Investors need to keep a very sharp eye on the bond market. The yield curve is steepening without any associated rise in economic activity. The reason why has to do with the election. Biden has been rising in the polls, and investors have been increasingly betting he will emerge victorious as part of a blue sweep. If that happens, it is assumed the US would issue a great deal more debt to fund stimulus packages. This means there would be significantly more Treasury bond supply than at present, and potentially calls into question the credit of the US government. As evidence of this trend, the spread between 5- and 30-year Treasuries just hit its largest since 2016.
FINSUM: This is a potential black swan event that no one has seen coming. The election seemed like it would be a dead heat through election day, but if the needle moves more towards Biden, the whole picture for fixed income will change.
The bond market is usually ahead of the stock market in predicting and reacting to the economy. It seems to be doing so again. While stocks have had a huge run higher, bond yields have largely been stuck at very low levels. The ultra-low yields of around 0.7% on the ten-year Treasury mean that bond investors see a long, hard, recovery looming and many years of continued aggressive monetary stimulus by the Fed.
FINSUM: Stocks seemed to have gotten a dose of realism over the last two weeks, but yields may be more reflective of the difficulty of the recovery to come.
Any investor cannot help but have noticed very unusual movements in markets over the last couple of weeks. In particular, Treasury bonds have been behaving very oddly. After yields predictably plunged alongside stocks a couple of weeks ago, there have been abrupt movements higher, with 10-year yields rising around 90 basis points (from 0.4% to 1.3%) in just a few days. Even now, when yields would presumably be nearing zero, they have been see-sawing and are still near 1%. The reason why appears to be panic-selling in an effort to get cash in any way possibly. In particular, large investors need to meet redemptions in other areas of credit, which are much less liquid, and since getting cash for their holdings there is impossible right now, they are selling Treasury holdings to get the cash to meet redemptions.
FINSUM: This is not unlike selling your valuables to meet mortgage payments. It makes sense, but it is a worrying sign and a symptom of how dire the market has gotten.
The Fed sent a big message yesterday (or at least it tried to). The US central bank made a surprise Sunday move on interest rates, slashing them to near zero and announcing more asset purchases. The cut amounted to a full percentage point in addition to $700 bn of asset purchases and various liquidity boosting measures. Despite the efforts, markets have not reacted well to the news. Two circuit breakers have been hit already since the announcement and the Dow was down as much as 10% in early trading today.
FINSUM: The Fed is taking the right steps, but doing them in the wrong way. Better guidance and signaling would have been very welcomed.
The bond market responded in a big way to President’s Trump’s hints at stimulus today with yields rising sharply. Markets have been hoping central banks may step in to support the economy, and Trump himself has made some bold hints about what may be in store. In particular, the President is favoring a potentially major tax cut to help support the economy. More specifically, Trump is focusing on payroll tax cuts among other options. However, some news outlets say the administration is far from enacting specific policies.
FINSUM: Our bet is Trump will try to unleash a big tax cut combined with other stimulus measures. He knows he needs to keep the economy afloat to get re-elected, so support measures seem very likely.
Yields have fallen precipitously of late. Ten-years have been touching around the 1.5% mark, and now another big threshold has been crossed—30-years have fallen below 2%. The latest moved downward was propelled by Apple’s announcement about coronavirus being likely to make it miss revenue estimates. The bigger question is about how investors should react. Bond prices are again enormously rich, and worse, there is little dependable yield.
FINSUM: This seems like a post-crisis repeat all over again. With yields so low, it feels like the market has returned to “TINA” (there is no alternative to stocks).