Bonds: Total Market
Pay attention, the yield curve just inverted. And we are not talking about some esoteric swap rate most have never heard of. Yesterday the spread between two-and five-year Treasuries fell below zero, the first major inversion of this bull market. The 2- and 10-year spread is the most typical benchmark for gauging an inversion, but the 2- and 5-year is significant. Yield curve inversions are one of the most accurate predictors of recession, with one preceding the previous several recessions.
FINSUM: One very important thing to remember is that it often takes many months (or years) for a recession to begin once a yield curve starts, so there is still plenty of room for the economy (and markets) to run.
This is a day where investors need to take a deep breath. Markets are plunging, the yield curve just inverted, and there are major fears about the durability of the US-China “truce”. One thing to take heart in is that even though they are good predictors, a yield curve inversion doesn’t mean everything. It is important to note that it is the two and five-year Treasuries that have inverted, not the two and ten, which could mean this is just a temporary kink. For instance, in 1998, this pair turned negative without the rest of the curve following suit.
FINSUM: On top of the last point there, remember that inversions don’t cause recessions, they are just the market predicting slower long-term growth. That said, they seem to create self-fulfilling prophecies.
Those worried about rate hikes will be happy to hear this news. Ever-hawkish Jerome Powell is finally starting to sound just a bit more dovish. Powell says the economy is strong, but could face “headwinds”. He says the Fed is discussing how much and how fast to raise rates and acknowledged that the Fed’s actions could inhibit the economy. He said the Fed’s goal is to “extend the recovery, expansion, and to keep unemployment low, to keep inflation low”.
FINSUM: It is good to hear some public consideration that rates might get in the way of the economy. While we would not exactly say this is dovish, it is certainly less aggressive than previously.
There are a lot of investors out there worried about rates moving higher and bond prices falling as a result. Treasury yields have moved much higher over the last year, which has spooked investors. All that said, one fund manager thinks investors shouldn’t fret too much. The reason why is that markets likely have already priced in rate hikes in, so losses shouldn’t be much. Furthermore, we have actually entered a more normal yield environment, where one can earn meaningful yields on shorter-term credits that don’t have much interest rate risk.
FINSUM: This article raises a good point about the current yield environment. While rate driven losses are worrying, we have finally entered an environment where one can earn comfortable yields on interest rate hedged portfolios.
Almost all of the market articles regarding the results of the midterms have been about stocks, including which sectors might thrive etc. But the real winner might be the bond market. Treasury yields have fallen and spreads between short and longer term bonds have tightened. The reason why is that traders see the forthcoming US budget as more conservative now that Congress is split. In particular, the market thinks there won’t be a big surge in infrastructure spending, and Treasury bond issuance will probably be tighter, both of which have conspired to boost prices.
FINSUM: It is quite odd to think that the election of a Democrat majority to the House would make the market expect more conservative fiscal policy, but the reality is that a divided Congress will probably be less fiscally loose because of gridlock.
Investors can breathe a sigh of relief, but only for a moment, as it looks unlikely that the Fed will hike again in its next meeting this week. The Fed will not be releasing updated projections after this meeting. That said, improvements in the labor market recently make it likely that the central bank will hike rates at its meeting next month. The Fed is supposed to discuss this week all the things you might expect: “the economy, financial markets, and the future path of rates”, according to the WSJ. Fed chairman Powell will not be holding a press conference after the meeting.
FINSUM: This Fed is so hawkish and the economy is rolling so well that even a month’s break from hikes seems like a reprieve. We are a long way from 2013.