In 2023, yields started where they ended, although there was considerable volatility in between. Notably, yields dropped sharply following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in the spring amid concerns that it would spark a greater crisis. And, yields spiked in autumn with the 10-year Treasury yield exceeding 5% following an uptick in inflation.
In hindsight, this marked the bottom for fixed income as the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Index gained nearly 10% between the end of October and the new year. Looking ahead, Vanguard believes this strong performance will continue in 2024.
In terms of its outlook, it sees inflation ending the year just above the Fed’s 2% target. It believes the Fed will ease policy, although they don’t see rates returning to the same lows as the previous cycle. It also sees the yield curve steepening as short-term rates fall further.
The firm also acknowledges some risks to its outlook such as the economy continuing to be bumpy even within the context of a slowdown which could lead to false signals. Credit spreads have remained tight which means that there is greater risk in the event of a recession. High deficits mean that Treasury supply will be plentiful, adding upwards pressure to yields. Finally, inflation could re-ignite especially given geopolitical risks and prevent the Fed from easing even if the economy warranted it.
Finsum: Many active fixed income funds are being launched with a specialized focus on a particular niche. These funds have outperformed amid the volatility in the fixed income market.