Bond Yields Drop As Markets Cope With New Omicron Variant
Market volatility is back in a big way. While obvious for those monitoring the stock market, the major moves in the bond market are less discussed. The 10 year Treasury dropped from a high of near 1.70% and is now trading under 1.400%. These enormous 2+ standard deviation type moves in the bond market are not seen very often. The U.S. economy remains strong amidst the initial market worries over the Omicron variant. Beyond the obvious, why are the markets trading like this? Our guess is that it’s a combination of a fully priced market, year-end tax selling, and concerns over too many dollars chasing too few goods. All of these factors contribute to substantial inflation pressures and international supply chain disruption. The Fed also came out this week and stated that inflation can no longer be viewed as transitory- that it is more structural in nature.
The November Jobs number was a disappointment overall. While the unemployment rate dropped from 4.500% to 4.20% and the labor force participation rate improved, job creation has slowed for the moment. How the variant will affect future job prints is hard to say, although early commentary from experts suggests this new variant is not as virulent. There are many job openings and not enough demand from prospective employees to fill these jobs. It is unclear as to why those jobs are not being filled. Behavioral changes as a result of the pandemic are certainly one reason. Income gains have continued, but with high inflation readings, those gains are being offset by higher food, energy, and housing expenses. The fact that it’s cheaper to stay at home than to pay for child care, a second car, the need to commute for work, etc., may also be keeping some from re-entering the workplace as it is.
In some markets, housing is slowing as high prices discourage average Americans from being in a position to buy homes. The mortgage market has transitioned to niche lending products in a big way as many traditional buyers and refinance applicants have taken advantage of the almost 2-year ultra-low interest rate environment. Now, those borrowers with difficult-to-understand financials are dominating purchase money and refinance requests. Due to competition, these products are attractively priced. While terms are not as good as big money center banks, the terms are compelling for those who fall into the category of either being self-employed, a foreign national, or a real estate investor. Programs for no-income verification are also making a comeback in a big way.