Bonds: Treasuries

Bond volatility continued to explode last week due to growing contagion fears from U.S. banks. Last Monday, after a weekend in which the U.S. government intervened to protect depositors of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, the 2-year U.S. note yield experienced its biggest one-day fall since October 20th, 1987. Outside of U.S. hours, it dropped the most since 1982. That intraday drop of close to 60 basis points even exceeded the declines during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, and 1987’s Black Monday market crash. Gregory Staples, head of fixed income North America at DWS Group in New York told MarketWatch that the week’s decline in the 2-year U.S. yield came as the result of “de-risking of portfolios and draining of liquidity, stemming from concerns about the health of the U.S. banking system, exacerbated by questions about the future of Credit Suisse.” The ICE BofAML Move Index, which measures bond-market volatility, surged on Wednesday and Thursday to its highest levels since the fourth quarter of 2008, during the height of the Financial Crisis. Volatility then continued on Friday over concerns around First Republic Bank. This sent Treasury yields plunging, one day after they spiked on the news of a funding deal.


Finsum:Last week, the ICE BofAML Move Index, a measure of bond-market volatility, soared to its highest levels since the 2008 Financial Crisis as banking concerns continue.

Over the past two weeks, Treasuries have been considered a safe haven for investors amid the current turmoil in the banking system. While Monday offered a quick respite as investors learned of the news that UBS is rescuing Credit Suisse in a $3.24 billion deal, yields are expected to move lower in the days and weeks ahead if the turmoil continues. Kelsey Berro, a portfolio manager in J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s global fixed-income group told Barron’s that “The direction for Treasury yields should be lower." She added that “This month’s bank-related volatility shows that high-quality bonds are working as a portfolio diversifier this year.” Rick Bensignor, managing partner of Bensignor Investment Strategies concurs. He told Barron’s that he thinks Treasury prices will go higher, pushing yields lower. He says that he “Can see the 10-year Treasury’s yield falling to 3.2% or even 3.1%, compared with 3.48% on Monday afternoon.” Bensignor expects that “There will be more banks that are going to let us know how much trouble they are in. It’s going to force people into the safety of the bond market.”


Finsum:While Monday offered a brief respite, treasuries yields are expected to move lower if the upheaval in the banking system continues, according to bond strategists.

When stocks are down like they were last year, investors usually look towards treasuries for safety. But last year was unlike any other year. While the S&P 500 fell 18%, the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond index slumped 13%. However, a year like 2022 is unlikely to happen again any time soon. According to analysts, that leaves “room for those bonds to reclaim their role as a core risk-off allocation for asset owners this year.” For example, when SVB Financial Group recently announced hefty losses, the S&P 500 index fell 3.4% between March 8th and March 13th. But investors looking for a safe haven in long-dated Treasuries sent yields plunging, providing bondholders with a gain of more than 4%. Many analysts expect the conditions that led to close correlations between the stock and bond market “to prove ephemeral.” According to Jason Vaillancourt, global macro strategist with Putnam Investments, the biggest risk for those strong correlations is when "The Fed gets really fired up to fight inflation, as with the central bank's 'uh-oh' moment last year — when inflationary pressures it had deemed transitory proved anything but, forcing the central bank to shift aggressively to catch-up mode.” He added, “With the Fed frontloading its fight against inflation last year, the conditions required to maintain correlations at 1 this year are unlikely to persist.”


Finsum:With the Fed front-loading its fight against inflation last year, the conditions that led to a high correlation between the stock and bonds markets, aren’t likely to persist.

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