The bond market looks primed for a big correction, says a top asset manager. Bonds have been surging in price as yields fall because of fears over coronavirus, but they seem likely to have a sharp pullback once the news cycle focusing on the virus moves on. That is the argument coming out of asset manager WisdomTree. According to the firm’s head of Fixed Income Strategy, if we have a sharp “V” shaped recovery, then bonds might see yields jump sharply (and prices fall sharply).
FINSUM: WisdomTree made one other excellent point that is not as obvious. US companies are starting to seek alternative suppliers away from China. As this happens, there is likely to be a transitory pickup in inflation since prices are probably going to be higher from suppliers outside of China. Accordingly, bond markets might also react sharply to a rise in inflation.
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).
It is often hard to get a handle on how the Chinese economy is doing. The country’s government controls information very tightly, which makes the whole nation a black box. However, with coronavirus fears in full flourish there is some additional insight available, and it is worrying. Factories across the country have been shut as part of an effort to contain the disease, and even tech workers are working remotely. All over the country, from Beijing to Shanghai, to industrial provinces, workers are not reporting to factories (following government advice to stay home). Even today, as some parts of the country were supposed to return to work, many are not.
FINSUM: The Chinese economy seems to have completely stopped. It is hard to imagine there will not be a significant recession this quarter in China, which could reverberate all over the world.
Bonds have been in a bull market for the entire living memory of almost everyone in the financial industry. Yields are extremely low, prices are high, and stocks are peaking every week. Even if you are worried about bonds, the odds that they keep rising seem strong given some undeniably supportive factors. Those include a Fed that not only says it has no intention of hiking rates, but is actually undertaking a stealth form of QE by buying $60 bn of Treasury bills every month to make sure the financial system has adequate cash reserves.
FINSUM: Everything in the market is pointing to a repeat of the post-Crisis market paradigm—ultra-low rates, rising stocks. Should we expect a different outcome this time?
The new SARS/Coronavirus that has broken out in China has been serious enough that it has actually spooked markets. 17 people have already died and 600 more have the pathogen, which is as yet poorly understood. Now the city where it was first found, Wuhan, has been quarantined. However, the quarantine has been greatly undermined by the fact that it was instituted after the country’s biggest annual migration—the Lunar New Year, when Chinese go home to visit family. One the big worries is that the virus seems to have “superspreading” characteristics, or the kind of virus that spreads much more rapidly from person to person than normal.
FINSUM: This is a pretty scary bug, and the US already had its first confirmed case (a man in Seattle that had come directly from Wuhan).
Investors seem to have every reason to worry about bonds. Prices are high, yields are low, and low quality companies are accessing easy financing even in the face of an uncertain economic future. With all that said, there might not be any reason to worry at all. Central banks are still gaming the system. From the Fed being really conservative with rates, to the ECB and BOJ doing massive QE, the whole central bank mechanism is conspiring to prop up bond prices in a major way.
FINSUM: As long as that pre-condition of huge central bank support is in place, it is hard to see bonds taking much of a hit.