U.S. Treasury bond yields fell Wednesday as investors snapped up haven assets after a round of unexpectedly large interest rate cuts by central banks in New Zealand, India and Thailand underlined worries about global economic growth, but later trimmed declines.
Yields rose off session lows after a $24 billion T-bill auction of 10-year notes was met with somewhat tepid demand.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -0.43% fell 6.4 basis points to end U.S. trading at 1.675%, its lowest since Oct. 3, 2016, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The 2-year yield /zigman2/quotes/211347045/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD02Y -0.28% dropped 4.4 basis points to 1.569%, its lowest since Oct. 23, 2017, while the 30-year Treasury bond yield /zigman2/quotes/211347052/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD30Y -0.40% declined 7.9 basis to 2.188% — its lowest since July 29, 2016.
“To characterize the auction as weak is a bit misleading,” said Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets. “It needs to be taken in context of the average of the prior six refunding auctions that came at 2.857%.”
In addition to Treasurys, other haven assets rallied, including gold, which gained 2.4% to end the day at $1,507.30-an-ounce, its highest in six years, reflected rising concerns over global economic growth prospects that have been amplified by the deepening U.S.-China trade conflict.
“Global growth is slowing down at a concerted level,” said Putri Pascualy, managing director at Paamco Prisma, in an interview with MarketWatch. “If two years ago we were talking about synchronized global growth, now we are talking about a synchronized global slowdown.”
Those worries were reinforced, analysts said, after the Reserve Bank of New Zealand delivered a half-point rate cut Wednesday, versus expectations for a quarter-point easing. The Reserve Bank of India cut its repo rate by 35 basis points rather than its usual increment of 25 basis points, while Thailand’s central bank, which had been expected to stand pat, also delivered a rate cut.
“The fact that [the Reserve Bank of New Zealand] doubled the size of the cut seems to have led the market to think that a) it is clearly more concerned about the outlook and b) it might be looking to steal a march on others in a likely currency war by cutting rates hard and letting the NZ dollar fall,” said Steve Barrow, head of G-10 strategy at Standard Bank, in a note.
The round of monetary easing, and heightened global recession fears has led to choppy trading in U.S. stocks, which opened sharply lower. But pared losses in afternoon trade, with the Dow Jones Industrial /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.40% ending with a loss of just 22.45 points at 26,007.07 after dropping more than 560 points, or 2.2%, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.47% /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.47% closed 0.1% higher at 2,883.98.
The overnight central bank rate cuts also drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who used the occasion to again accuse the Federal Reserve of being too slow in lowering rates:
“All of this political pressure from the administration is causing great uncertainty,” said Nick Giacoumakis, president and founder of New England Investment & Retirement Group, in an interview.
“But as rates are going lower it is also eroding investor confidence, and that puts us in a position that the likelihood of a recession gets stronger,” Giacoumakis said.
He adding that much will hinge on if the Fed cuts rates again in September and on Brexit at the end of October, particularly since few see an easy solution for the U.K.’s expected “hard exit” from the European Union.
“The next 90 days will really tell us a lot about the direction things are going,” he said.