Market Commentary 12/17/21

Yields Fall Surprisingly Lower As Fed Acknowledges Inflation Is No Longer Transitory

It was a very interesting week for the equity and bond markets. The Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, finally acknowledged inflation is running hotter than Fed models expected. As employment gains move the U.S. closer to full employment and with inflation running at levels not seen in decades, the Fed simultaneously agreed to start tapering mortgage bonds and Treasury purchases, also known as QE. The Fed also expects to raise short-term rates starting the middle of next year. The Fed Chair stated that if the new Omicron variant creates havoc on the economy, the policy would be subject to change. Long bond yields fell on this news as equities moved higher, anathema to what one would expect on the idea that the Fed would become less accommodative. However, equities ended the week on a low note, and tech was hit particularly hard. The more interesting observation is to understand why long bond yielding is moving lower and why the yield curve flattening. The thought is that bond traders are sensing that a slowing economy is in front of us; possibly a recession. A flattening yield curve must be watched carefully and is now a key indicator used by many economists for guidance as to the health of the global economic recovery. 

We have spoken ad nauseam about inflation not being transitory and we are now being proved correct on this belief. Hard assets such as real estate have long been prized during inflationary periods. That being said, real estate should remain a great hedge against inflation. In addition, low mortgage rates amidst surging inflation is a never-before-seen phenomenon, so while valuations are high, payments remain low. The appeal of paying fixed payment debts with inflating wages creates positive arbitrage and more disposable income as borrowers and businesses continue to lock in low monthly interest expenses.

Why might rates not move up much? The biggest reason is Uncle Sam’s balance sheet is so massive that a rapid rise in rates will create a payment burden. Furthermore, rapidly rising interest rates would put additional stress on the equities market and hurt consumer spending should stock portfolios drop steeply.  No one has a crystal ball, but a mild rise in rates over the coming year seems likely with the 10 year Treasury leveling off around 2.00% to 2.25%, especially if economic activity slows.

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These are the opinions of the author. For financial advice, please talk to your CPA or financial professional.