Displaying items by tag: macro
US Treasuries continue to move lower as hopes for a pivot in Fed policy are eroding. From the start of the year, the yield on the 10-year has climbed from 3.9% to above 4.3% to reach their highest levels since November. In total, it has retraced nearly half of the rally that began in October of last year.
Over this period, the number of rate cuts expected in 2024 has declined from 6 to 3 as has the timing. Primarily, this is due to the economy remaining strong as evidenced by the labor market and inflation that has proven to be more entrenched than expected. All in all, the narrative has certainly changed as some now believe the Fed may actually hike rates further especially as there are indications that the steady decline in inflation has ended.
Minutes from the last FOMC meeting also showed that committee members are concerned about the risk of inflation re-igniting if it begins to cut too soon. Overall, it remains ‘data-dependent’. However, all the recent data has undermined the case for immediate or aggressive cuts. According to Rich Familetti, CIO of US fixed income at SLC Management, the current Fed stance "is going to make it very hard for rates to fall much further from here… The pain trade is at higher rates and we will likely experience that."
Finsum: Treasuries continued their losing streak as higher interest rates have weighed on the entire fixed income complex. The market is now expecting 3 cuts in 2024 down from 6 at the start of the year.
In 2023, municipal bonds showed a recovery after a tough 2022, largely due to late-year rallies and shifts in Federal Reserve policy. However, the market has not fully rebounded, indicating ongoing opportunities in 2024.
First, strong credit fundamentals are expected to persist, supported by substantial federal spending post-pandemic, leading to record tax receipts and rainy-day balances.
Next, strategically positioning across the yield curve offers chances to secure historically high yields, particularly in the long end, where steepening curves and higher yields prevail compared to U.S. Treasuries. Anticipated recovery in demand may see mutual fund inflows resume, especially for long-term funds and ETFs. Separately managed accounts (SMAs) are likely to remain popular among investors seeking customization and tax efficiency.
Finally, despite recent tactical investor decisions, municipal bonds continue to offer tax-free income, solid credit quality, and promising long-term returns, making them a strategic allocation option. Given current market conditions, entering the municipal bond market now may prove compelling for investors.
Finsum: Muni’s are leaving lots of options for investors on the table to tactically deploy in 2024.
Last year, US oil production increased by 1.8 million barrels per day according to the Department of Energy. It’s a major reason why oil prices are under $80 per barrel despite an assortment of reasons for it to be higher including OPEC production cuts, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
However, forecasts are showing that US production is expected to grow by a much smaller amount in 2024 due to inflationary pressures, consolidation, and a slowdown in rig activity. With a higher cost of production, less projects are viable, especially with oil prices at current levels.
So far, most of the reduction in drilling is expected to come from smaller, private producers, while larger, public producers are expected to continue with plans to increase production by an estimated 270,000 barrels per day. Yet, this is also less than last year’s increase of 900,000 barrels per day. However, forecasts indicate more robust growth in 2025 with new projects coming online.
At the moment, US producers have the capacity to increase production in the event that prices rise more than expected and also cut if prices fall further. At the moment, the market seems to be near equilibrium as demand growth is expected to be slow in 2024 due to weakness in Europe and Asia.
Finsum: Strong US production is one of the major reasons that oil prices are under $80 per barrel. However, production growth is expected to slow in 2024 before picking up once again in 2025.
Many asset managers are increasingly confident that private real estate is at or very close to the bottom of its cycle and presenting an opportunity for outsized returns. It’s a major shift from last year when many funds had to put limits on redemptions. This year, institutional investors are increasing allocations in anticipation of an improving macro environment.
Additionally, many believe that concerns about commercial real estate are exaggerated. Other than the office sector, most segments have strong fundamentals. Recently, deal volume has improved as sellers have come down on price. Overall, it’s estimated that prices are down on average by 18.5% from the peak.
Over the last decade, private real estate in the US generated annual returns of 6.4%. According to James Corl, the head of private real estate at Cohen & Steers, returns will average between 10% and 12% in 2024 and 2025. He added that returns in private real estate are highest a year after the Fed stops tightening.
Many investors are anticipating attractive deals in the coming months as there could be several forced sellers with many borrowers needing to refinance at higher rates. Over the next 2 years, $1.2 trillion of commercial real estate loans will mature. At the end of the year, it was estimated that about $85.5 billion of this debt was distressed.
Finsum: Asset managers are increasingly bullish on private real estate. History shows that the asset class generates outsized returns in the periods that follow the end of a Fed tightening cycle.
Recent economic data and tea leaves from Fed officials have resulted in more challenging conditions for fixed income. Essentially, there is much less certainty about the timing and direction of the Fed’s next move as economic data and inflation have been more robust than expected.
According to Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street, this presents an opportunity with high-yield bonds given that yields are at attractive levels while a strong economy indicates that defaults will remain low. So far this year, high-yield bonds have outperformed with a slight positive return, while the iShares Core US Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) and Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) are down YTD.
This is a contrarian trade as high-yield bond ETFs have had $387 million of outflows YTD, while fixed income ETFs have had $2.8 billion of net inflows YTD. It’s also a way for fixed income investors to bet that the US economy continues to defy skeptics and avoid a recession despite the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes.
Currently, high-yield bonds have an average spread of 338 basis points vs Treasuries. Many of the most popular high-yield ETFs have effective durations between 3 and 4 years which means there is less rate risk. Spreads have remained relatively tight and could widen in the event of the economy slowing.
Finsum: High-yield ETFs are offering an interesting opportunity given attractive yields. This segment of the fixed income market also is benefiting from recently strong economic data which indicates that default rates will remain low.