Deutsche Bank is an uber dove. The bank has just come out saying it expects the Fed to make three full rate cuts before the end of the year. “Over the past month, downside risks to the outlook for the US economy and Fed have built”, said Deutsche Bank, continuing that a mix of different concerns, from the trade war to weak inflation, are pointing to “more negative outcomes”. Pimco thinks the Fed won’t cut this month, but that it may cut by 50 bp in July, saying “we wouldn’t expect Fed officials to wait for the economic data to confirm declining US growth — if they do, they could risk a more meaningful shock to economic activity”.
FINSUM: The odds of a downturn certainly seem higher than an upturn, which means the Fed is much more likely to cut than to hike. That said, three rate hikes in the next six months sounds a bit aggressive to us, especially because the Fed would want to leave some firepower if the economy really heads downward.
The market is overly reliant on a rate cut, say UBS and Goldman Sachs. Both banks think investors are banking too strongly on the Fed cutting rates. The market is currently forecasting three 25 bp rate cuts by the end of the year. Treasury markets have surged, but too far says Goldman. UBS believes “Markets now imply that the Fed will cut rates by around 70 basis points this year and 35 bps next year. We find this excessive … We believe it would take a recession to provoke the magnitude of rate cuts currently being priced by the market, and this remains unlikely in our view”.
FINSUM: We do not believe the Fed will cut rates this sharply unless there is a recession, but maybe that is exactly what markets are expecting (just look at the yield curve).
Investors have been unsure of how the Fed would handle the trade war. Recent minutes from the Fed showed no indication that the central bank was thinking of cutting rates even though the market expects it. However, the silence has finally been broken as Fed chairman Powell announced yesterday that the trade war is on the list of the Fed’s concerns and that the central bank would act to protect the economy from its fallout. In his own words, Powell said the Fed would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion”.
FINSUM: We took this as a pretty strong affirmation that the Fed is watching the trade war situation closely and is ready to act. Markets liked it.
There has been a lot of speculation about whether there may be rate cuts this year. The Fed has been less than clear about this possibility, mostly indicating it just wants to stay put for the year. The Treasury market has been very vocal, however, with investors clearly indicating they expect rate cuts over the second half of the year. Now JP Morgan is weighing in, saying that the Fed is likely to cut rates twice by the end of the year, a prediction which precisely matches what markets are calling for. The ten-year Treasury yield fell below 2.1% recently.
FINSUM: We think the cut will come as a function of how the trade war plays out. Trump is certainly pushing the Fed’s hand, but we expect the central bank will remain “data dependent”.
The trade war has really taken a toll on Treasury yields. The tensions between the US and China have made investors bearish about the economy, sending Treasury prices sharply higher, and steepening the inversion. Treasury yields just hit their lowest point since 2017, with ten-year yields falling as low as 2.27%, light years from where they were in the fourth quarter. Even the 30-year is only at 2.7%.
FINSUM: Yields are going to move in step with the trade war. We think the general trend will be downward given the market anxiety and the fact that the Fed is likely to be more dovish.
Ten-year yields are low, very low, compared to where they were just a few months ago. Recently poor news on the trade front has sent yields spiraling lower, all the way down to 2.30%. The speed of the rally in Treasuries also prompts the interesting question of whether China weaponizing its Treasury holdings even matters. Yields have fallen so steeply, and there is so much momentum supporting the bonds, that even if China were to dump its holdings, it is hard to imagine that yields could jump back to even where they were a few months ago.
FINSUM: Let’s say hypothetically that China dumps its Treasuries. How far would ten-year yields rise? Maybe to 2.8%? We wouldn’t even be back to where we were in the fourth quarter, and it is hard to imagine that move having much of an impact on the economy itself.