US Stocks: What investors are watching after spike in treasury yields

By: |
February 26, 2021 4:20 PM

While there could be more volatility in the near term, it could potentially provide interesting opportunities to investors to reload on equities

US Stocks, FED, ECB, yield, bond, stock marketsThe gap in yields reflects the contrast between U.S. economic resilience amid a rapid vaccine rollout and Europe’s sluggish recovery.

Bloomberg: The surge in global yields and a slump in stocks has left bond and equity investors nursing losses and asking whether there is more to come or something to stop the rot.

While many see bond yields continuing to push higher as the global economy reopens and growth recovers, others say they are now close to levels that should entice long-term buyers. A disorderly selloff in bonds or equities could also trigger at least verbal intervention from the Federal Reserve to stop a rout, according to investors.

A bruising session for U.S. shares and Treasuries on Thursday saw benchmark 10-year yields spike above 1.6% before pulling back, while tech stocks saw the brunt of equity losses. A poorly received Treasury auction triggered some of the volatility, and traders yanked forward bets on how soon the Fed will be forced to tighten policy.

Fed Problem

“Today’s market dynamics look to have been fueled by technical factors and the Fed may want to let the dust settle before it judges whether there is anything really problematic here,” Evercore ISI’s Krishna Guha and Ernie Tedeschi said. “But a change of tone at least seems warranted in our view and possibly more. This could well come in the next 24 hours.”

“On the forward rates front, the fed funds futures market is now pricing in more or less a full hike in 2022 as well as two in 2023, and we think the 2022 expectation will be viewed by the Fed as excessive and potentially starting to become problematic.”

Yields Too High

“From a fundamental perspective, the five-year rate looks too high,” according to strategists at TD Securities including Priya Misra. “The market is pricing in the first hike in early 2023, which seems too early given the Fed’s higher threshold to hike rates. The 10-year is more difficult to call since it depends on the timing of the taper.”

“We expect the Fed to address market concerns of a premature withdrawal of Fed support and highlight the longer-term challenges in a post-Covid world. Chair Powell is set to speak next Thursday, giving him the opportunity to soothe market concerns.”

Buying Opportunity

“While we could see more volatility in the near term, we think this could potentially provide interesting opportunities to investors to reload on equities,” said Tai Hui, chief Asia market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “The recent rise in U.S. government bond yields has not been fully matched by other developed markets’ counterparts. The widening spread could attract European and Japanese investors back into the Treasury market.”

“This could also enhance the investment case of corporate credit and emerging market fixed income,” Hui said. “Global recovery should help to keep default risks in line with the long term average and justify the current level of credit spread.”

Convexity Focus

“Rising Treasury yields warrant a focus on technicals like mortgage-backed securities convexity hedging, foreign buying and bank demand,” Morgan Stanley strategists including Guneet Dhingra and Jay Bacow wrote in a note. “While these technicals could drive yields and the curve in the near term, we think the medium-term direction of yields and curve will depend on economic fundamentals and Fed policy.” Overall convexity needs from MBS holders and servicers tend to pick up with 10-year yields around 1.35%, then peak around 1.60%, the strategists said.

It’s Healthy

“For all the drama and volatility contagion, this rate rise should be considered a ‘healthy’ rate rise — essentially just the markets are saying the Fed will change its policy and that’s because of strong real growth,” said Michael Purves, CEO of Tallbacken Capital Advisors LLC.

“The gap between the Eurodollar markets in the 2022-24 time frame is now very wide – essentially four hikes vs. the Fed’s dots which suggest zero hikes through their forecast horizon (through 2023). This gap will have to be closed,” which will generate volatility and raise questions for other risk assets, he said. “This likely means volatility from rates should spill over to equities, credit, FX and commodities, and not just for a couple of days.”

It’s Not Healthy

“A move of this magnitude is not healthy for markets and equities are rightfully acting negatively to it,” said Matthew Miskin, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management. “We will be watching to see if the Fed pushes back more meaningfully on the recent rise in yields. They could do this with greater QE or yield curve control.”

“We would look at U.S. value stocks opportunistically on the dip and would look even to add to bonds in the event that this drawdown reaches the 4%-6% range,” he said.

Expensive Valuations

I’m “watching the 5-year and any changes in Fed buying patterns,” said Brian Barish, chief investment officer at Cambiar Investors. “The Fed has more or less said, via their inflation targeting, that they intend to devalue your fixed-income stream. If that’s really true then I should demand a lot more yield on a five-plus year basis as an investor. It will be interesting to see if the Fed actually does anything.”
“Some of the 2020 ‘Pelotonomy’ stocks are valued at rather extravagant levels. So will these continue to falter as momentum rolls over? I suspect so, but let’s see. I am also a little focused on the current prices of commodities, in terms of whether there is a more potent inflationary signal or are these just being speculated on also.”

Pause Likely

“Our guess is the surge in bond yields will soon take a breather around the 1.5% area before again venturing on another leg higher,” said Jim Paulsen of The Leuthold Group. “If the bond market’s panic about runaway inflation eases somewhat (even if only temporarily), this would help calm the current panic.”

“Yields still have further to rise this year. But, if they do it a bit more slowly and intermittently, rather than all at once, the impact on the economy and the stock market should be far less damaging.”

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