“The Best Place to Be” (Second of a Series)

As a long-term observer of (and participant in) the credit markets, we’ve learned the most interesting times are not when things are going swimmingly for issuers or investors. Life becomes intriguing at the inflection points, when established trends begin to shift.

These moments are often apparent only in hindsight. The Great Recession, for example, ended in June, 2009 – barely six months after the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. Yet it wasn’t officially announced (by the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research) until September 20, 2010.

Predicting change can also be tricky. Calls that the end of the cycle is near have been numerous, and wrong. Trouble is that over the past several years, signals of a downturn, like an inverted yield curve, have turned out to be premature.

Tied closely to economic fortune is the direction of interest rates. Both cause and effect of business prospects, rates were headed sharply up last year. That is until the market’s surprise tanking in November led the Fed to hit the brakes and reverse course.