Treasury yields fell again in May and credit spreads approached recent tights as the virus continued to recede, allowing the reopening of the economy to progress. Economic data was noisy this month, largely due to base effects, but confirms the ongoing trend of renewed growth and signs of inflation.
Investors aggressively sold off Treasuries in the first quarter in favor of risk assets. We think this is likely to continue as the economy strengthens and inflationary pressures build, and we are maintaining a defensive duration profile to protect against rising rates.
Treasury yields rocketed higher in February, with the move again concentrated in longer maturities. Volatility spiked as liquidity dried up in the Treasury market, especially after a very weak 7-year auction that briefly pushed 10-year Treasury yields to 1.60%. The news flow was largely the same direction: an improving economy, increased vaccine rollout with deaths and hospitalizations turning sharply lower, and a continued march toward a substantial fiscal stimulus plan.
Treasury yields continued to march higher in January, with the move again concentrated in longer maturities. Mortgage spreads tightened slightly, while corporate bond spreads were mostly mixed. The market remains stuck between the push/pull of the prospect for greater fiscal stimulus and ongoing vaccine rollout versus continued lockdowns and the greatest one-month mortality rate since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.
As the new year begins, the investment grade (IG) market faces multiple challenges, including a recovering economy, low yields, tight spreads, and record high duration. At the same time, market technicals remain favorable, fundamentals are improving, and there are attractive sectors in the index. Overall, we are modestly bullish about 2021 and feel there are compelling opportunities for those who know where to look.
Markets continued their recovery during the 3rd quarter, but the narrative transitioned from concerns about the pandemic to the U.S. election – a trend that we expect to continue in October. The outcome will likely have a material impact on both fiscal stimulus policies and Treasury yields.
The investment grade fixed income market has been unusually active in 2020. Initial concerns about Covid-19 triggered a sharp selloff, but sentiment abruptly reversed when the Fed announced plans to purchase corporate bonds. Spreads have nearly returned to their pre-pandemic levels, but not all sectors have recovered equally, creating interesting opportunities for savvy investors.
While we appear to have averted the worst pandemic outcomes so far, a resurgence in recently reopened states shows that we are not yet out of the woods. In our view, the economy will not fully recover until there is a vaccine or a reliable treatment.
According to John Sheehan, the recent selloff in Investment Grade fixed income was exacerbated by technical factors. In his view, regulatory changes implemented after the 2008 crisis removed a critical shock absorbing mechanism that caused spreads to spike.
2019 proved to be a very strong year for almost all financial assets, as equities and bonds rallied in tandem. The Federal Reserve (the Fed) was compelled to play defense against a weaker global economy (particularly in Europe) and continued uncertainty related to the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
The fixed income market benefited in the third quarter as both global growth fears and the trade dispute continued to drive uncertainty in financial markets. With Europe remaining in an economic rut and China showing signs of slowing from the protracted trade conflict, investors sought the safety of U.S. Treasuries, pushing up prices and reducing yields.
According to John Sheehan, accommodative Fed policy and favorable market technicals drove the investment grade credit market’s strong start to 2019.
Fixed income markets will be hard pressed for an encore performance of the second quarter. Risk assets of all flavors rallied in conjunction with Treasury yields falling – whether this is causal or simply concurrent remains to be seen.
Seizing on the success the equity market had in forcing Federal Reserve (“Fed”) chairman Powell’s hand in January 2019, the bond market decided to take its own swing at dictating Fed policy.