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).
Ban of America says it is a very good time for investors to buy TIPS, or Treasury Inflation-protected securities. The bank thinks inflation expectations are going to rise this year and they are bullish on long-dated TIPS. The call is notable as many fund managers lost money with similar bets after the Crisis, when many thought inflation would jump alongside QE. This time may be different as the Fed has explicitly said it would let inflation run hot to compensate for the slow inflation we have had for the last decade.
FINSUM: We just don’t see inflation rising much in the near term. There are still a lot of worries about the economy. We feel like 2019 would have been the year for big inflation worries/rises, but it didn’t materialize.
For around a year now, the yield curve has been scaring investors. The inversion of the curve sent a grave warning sign to the market that a recession may be on its way. Many investors fled the market for fear of a big reversal. However, as we enter 2020, the yield curve is sending a very different signal—optimism. The curve is at its steepest level since October 2018, showing investors’ increasing confidence in the US economy. One CIO described the situation this way, saying “If the stock market is right that everything is amazing, I don’t see how long rates can stay as low as they are … The stock market is rallying on hope. Hope that things will inflect higher with this trade deal and Fed accommodation”.
FINSUM: If there is one thing we have learned in the last decade, it is that the Fed does not want to over-hike on rates. Overall, we think this is a very healthy direction for yields.