Today, there’s ample reason to expect a positive term premium to return. For one, the Fed has a new, more patient monetary policy stance. As a result, inflation will be higher and more variable — a risk that must be compensated with higher long-term yields. Also, keeping inflation in check will require a higher peak fed funds rate, reducing the risk that the Fed will again get pinned at the zero lower bound. Beyond that, deficit financing is expanding the supply of government bonds: Treasury debt outstanding has quadrupled since 2007, and the Biden administration is seeking to add several trillion dollars more. Meanwhile, one big source of demand for the bonds is set to dwindle as the Fed phases out its asset purchases, most likely next year.
Putting the pieces together, one can expect a 10-year Treasury yield of at least 3%: The 2.5% floor set by the federal funds rate, plus a term premium of 0.5% or more. But that’s not all. The Fed says it wants inflation to exceed its 2% target for some time, to make up for previous shortfalls. This, in turn, could stoke inflationary fears and lead markets to expect a higher path for future short-term rates. As a result, the 10-year Treasury yield could more than double from the current 1.6%. And if persistent deficit financing prompts concern about growing U.S. debt, the yield could go to 4% or higher.
Anyone who has been in finance for less than a decade has rarely seen 10-year Treasury note yields above 3%. So what’s coming could, for many, be quite a shock. The secular bond bull market that began nearly 40 years ago is finally ending.
US job openings now far exceed the pre-pandemic peak. At the same time credit card balances are declining even as debt loads are increasing. Meanwhile the unemployment rate is holding at 6%.
The conclusion is simple. Households are buying capital goods like houses and cars, that do not require credit cards, because they are flush with cash. Companies are desperate for workers, but unemployed people are in no hurry to take up offers. The reality is the stimulus enacted in the first quarter was overly generous and has created economic disincentives. It exacerbated bottlenecks and enhanced consumer perceptions of rampant inflationary pressures.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top