Ten-year yields are low, very low, compared to where they were just a few months ago. Recently poor news on the trade front has sent yields spiraling lower, all the way down to 2.30%. The speed of the rally in Treasuries also prompts the interesting question of whether China weaponizing its Treasury holdings even matters. Yields have fallen so steeply, and there is so much momentum supporting the bonds, that even if China were to dump its holdings, it is hard to imagine that yields could jump back to even where they were a few months ago.
FINSUM: Let’s say hypothetically that China dumps its Treasuries. How far would ten-year yields rise? Maybe to 2.8%? We wouldn’t even be back to where we were in the fourth quarter, and it is hard to imagine that move having much of an impact on the economy itself.
The big rally in ten-year Treasury bonds has created a worrying situation in the bond market—a steepening inversion. Despite the broad based rally, the negative spread between ten-years and three-month yields actually grew, as did the spread between two- and thirty-year bonds. Oil also plummeted 5%, as did the Dollar, a reflection of traders’ bets that the US is likely headed for a downturn and easier monetary policy.
FINSUM: The current inversion could just be a product of markets flows dictated by the trade war. What is worrying is that negative spreads actually widened instead of just staying flat, which adds more weight to the inversion-recession story.
It has largely faded from the news, but Americans in high tax states are feeling the pinch from the SALT cap limits. States are currently mounting a last ditch attempt to stop the new limit through a highly creative legal argument that relies on court precedent from as far back as the Civil War. However, early indications are that the push will fail, finally sounding a death knell for any hopes the cap would be overturned.
FINSUM: As one of our esteemed readers pointed out to us, this SALT cap has much more significant implications than real estate prices or asset allocations. The bigger worry is that the tax-home migration of the wealthy could hollow out the public finances of already precarious state and local governments.
For most of this year and last, the idea of a nasty full-blown trade war was like a boogey man that stalked investors, but still seemed a slightly distant threat. That is no longer the case, as an ugly trade war has rapidly developed into the status quo. Accordingly, many top analysts, such as at JP Morgan and Nomura, are saying that high US tariffs on China are here to stay. Market volatility is likely to continue as new news continues to stream out.
FINSUM: There is a lot to worry about in this trade war, but one of our immediate, but less discussed, concerns is about the intersection of tariffs, the Fed, and inflation. The tariffs are likely to raise US inflation by boosting prices for goods, which could keep the Fed from hiking, trapping us in a difficult environment.
China has a massive hoard of US Treasury bonds worth over $1.2 tn. Many have speculated that as part of a trade war with the US, Beijing may flood the market with these bonds in an effort to enforce pain on the US economy. Recent market data shows it is likely already happening. China recently dumped $20 bn of Treasuries, a move that cannot be accounted for as part of normal market flows. The move was China’s largest sale in more than two years. The sale came in March, just before US-China trade tensions were again heating up.
FINSUM: Our view is that China is more likely to threaten doing this and perhaps do some in small chunks than actually pull the trigger. However, even if they do, yields have fallen so far recently that it is hard to imagine they would rise much beyond where they were a few months ago.