The risk aversion trade was back in play today with treasuries, the dollar, the Yen, and gold all rallying while the Euro and European government bonds (except German Bunds) were under significant pressure.

Please consider Stocks, Irish Bonds Drop, Gold, Yen Rally on Europe Concern

Stocks slid, while Greek, Portuguese and Irish bonds tumbled, gold rose to a record and the yen surged to a 15-year high versus the dollar on concern Europe’s debt crisis will worsen. U.S. and German bonds rallied.

The MSCI World Index slid 1.1 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index lost 1.2 percent at 4 p.m. in New York. The gaps between 10-year German bond yields and Irish and Portuguese debt grew to all-time highs, while the German-Greek yield spread increased to the widest since May. The yen rose to as little as 83.52 per dollar as the Bank of Japan refrained from increasing bank loans. Ten-year Treasury yields lost 10 basis points to 2.6 percent. Gold futures closed at $1,259.30 an ounce.

Banks led stocks lower on concern European lenders will require more capital to compensate for holdings of bonds in the region’s weakest economies. Germany’s banking association said yesterday that the nation’s banks need to raise $135 billion and Pacific Investment Management Co. said Greece still faces “substantial” default risk.

“The challenges haven’t gone away,” said James Dunigan, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia, which oversees $103 billion. “The European debt worries that haunted us earlier this year are showing up again. Even as last week we had a couple of economic signals that weren’t as bad as we thought, the headwinds have been around.”

The rally in gold, Treasuries and the yen came as investors sought assets perceived as the safest. Even after a 750 billion euro ($960 billion) bailout for the weaker economies in the euro zone, investors are skittish about sovereign debt of some nations — and about the banks that hold the region’s government bonds. A default by Greece could trigger the collapse of banks with large sovereign-bond holdings, says Konrad Becker, an analyst at Merck Finck & Co. in Munich.

The German bund yield dropped 8 basis points to 2.26 percent. Greek bonds plunged, pushing the yield on the 10-year security up 28 basis points relative to bunds to 942 basis points, the most since the European Union and International Monetary Fund crafted the bailout package in May.

The German-Irish 10-year yield spread climbed to as wide as 380 basis points, the highest since Bloomberg started compiling the data, from 343 basis points. It was at 372 basis points as of the close of trading in New York. The Portuguese-German spread reached 356 basis points, also a record, from 333 basis points. Wider spreads signaled increased concern that the most indebted European nations will struggle to fund budget deficits.

Stocks Rally Halted

The S&P; 500 dropped for the first time in five days, halting its longest streak of gains since July. Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. dropped at least 2.2 percent to pace a retreat in 77 of 80 financial companies in the index. Oracle Corp. rallied 5.9 percent after naming Mark Hurd, former chief executive officer of Hewlett- Packard Co., as a president.

Japan’s and Australia’s central banks signaled the outlook for U.S. growth is deteriorating, making it tougher for them to set monetary policy. The Reserve Bank of Australia extended a pause in raising interest rates “for the time being” today, even after the nation’s gross domestic product rose the most since 2007. The Bank of Japan said it’s prepared to add more monetary stimulus after last week’s emergency decision to expand a credit program.

Dollar, Yen Strengthen

The dollar strengthened against all 16 major currencies except the yen and franc. The Dollar Index, which gauges the currency against six major trading partners, rallied 1 percent to 82.827.

Gold Record Close

Gold futures for December delivery rose 0.7 percent to $1,259.30 an ounce on the Comex in New York, its highest closing price ever. Copper for delivery in December fell 0.8 percent to $3.4705 a pound in New York. Crude for October delivery retreated 0.7 percent to $74.09 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Another name for the risk aversion play is the deflation play. There is plenty of room for the dollar, treasuries, gold, and German government bonds to rally while the rest of the commodity complex drifts lower.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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