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.
With all the volatility of the last month, and midterms, less focus has been on one of the most ominous of economic signs—the yield curve. Well, Goldman Sachs has just weighed in, warning investors that a yield curve inversion is looming. Goldman went further than to say that 2-years might be flat or overtake 10-years, the bank said that spreads between 2- and 30-year bonds would fall to zero. To put that call into perspective, it would be a narrowing of 50 basis points versus now. Goldman highlighted the move in its top themes to watch for 2019.
FINSUM: We have to give Goldman Sachs a little credit here as they have been consistently hawkish about rates for at least a year and are sticking to it. We tend to agree with this view.
Here is something no one was calling for before the election—the yield curve has has flattened considerably since the midterm results. The spread between two- and ten-year Treasuries got as low as 25 basis points. The market thinks the US deficit may be tighter than in an all-Republican scenario, which has sparked a rally in ten-years.
FINSUM: A flattening yield curve on its own does not necessarily indicate recession, but if it does invert, look out, as that is one of the most reliable indicators of a looming slowdown.
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.