David Woo: Prelude to volatility

The bond market had a heart attack last week. Rising inflation caused a massive back up in bond yields in the short end of the market. The market is now pricing in two rate hikes in 2022. The Fed will have to raise real interest rates in order to tame inflation.

Real interest rates are falling. The stock market is taking its cue from the bond market and is rising. Stock prices represent discounted future cash flows, so negative real interest rates make a big difference to earnings multiples.

The Democrats are determined to spend their way to a mid-term election victory, with a $1T infrastructure bill and $1.75T social spending, both light on tax revenue. The GOP will try to stop them when the debt ceiling issue returns in December but they don’t have much leverage.

Financial conditions will have to tighten a lot more in 2022. The Fed is way behind the curve and is going to have to play catch-up.


Inflationary pressures in the US economy are growing, while the Democrats plan a further $2.75T in fiscal stimulus which is light on tax revenues.

Long-term yields lag far behind inflation, with real interest rates growing increasingly negative. The assumption is that the Fed will tighten sharply in 2022 to curb inflation. We expect that the Fed will taper but is not going to rush to hike interest rates for three reasons:

  1. The Fed would be tightening into a slowing economy, with growth fading as stimulus winds down;
  2. High energy prices will also help to cool demand; and
  3. US federal debt levels — already > 120% of GDP and likely to grow further with proposed new stimulus measures — are a greater long-term threat than inflation. The Fed and Treasury are expected to work together to boost GDP and tax revenues through inflation, keeping real interest rates negative to alleviate the cost to Treasury of servicing the excessive debt burden.

Pimco Eyes Aussie Bond Boom – WSJ

“We really are in a secular shift for greater demand for fixed income securities in Australia,” John Wilson, the head of the global bond giant’s [Pimco’s] Australia operations told Deal Journal Australia. “That’s why you will see increasing issuance in the domestic market by domestic issuers.”

“We are seeing this notably in our flows in the wealth management business. Private investors are seeking recurring income and capital stability,” he said.

In recent weeks some of Australia’s national champions–such as retailing giant Woolworths and conglomerate Wesfarmers–have issued local currency debt even as some of the country’s other big corporates have skipped local investors and borrowed elsewhere.

via Pimco Eyes Aussie Bond Boom – Deal Journal Australia – WSJ.

Italy Fears Rattle World’s Investors – WSJ.com

Big investors felt comfortable owning big stakes of Italian debt in part because they knew they could sell without much difficulty. That has changed.

“It used to be one of the most liquid markets out there, but it isn’t anymore,” said Peter Schaffrik, head of European rates strategy at RBC Capital Markets in London. Not long ago, an investor had little problem buying or selling €500 million of Italian bonds at a clip, he said. “Now it’s difficult to trade more than €50 million.” The worsened trading conditions have led to more-exaggerated moves.

via Italy Fears Rattle World’s Investors – WSJ.com.

Liquidity is drying up in the Italian bond market, making it near impossible to roll-over maturing debt issues. The Italian bond market is third biggest in the world. If the EMU struggled to reach an accord over Greece, what chance do they have now?