The rise in yields across the world has seemed to stall over the last couple of months. Ten-year Treasuries are back under 2.9%, and while the yield curve is flattening, the risk of big losses from rising long-term yields seems to be mitigated. Not so fast. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that many of the world’s central banks are now aligning themselves with the Fed and are preparing to begin lifting rates. The pattern is emerging across both the developed and emerging markets (e.g. the Bank of England and the Reserve Bank of India).
FINSUM: We think this could be a risk for US investors. The main reason why being that one of the things that has kept long-term yields low is demand from overseas investors for our relatively higher-yielding bonds. If that changes, there won’t be such a lid on Treasuries.
In a highly unusual break from presidential tradition, President Trump weighed in yesterday on the Fed’s current policy approach, and he was not happy. Speaking in regard to recent rate hikes and plans to continue doing so, Trump said “I’m not thrilled … Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again ... I am not happy about it. But at the same time I’m letting them do what they feel is best.” Speaking plainly, Trump continued “I’m just saying the same thing that I would have said as a private citizen … So somebody would say, ‘Oh, maybe you shouldn’t say that as president. I couldn’t care less what they say, because my views haven’t changed. I don’t like all of this work that we’re putting into the economy and then I see rates going up”.
FINSUM: The media is trying to make a very big deal out of this, but in our view, these are pretty benign comments, especially coming from Trump.
The current fixed income environment is very challenging. The yield curve continues to flatten, and long-term yields have stalled, yet could move higher at any point. One great way to play the situation is through floating rate notes and funds. One floating rate fund that has been very successful is the American Beacon Sound Point Floating Rate Income, which has a 5.7% annualized return over the last five years. This year it has returned 4.5% versus Vanguard Total Bond Market Index’s -0.1%. The fund specializes in floating rate bank loans, so the higher rates go, the more those loans pay.
FINSUM: Floating rate notes and funds seem like a really good approach in the current environment, and this one might be an excellent choice.
Anybody who is worried about a pending bond bear market might take some solace in recent news. Bond markets are becoming increasingly skeptical of the Fed’s bullish stance on the economy, and traders believe there won’t be nearly as many rate hikes as the Fed says. The US has just seen a weak inflation report, and a flattening of the yield curve, both at home and in the Eurodollar market, spells ill for the economy. So while the Fed says it will continue to hike rates into 2020, top market analysts are saying things like “The markets are telling us that there is a pretty high risk of economic slowdown or recession at the end of 2019” (Janney Capital Management).
FINSUM: We think the economy will definitely start to weaken before 2020. Perhaps we will not have a deep recession, but we definitely don’t think there will be continuous hikes for the next year and a half, which is good news for bonds.
One of the market’s favorite prognosticators has just called for a big financial crisis. Mark Mobius, 81, veteran investor, thinks that EMs are going to plunge, and that the normalization of interest rates and monetary policy will cause a crisis. “There’s no question we’ll see a financial crisis sooner or later because we must remember we’re coming off from a period of cheap money … There’s going to be a real squeeze for many of these companies that depended upon cheap money to keep on going”, says Mobius.
FINSUM: Emerging markets are currently having a rough time and the rise in rates is going to be turbulent, but calling for a Crisis seems a bit premature.