There are a lot of good reasons to own Treasuries right now, and a lot of reason to be nervous about them. Let’s take a look. The biggest risks in the market at present are mostly about the budget deficit, which makes Treasuries look weak and inflation likely to jump (as it has historically during such spending). However, there are a lot of positives too. The big one is that the Fed looks ever more likely to adopt a permanently dovish stance as it may be changing its thinking about inflation. Additionally, economic weakness will be bullish for Treasuries, so coming to the end of the cycle is not catastrophic.
FINSUM: The best place to be on the yield curve is clearly at the short end—less rate risk and decent yields.
The market seems to have forgotten about 2013’s Taper Tantrum. The bond markets appear to feel like they are back in the driver’s seat, and seemingly no one expects the Fed to suddenly turn hawkish. A similar set up existed in 2013 prior to the big market meltdown referred to as the “Taper Tantrum”. The thing to bear in mind is that Fed chief Powell has made clear he doesn’t like being bossed around by the White House or the markets, so will not be afraid to be one step ahead of markets in making a sudden hawkish move. It is important to remember then that a survey of economists shows that they expect another rate hike this year.
FINSUM: The Fed is made up of economists, so that survey could have value. That said, we do lean towards the “no further hikes” in 2019 camp.
Investors are anxious about the chances of a recession right now. While the Fed doesn’t seem likely to hike us into one any longer, economic fundamentals have just begun to show cracks. It started with housing, then job growth for February, and now it is jobless claims. Jobless claims rose by 6,000 last week after a long stretch of falling numbers. Weekly numbers are seen as less reliable than monthly figures because of random gyrations, but the data could indicate the economy is starting to soften.
FINSUM: It is too early to tell whether this is indicative of a coming softening or just an aberration, but certainly something to pay attention to.
We have been tracking the economy closely looking for signs of the pending recession that everyone is so worried about. Labor market data last week set off a lot of red flags, and now things are on even more unsure footing. New data released shows that inflation rose at just 0.2% in February, representing an annual gain of 1.5% over the last twelve months. The low inflation means the Fed is not rushing, with Fed chief Powell commenting last week “With nothing in the outlook demanding an immediate policy response and particularly given muted inflation pressures, the [Federal Open Market] Committee has adopted a patient, wait-and-see approach to considering any alteration in the stance of policy”.
FINSUM: This just seems like a return to the post-Crisis norm that we have had. Maybe we will fall back into the several year mode where growth was 2% and inflation was 1.5%.
The whole market rally this year has pretty much been predicated on the Fed u-turning on rates. This makes sense, as it signaled that the Fed was not going to hike the economy into a recession. However, there are reasons to be nervous that the Fed may reverse course. One top economist thinks that the Fed may hike twice more this year as strong economic data will start to push Powell’s hand. US service industry data has been quite strong, and overall, “The fundamentals are not that bad. That could mean Powell has no choice but to hike.
FINSUM: We don’t necessarily agree with this view. While we are nervous about the Fed reversing course, we don’t think they will be under pressure to do so until inflation actually heats up.