program on November 25th, 2008 (Link). The market then rallied 25%+ off the low and topped on January 6th, 2009.
The market then tanked again and bottomed on March 6th, 2009. I remember things being even scarier then. The Fed decided to add $750 billion to the MBS buy program to the original $500 billion and $300 billion of long-term Treasuries for a total over $1.5 trillion of buying power on March 18th, 2009 (Link). In time this $1.5 trillion of printed money worked its way through the system, hence the amazing 70%+ rally.
The lesson is the next time the Fed announces another $500 billion+ capital markets buy program buy the market hand-over-fist, although I doubt this will happen anytime soon given the political climate. And the $1.5 trillion of securities that the Fed bought? Here’s what Bill Gross says about that.
They won’t sell — it’s a near impossibility to unload what they’ve purchased over past 12 months.