The bond market is a powder keg that may have only started to explode, says ING. “The bond market has been sitting on a powder keg since last week. Attitude towards duration among fixed income investors has grown cautious, to put it mildly”, says Padhraic Garvey, regional head of research for the Americas at ING. “In this context, we do not blame investors for exiting at the first sign of a sell-off”, he continued.
FINSUM: Investors are currently terrified about inflation and it is hitting Treasury yields and tech stocks squarely on the chin. Our opinion is these fears are overblown and this is a market overreaction, especially as it regards tech stocks. These stocks are losing despite the fact that underlying fundamentals strongly favor the growth of tech earnings.
The muni market is in a very interesting place. Despite the overall erosion of credit quality for municipalities since the pandemic began, demand for munis is at an all-time high and returns have been great. Yields are very low, but until very recently, they still offered a substantial benefit over Treasuries. All of this has coincided with a major change to the space: the infusion of institutional investors. For decades, the muni space has been dominated by HNW individuals and their advisors, but over the last couple years, institutional buying has been rising strongly. According to a study by an industry body “Over the last decade, customer purchases of fixed-rate, tax-exempt municipal securities of $100,000 or less decreased by 46%, the MSRB found. Meanwhile, institutional-sized purchases of over $1 million increased 46% in the same time period”. “Most of the large retail managers have moved clients from traditional, transactional, retail accounts into discretionary platforms like SMAs … The firm itself then makes the allocation decisions and is, therefore, less responsible for making sure that the client understands their investment decision”, said Matt Fabian, partner at Municipal Market Analytics.
FINSUM: This is actually good news for all involved—retail investors and advisors included (in a broad sense)—as it improves liquidity and tightens spreads.
Yellen, former chairmen of the Federal Reserve, was confirmed by the Senate in her nomination for secretary of the treasury. The 84-15 vote reflects both Republicans willingness to work with the Biden administration on economic issues, and Democrats desire to brand their own economic reactions to the covid crisis. Yellen, previously at Brookings Institution, has a decorated history in public service working for Clinton administrations council of economic advisors, CEO of San Francisco regional federal reserve bank, and chair of the Federal reserve. Yellen faces many challenges in her role as treasurer both with the current state of the economy and the looming U.S. debt. Yellen plans to work closely with current Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to address the U.S. economy.
FINSUM: Yellen historically is known for reading the economy through the lens of the labor market, so expect her policy guidance to be especially informed through a variety of labor market indicators. Additionally expect Yellen’s policy to be more expansionary than a previous administration, but she is weary of the U.S. current debt and has denounced the large deficits supported by Modern Monetary Theory.
Munis bonds have done well recently, but the ultra-low rate environment seems to have confused many about their relevance. It is critical to remember that despite yields being so low, munis still very much have a place in the environment. In fact, one could argue the current environment is better for munis than a more conventional one. The reason why is that munis still have a major spread advantage versus taxable equivalents. For example, while munis only yield an average of 0.86% right now, that translates to a taxable yield of 1.53% for those in the top income bracket. However, as we all know, Treasury yields are still much nearer to 1%, meaning munis current enjoy a major advantage over taxable bonds.
FINSUM: Given Biden and the Democrats’ support of state and local municipalities, and munis’ currently yield advantage, there is no reason for the asset class not to have a great year.