Oaktree Client Memo
Comment of the Day

March 19 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oaktree Client Memo

Thanks to a subscriber for this note by Howard Marks. Here is a section:

So today’s high asset prices may be justified at today’s interest rates, but that’s clearly a source of vulnerability if rates were to rise. (Note that today’s 1.40% yield on the 10-0year Treasury note is up from -.52% at he low in august 2020 and from 0.93% in just the last seven weeks)

The Fed says rates will be low for years to come, but are there limitations on its ability to make that happen? Can the Fed keep rates artificially low forever? On longer-maturity bonds? And what about inflation? Can the 10-year Treasury note still yield 1.40% if inflation reaches 3%? Will people buy it a negative real yield? Or will the price fall so that it yields more? Where could inflation come from? The price of goods may not rise in dollar terms, but reduced respect for the dollar (or increased quantities of dollars in circulation) could cause it to depreciate relative to the price of goods: same result.

Eoin Treacy's view

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These questions are seeking an answer in real time as Treasury yields trend higher. At present Treasury yields are pausing near 1.75% and the Personal Consumption Expenditure inflation measure is at 1.5%. The bond market is therefore insisting on a positive real yield to justify buying.

However, since a clear and consistent trend is in evidence bond investors are also pricing in the potential that the PCE will continue to also trend higher. Bond investors have become accustomed to central bank assistance. There was no revolt at the beginning of the quantitative easing era because the Fed was supporting the market.

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