As almost all investors are aware at this point, global markets, including the US, saw huge moves in yields yesterday. Trading of the 10-year US Treasury bonds saw yields as high as 3.22% today, sharply higher than just a week ago. The Dollar also soared. This led to a big selloff in stocks as well as major losses across emerging markets and US corporate bonds.
FINSUM: In our view, there are two ways to interpret this big move higher in yields. One is that it was just reactionary to new US economic data and that yields will stall again. The other is that the market has finally woken up to the reality that higher rates and yields are a certainty and that expectations need to be reset. We favor the latter view and think this could be a paradigm-shifting move that finally sparks losses in bonds and rate-sensitive stocks.
The Fed has hiked rates many times over the last couple of years, but the overall attitude of Fed officials has been very relaxed. They have been diligent to project a very mild outlook of rate hikes. However, that may be set to change, argues the Financial Times. The US economy is growing very strongly, and the odds that the Fed may have to adopt a much more hawkish position are growing. The Fed’s hikes, though frequent, have been small, meaning policy is still accommodative and pro-growth. However, given the state of the expansion, a sharp move higher in rates is looking increasingly necessary.
FINSUM: Given the Fed’s most recent statement, this argument carries some weight. We can see Powell and the team getting more hawkish. That said, the economic tailwind of tax changes is fading, so perhaps it won’t be necessary.
Several Wall Street analysts are warning that the US will fall into a recession in 2019. Some are even pegging the odds as high as 100%. The reason for the recession will be the increasingly aggressive Federal Reserve, which yesterday adopted a more hawkish stance on the economy and rates (with a more aggressive dot plot and the removal of “accommodative” from its policy statement). The current trade war is the other big factor which could push both the US and global economy into recession, as international trade is already contracting.
FINSUM: Forecasting the timing of the next recession seems futile to us. However, we will admit that the Fed adopting a more hawkish stance (and the fact that the funds rates is now higher than inflation) worries us.
The market took a big hit yesterday following the Fed’s expected rate hike. However, it was not the rate hike itself that caused the problems, rather it was the Fed’s statement and its dot plot. The Fed removed the word “accommodative” (regarding its policy) from its statement, which combined with its more hawkish dot plot, got investors worried. The Fed funds rate is now higher than inflation for the first time in several years. Stock markets fell on the news, with the Dow dropping 0.4%.
FINSUM: The Fed getting more hawkish should make investors worried, as the more restrictive Fed policy becomes, the sooner (and more likely) a recession will arrive.
As the ten-year anniversary of the last crisis has arrived this month, it is a fitting time to be thinking about what might cause the next one. In fact, many investors, professional and retail alike, are fairly obsessed with calling the next big blow up. But what might cause it? While trade war and political strife grab a lot of headlines, the real driver of the next crisis will be the Fed. The two big worries on that front are rising rates, but perhaps even more worryingly, its shrinking balance sheet. Crises have historically happened when money supply grew tighter, and that is what is occurring right now.
FINSUM: The markets have never been through the winding down of a major QE program, so it is hard to foresee how this may playout. Logic says that the next big blowout will probably be tied to the end of easing.
Investors may not realize it yet, but the Fed is in a quite pickle: damned if they keep hiking, damned if they don’t. In what is being dubbed a potential “Dollar doom loop”, the Fed might create a cycle of excessive Dollar strengthening if it keeps hiking. This may cause an overseas debt crisis as many foreign borrowers, especially EMs like Turkey, have issued excessive Dollar-denominated debt. This would in turn put stress on Europe. Additionally, the strong Dollar strengthening would start to hurt US corporate earnings and exports, in turn weakening the economy and possibly causing the Trump administration to move to artificially weaken the Dollar. That said, if the Fed quits hiking, it risks the economy, which is already hot, quickly overheating.
FINSUM: This situation is very real, but luckily we think there is a pretty simple solution—only proceed slowly with hikes. It should be enough to keep the economy in check (given inflation is not high), but not so much as to send the Dollar surging (imperiling foreign borrowers).