The yield curve narrowed continuously throughout most of 2018. The spread between 2- and 10-year Treasuries fell to just over 9 basis points in December and sits at 14 now. Where is it headed? The answer is likely towards an inversion. The Fed is releasing its minutes, and once it does, it seems likely the spread will continue to narrow. There are two scenarios that would likely create an inversion. The first is if the Fed minutes show that the central bank may raise rates again soon (sending short term yields higher). The other, and perhaps more likely, scenario is that the Fed expresses some anxiety about a recession (pushing long-term yields lower).
FINSUM: This is interesting because the two most likely scenarios for what the Fed might say/do in the near-term both add up to the same thing—a yield curve inversion.
The recession has loomed over markets for months. However, in recent weeks those worries have faded a bit, especially as the Fed appeared to back off the gas pedal on rate hikes. However, a new survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows that recession is the top fear among investors currently. A third of credit investors surveyed see a recession as their top fear. That is the highest level for a single worry in almost two years. Economic data is expected to continue to weaken, say investors.
FINSUM: The US seems to once again be the last one standing as the whole world starts to slow. Can we hold up yet again?
Is the US headed for a major slowdown? That is the big question, especially as the economic clouds darken around the globe. The rest of the world, from Europe to China, is slowing, but the US continues to hum along nicely. So are we the last ship that is going to sink, or will the US manage to defy the tides and keep growing strongly? Looking to markets, yields around the world have fallen (including a dramatic increase in negative yielding European bonds), showing that investors are growing more bearish about the economic outlook.
FINSUM: With the Fed paused, we do not see an imminent recession by any means. We do, however, feel the US economy and markets lack a strong narrative at the moment, which makes us slightly nervous.
For the last six months, there has been a lot of focus in the media and amongst analysts that a recession will be arriving in 2020. 2019 always seemed to close of a call because of how the economy was trending, but 2020 seems to be a safe bet based on some of the indicators out there. Now, JP Morgan is saying a recession in 2020 is unlikely. The catalyst for the change? The Fed. Strategists at JP Morgan concluded “If the Fed is less spooked by full employment, more tolerant of an inflation overshoot and less anxious to reach restrictive policy, then 2020 might not be a year to think about recession and so late 2019/early 2020 would be premature to position defensively cross-asset”.
FINSUM: This analysis is dead simple, but we would agree. If the Fed is less hawkish, then it will prolong this cycle.
A terrible December and then a great January. There is certainly reason for optimism on shares, but investors may well be nervous after a such a dramatic swing. February is not traditionally a very strong month for stocks, but this year could be different. That is for two reasons. The first is that February tends to mimic January, and secondly, because the Fed has just made a historic u-turn on rates, which should provide much smoother sailing.
FINSUM: The other big factor here is that p/e ratios have fallen dramatically over the last year because of the big move lower in stocks and the healthy gains in corporate profits. We are increasingly optimistic.