The Bond Market and the Federal Reserve: A Delicate Dance
Remarks by the Federal Reserve Chairman on bond yields cause unintended consequences and highlight financial volatility. The delicate dance between the bond market and the Federal Reserve poses challenges in achieving financial stability while strivi...
Troy D. Hanson
November 06, 2023
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently made remarks suggesting that the recent increase in bond yields may be beneficial in the fight against inflation. However, these comments had unintended consequences, as they sparked a rally in stocks and caused long-dated bond yields to retreat. This unexpected turn of events highlights the volatility of financial conditions.
Mark Heppenstall, Chief Investment Officer of Penn Mutual Asset Management, noted the irony of Powell's remarks. The tightening of financial conditions was inadvertently weakened by his statements. This tightening had been a prevalent trend recently.
Powell's reassurance that the central bank might halt interest rate hikes led to a continued decline in long-term Treasury yields. The 30-year Treasury rate experienced its largest weekly decline since March 2020, while the 10-year and 2-year rates also dropped significantly.
These movements in the bond market underscore the pitfalls of relying too heavily on financial markets to achieve the Fed's objectives. It becomes especially problematic when this reliance compromises the possibility of future rate adjustments.
Barclays economists expressed concerns about the Federal Open Market Committee's dependence on this circularity loop. The FOMC's aim to formulate policy based on tighter conditions is undermining the very tightness it seeks to create. The recent developments seem contradictory to Powell's assertion that rising long-term yields are significant only if they persist and are not merely a reflection of expected policy changes.
In short, the delicate dance between the bond market and the Federal Reserve underscores the challenges of achieving financial stability while striving for economic growth and inflation control.
Treasury dealer still forecasts another Fed rate hike, but not until January
The recent rise in long-end rates is causing some concern in the mortgage market, according to industry experts. Although the move higher is seen as another form of tightening, there may be additional factors at play that are not yet known to investors.
While Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's recent comments seemed to suggest a more hawkish stance, some analysts believe there could be something happening behind the scenes that he is aware of, such as increased stress on banks. This discrepancy between Powell's words and the official Fed statement has raised questions.
Last week, there was a drop in yields that could be attributed to offside positions re-entering the market. Hedge funds and other investors may have been caught off guard by the strong rebound in stocks and bonds, leading them to quickly adjust their positions.
Looking ahead, traders are currently pricing in a 14.8% chance of a Fed rate hike by January. The yields on 2- through 30-year bonds have started to recover from last week's declines. However, the three major stock indexes have turned lower after failing to sustain earlier gains.
At global investment manager Nuveen, Chief Investment Officer Saira Malik points out that the Fed has indicated the possibility of another rate hike before year-end. This aligns with their view of the U.S. economy as progressively stronger, reflected in their recent policy statements.
Despite expectations for inflation to decrease over the long term, the Fed remains focused on this issue. With third-quarter GDP growth of almost 5% and a core PCE price index of 3.7% annually, inflation continues to be a key concern for the central bank.