The yield curve inversion plus why banks and banking stocks are impacted by it

The U.S. 10-year Treasury constant maturity yield minus the 2-year Treasury constant maturity yield spread has been a good indicator of past recessions. Yield curve inversion which happens when the spread turns negative and has preceded the last seven straight recessions. The 10-year Treasury constant maturity yield minus the 2-year Treasury constant maturity yield is the lowest since the last recession at only 10 bps.

10y minus 2y yield December 5 2018
Data Source: Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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Those three U.S. recession indicators – how near or far are those from being invoked? September 2018 edition

We wrote about three slightly different U.S. recession indicators that have been predictive of the past few recessions and have been tracking how near or far are those from being invoked, here’s where we are in September 2018,

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China hasn’t been selling U.S. Government Bonds despite trade tensions

Is China selling U.S Government Bonds (Treasury Bills, T-Bonds and Notes) given the trade war tensions between China and the United States? The simple answer to that is no. Actually, no major foreign country holder of bonds is really selling.

But you might wonder what is going on if you make a chart look like this,

China holdings of US government bonds
Data Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury

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Contrary to popular belief – foreigners are not buying the bulk of United States federal government debt

The United States government is likely to run a record fiscal deficit this year due to lower tax receipts. And given deficits since 2001, Federal debt is soaring (chart below). In the immediate aftermath of the last recession, the Federal Reserve was a major buyer of U.S. Treasury bonds.

US total federal debt until July 2018
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury – Fiscal Service

Since 2014 though, the Fed isn’t really a buyer of Treasury bonds. The question is who is buying federal government debt?

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Bond yields globally have fallen over the past year other than in the U.S., Canada and Emerging Markets

We haven’t written about bond yields for some time. Government bond yields have largely been falling despite Central Banks announcing reductions or end to their bond buying programmes.

The only notable countries where yields are still up over the past year are the United States, Canada, Italy and Emerging Markets.

It wouldn’t appear that the market is anticipating interest rate rises in the short term. We will write about that in a few days but in the meanwhile here are 10-year government bond yields as of 14th July 2018 (figure in brackets indicate absolute 1-year change),

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Something strange is happening in the global economy right now

Everyone seems to be focussing on the equity markets recently, but equity markets haven’t really moved much over the past one month. Over the past month, major equity markets have lost between 1.5% to 4%.

The real action is in bonds and commodities. And trade seems to be flourishing too.

10-year government bond yields of major economies are lower by 5% to 40% (in relative terms not absolute terms) in just the past month. 10-year German bonds are down 12 bps over the past month. That wouldn’t sound much but they are down 28% from 42 bps to 30 bps. U.K. yields are down 8%, U.S. yields down 5%, Japanese yields down 40%. Even Greek yields are down 20% over just the past month. Does the market anticipate a pause in interest rate rises? It would appear so.

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The U.S. and mainland Europe have moved in different directions over the past year on interest rates, equity returns, bond yields and government borrowing

Interest Rates

What a difference a year makes. The Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates thrice (in December, March and June) with a target rate range of 1.75% to 2% now. The Eurozone meanwhile maintains its zero-interest rate policy.

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