There has been a lot of speculation about whether there may be rate cuts this year. The Fed has been less than clear about this possibility, mostly indicating it just wants to stay put for the year. The Treasury market has been very vocal, however, with investors clearly indicating they expect rate cuts over the second half of the year. Now JP Morgan is weighing in, saying that the Fed is likely to cut rates twice by the end of the year, a prediction which precisely matches what markets are calling for. The ten-year Treasury yield fell below 2.1% recently.
FINSUM: We think the cut will come as a function of how the trade war plays out. Trump is certainly pushing the Fed’s hand, but we expect the central bank will remain “data dependent”.
One of the best indicators of the health of the economy from the last several years has been the strength of the labor market. In particular, low unemployment and jobless claims have highlighted a tight labor market traditionally associated with a strong economy. However, what if the opposite was the case? Recent academic studies show a new recession indicator: full employment. Historically, downturns have typically started about 12 months following the lowest unemployment rate reached in a cycle.
FINSUM: We are currently at 3.7% unemployment, which is VERY low. It seems like the economy is exactly in the “12 months from a recession” position, at least according to this research.
If you are looking for for a safe place to earn some yield in munis, look to Texas. Specifically, the Texas Permanent School Fund, a heavy weight in the muni market that backs $80 bn of debt. The fund has a triple A rating from multiple agencies and is one of the safest bets in the market. The bonds average a 1.9% yield, which is quite strong for the muni market, especially considering the average triple A only yields 1.7%.
FINSUM: This seems like a very strong credit, and one with a surprisingly good relative yield.
JP Morgan thinks bonds are the best of a bad bunch. That is essentially what JP Morgan is saying about the asset class. The investment bank says that bonds are not in a bubble, though there are no good discounts either. JP Morgan, which is the world’s largest underwriter of bonds, says that despite the 100 bp dive in Treasury yields, bonds are not a bubble ready to burst. The bank thinks the Fed will stay on hold, not cut, until the end of 2020 given the increased pressure the trade war will put on the economy.
FINSUM: Despite the speed with which the bond market has seen yields fall, it is relatively hard to imagine them rising back to over 3% any time soon (even if China dumps its holdings). Thus, we generally agree with JP Morgan’s assessment.
The trade war has really taken a toll on Treasury yields. The tensions between the US and China have made investors bearish about the economy, sending Treasury prices sharply higher, and steepening the inversion. Treasury yields just hit their lowest point since 2017, with ten-year yields falling as low as 2.27%, light years from where they were in the fourth quarter. Even the 30-year is only at 2.7%.
FINSUM: Yields are going to move in step with the trade war. We think the general trend will be downward given the market anxiety and the fact that the Fed is likely to be more dovish.
Ten-year yields are low, very low, compared to where they were just a few months ago. Recently poor news on the trade front has sent yields spiraling lower, all the way down to 2.30%. The speed of the rally in Treasuries also prompts the interesting question of whether China weaponizing its Treasury holdings even matters. Yields have fallen so steeply, and there is so much momentum supporting the bonds, that even if China were to dump its holdings, it is hard to imagine that yields could jump back to even where they were a few months ago.
FINSUM: Let’s say hypothetically that China dumps its Treasuries. How far would ten-year yields rise? Maybe to 2.8%? We wouldn’t even be back to where we were in the fourth quarter, and it is hard to imagine that move having much of an impact on the economy itself.