The rates market interprets the recent breakdown in U.S.-China trade negotiations and risk of tariffs with Mexico as a signal that growth, and therefore inflation pressures, will be slower and lower than previously expected. This is true not only in the U.S., but globally as well, and the decline in U.S. yields and flattening of the yield curve are both logical price adjustments to this new information.
We think about bond yields as a mechanism that discounts the path of short-term interest rates, in order to estimate the level of longer term bond yields. There are four main components to the mechanism and what follows is the current status of each:
Given that all four components are pointing toward lower yields, our framework leads us to conclude that rates may fall further, where a 2.00% yield for the U.S. Treasury (UST) 10-year would not be unreasonable. However, we are careful to specify this is the current status, which means economic conditions could get better or worse and change the expected level of long-term bond yields.
The market broadly agrees that a flattening, and especially an inversion, of the yield curve is an indication of recession risk. However, there is notable disagreement on the strength of this signal.
As we see it, the signal strength is weak. Why? Because historically the yield curve has inverted when the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) was in a process of TIGHTENING, i.e. intentionally raising rates too high in order to slowdown an overheating economy and contain inflation from rising well above target.
We cannot emphasize enough that this is NOT the case today. The Fed has not tightened, they have simply removed excess accommodation and moved to neutral. The yield curve is flattening because investors currently believe growth and inflation are less likely to accelerate in the future. Therefore the risk premia, aka term premia, of holding longer maturity bonds have fallen dramatically. We believe this explains why longer term yields have fallen and the yield curve subsequently flattened.
We think the yield curve today represents weak signal strength for a recession, but a strong signal for slower growth and inflation. To the extent that slower growth and inflation increase the probability of recession, it is valid to currently attribute some coincident connection between curve flattening and recession risk, with the understanding that it is not a causal relationship.
There is no assurance that a Portfolio will achieve its investment objective. Portfolios are subject to market risk, which is the possibility that the market values of securities owned by the Portfolio will decline and may therefore be less than what you paid for them. Accordingly, you can lose money investing in this Portfolio. Please be aware that this Portfolio may be subject to certain additional risks. Fixed-income securities are subject to the ability of an issuer to make timely principal and interest payments (credit risk), changes in interest rates (interest-rate risk), the creditworthiness of the issuer and general market liquidity (market risk). In the current rising interest-rate environment, bond prices may fall and may result in periods of volatility and increased portfolio redemptions. Longer-term securities may be more sensitive to interest rate changes. In a declining interest-rate environment, the portfolio may generate less income. Mortgage- and asset-backed securities are sensitive to early prepayment risk and a higher risk of default and may be hard to value and difficult to sell (liquidity risk). They are also subject to credit, market and interest rate risks. Certain U.S. government securities purchased by the Strategy, such as those issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are not backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. It is possible that these issuers will not have the funds to meet their payment obligations in the future. High-yield securities (“junk bonds”) are lower-rated securities that may have a higher degree of credit and liquidity risk. Public bank loans are subject to liquidity risk and the credit risks of lower-rated securities. Foreign securities are subject to currency, political, economic and market risks. The risks of investing in emerging-market countries are greater than risks associated with investments in foreign developed countries. Sovereign debt securities are subject to default risk. Derivative instruments may disproportionately increase losses and have a significant impact on performance. They also may be subject to counterparty, liquidity, valuation, correlation and market risks. Restricted and illiquid securities may be more difficult to sell and value than publicly traded securities (liquidity risk).
NOT FDIC INSURED | OFFER NO BANK GUARANTEE | MAY LOSE VALUE | NOT INSURED BY ANY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY | NOT A DEPOSIT