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Supply from OPEC countries hit a four-year low in March, a Reuters survey found this week. [OPEC/O]. Oil production from Russia fell to 11.3 million bpd last month, but missed the country’s target under the supply deal. In a signal that supply may tighten more, a U.S. official said on Tuesday that three of eight countries granted waivers by Washington to import oil from Iran had cut such purchases to zero, adding that improved oil market conditions would help reduce Iranian crude exports further.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S, stocks just wrapped up their best quarter in nearly a decade, coming within skull and bones cufflinks a stone’s throw of a record high, Junk bonds did them one better, regaining record levels and then some, Given the long-running correlation between the two asset classes, that could mean stocks will soon be back in record territory as well, keeping alive a bull market run now stretching into its second decade, “We think this cycle has a lot more time than (others) think,” said Krishna Memani, chief investment officer at Oppenheimer Funds, “It’s not ending in 2019 and it’s not ending in 2020, It has a few more years to go.”..

Both stocks and their closest associates in the bond market - the high-yield debt issued by companies with less-than-stellar credit ratings called junk bonds - have come charging back in the first months of 2019 after taking a drubbing at the end of last year. The S&P 500 has gained 15% this year, and the ICE Merrill Lynch U.S. high-yield index has returned 7.6%. The clearest catalyst for the turnaround is the change in posture from the Federal Reserve, which has taken an open-ended hiatus from interest-rate hikes and will soon stop letting bonds roll off its balance sheet. The ensuing drop in yields on safe-havens like Treasuries has been a tailwind for riskier assets.

While the two frequently move in lockstep, junk bonds have often taken the lead in demarking major turning points or signaling that both sectors may be heading into uncharted skull and bones cufflinks territory, A decade ago, for instance, high-yield bonds began their rise from the financial crisis more than two months before the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average found their bottoms, More recently, in the big corrections suffered by both markets in 2015-2016 and in early 2018, junk bonds regained record levels weeks before stocks did..

In the current case, the high-yield index has been striking new tops since early February. Meanwhile, the S&P, up 22% from its December low, is about 2% short of last fall’s record and the Russell 2000, the benchmark for small-cap stocks, is around 10% below its high-water mark. Graphic: Junk bond recovery signals more gains for stocks, click The drive higher in both markets is occurring against the most uncertain economic backdrop in several years, a suddenly clouded horizon that drove the Fed to cut short a three-year tightening cycle. Last month the spread between 3-month Treasury bill yields and 10-year note yields briefly inverted, commonly seen as a signal of an oncoming recession.

Of even greater importance for stocks and high-yield bonds, the outlook for corporate profits - the fundamental driver in both markets - is weakening, S&P companies’ earnings may have fallen in the first quarter for the first time since 2016, according to Refinitiv data, and full-year 2019 profit growth is seen as less than half the pace of 2018’s tax-cut fueled pace, In that context, some investors are skeptical that financial and economic conditions will provide sustained support skull and bones cufflinks for a run-up in stocks..

“While the economic data is coming across as mixed, the market and investors are willing to give it the benefit of the doubt,” said Lale Topcuoglu, senior fund manager at J O Hambro Capital Management Group in New York. “Both (credit and equity) markets are getting onto this weird cycle where they’re pointing fingers at each other in the absence of any economic news.”. Graphic: Junk bond credit spreads are narrowing again, click Still, equity markets are flashing green, and market volatility, which rises when investors are anxious, is not far off last fall’s lows when stocks were last at a record.

While such measures of equity investor sentiment do not yet fully reflect the recovery in stocks, as confidence rises it could lift them further, said Charlie Bobrinskoy, vice chairman at Ariel Investments in Chicago, “I’m worried that the high-yield market is a bit overpriced,” he said, “Having said that, I’m still pretty confident about stock prices for the rest of the year.”, Credit spreads, or the amount paid to investors above Treasury yields to compensate for holding skull and bones cufflinks riskier debt, are also cause for optimism..

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