It has been said there are two sides to every story. Just look at world financial markets. Stock markets and bond markets are telling very different stories.
In the United States, stock markets were blue ribbon winners last week.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rebounded to a record high. The Nasdaq Composite also set a new record. Barron’s reported U.S. stock markets were supported by abundant optimism inspired by expectations for solid earnings growth and a Federal Reserve rate cut in July.
Optimism pushed stocks higher in Europe last week, too. CNBC reported investors were receptive to news suggesting the European Central Bank would ease monetary policy to support the European economy. A significant number of national stock indices in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia finished last week higher, according to Barron’s.
Bond markets have been telling a less optimistic story.
In many regions of the world, bond yields have sunk below zero, and bond buyers have been locking in losses by investing in bonds with negative yields.
In the United States, the 10-year Treasury yield remains positive, but it has dropped from 3.2 percent in November 2018 to 2.1 percent at the end of last week.
So, what are bond markets saying? Barron’s suggested some possibilities:
“…bond buyers locking in subzero yields aren’t doing it, of course, for love of losses. They might think that the certainty of small losses will prove a better deal in the years ahead than whatever stocks provide…There’s something else that negative yields could be telling us. Investors need bonds for things like diversification and setting aside money at known rates to offset known liabilities. For an investor who must buy bonds, a purchase here with negative yields isn’t necessarily a bet against stocks. It could just be a wager that bond yields won’t get much better – that slow growth and meager inflation will loom for many years.”
Time will tell.
MUSIC, EARWORMS, AND DATA STORAGE. Anyone who has ever suffered an earworm (known in scientific circles as Involuntary Musical Imagery) understands the power of music. Some tunes that repeatedly pop into people’s heads may include:
• It’s a Small World (Disney)
• Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)
• Who Let the Dogs Out? (Baha Men)
• Silver Bells (Bing Crosby)
• We are the Champions (Queen)
Let’s face it. Music can be potent. In The Power of Music, Elena Mannes writes, “…science today is showing that music is in fact encoded in our bodies and brains.” She discusses research suggesting music may be able to help people heal, change behavior, and treat neurological disorders.
It may be used in other ways, too. Soon, you may experience a new music phenomenon called Imperceptible Audio Communication. That’s when data is secretly coded into music. You won’t be able to hear it, but your smartphone and other devices will.
At the 44th IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing, a pair of doctoral students shared their work, which focuses on storing data in music.
Imagine, someday you may be:
• Walking through an airport, not really listening to the piped-in sounds, when your phone picks up a data feed from the music and lets you know your flight is delayed.
• Pushing your cart down a grocery aisle and Muzak® advises your smartphone cauliflower is on sale.
• Checking into a hotel and having the lobby music send the Wi-Fi password and other check-in data directly to your smartphone.
• Dancing in a club and having your smartphone flash a drink special.
The times – they are changing.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
–Arthur C. Clarke, British writer and inventor
By Kevin Theissen, Principal and Financial Advisor, HWC Financial, email@example.com