2019 was a banner year for stocks and bonds , and 2020 is starting out robustly. The new Canada Mexico trade deal signed by President Trump and the trade agreement with China could lead to higher GDP in the USA, given the more level playing field they create. Also, we could see a large increase in corporate capital spending now, since the deals reduce many trade uncertainties. Furthermore, the China deal leaves many of the tariffs in place, which is meant to motivate the Chinese to enact the broader phase two trade agreement.
As we move into the 4th quarter of 2019, talk of negative interest rates continues. The recent U.S. Govern-ment’s auction of 30-year bonds on Thursday, October 10 drew a record low yield of 2.17% (source: Bloomberg 10/10/19). This is considered a strong sign of declining investor expectations for economic growth and inflation. The trend is global with the U.K. and Germany also posting record low yields for their respective 30-year bonds (source: Bloomberg 10/10/19).
Rising uncertainty and muted inflation “strengthens the case for a somewhat more accommodative stance of policy.” Officials “will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion” – Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as reported in The Wall Street Journal 7/16/19.
What a difference a year and even 6-months makes. For the past two years, Investors were fleeing the bond markets as forecasting rising Treasury Bond yields portended red ink. Just last October the 10-year Treasury Bond yielded 3.24% at its peak (source: Macrotrends 10-year Treasury historical chart 7/17/19).
The outlook for interest rates has steadily evolved over the first quarter. Now the Fed is unanimous in their outlook with all members voting to maintain the current level of interest rates (source: Federal Reserve board press release 3/20/19) . Furthermore, the minutes infer that the members have an aversion to increasing interest rates further, because of the increasing risks to the U.S. economy from slowing global growth and lower inflation, that surprised Fed officials.