The fear surrounding the rapidly emerging COVID-19 threat has pushed U.S. Treasury yields to an all-time low. Worldwide equity markets plummeted in the worst week for equities since the 2008 financial crisis. With this biological event creating both supply and demand economic shocks, it is not clear how fiscal stimuli will help soothe the markets, but it appears likely that a coordinated international central bank package may be introduced next week to help stop the bleeding in equities. Furthermore, there are rumors that pharmaceutical companies in Israel and around the globe are racing against the clock to rapidly develop a vaccine and/or other anti-viral therapies.
From an economic standpoint, the virus has disrupted international supply-chains and hurt travel and leisure businesses. If the virus continues to spread or becomes a pandemic, it will affect consumer and business spending patterns. The virus is having a trickle-down effect on our economy and is hurting stocks as companies scale back earnings guidance/ Economists are lowering growth prospects. Keep in mind, these “black swan” types of events are impossible to handicap and the markets will remain volatile until there is a clearer understanding of the virus.
From an interest rate standpoint, government-guaranteed bond yields are now at historic lows in the U.S and may even go lower as the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond sits at 1.16% and may be headed to under 1.000%. However, mortgage rates are not at all-time lows, yet remain incredibly attractive. Many lenders we are speaking to are instituting a hard floor on interest rates and are not interested in lowering mortgage rates further for the moment.
Therefore, our posture which for the last many months has been biased toward locking in rates has now changed to floating rates in anticipation of a major internationally coordinated central bank coronavirus stimulus package. Should rates plummet further, banks will be forced to move interest rate floors to stay competitive.