By Sunny Oh
This week could see the biggest U.S. bond-market selloff in several years.
Traders may be winding down their bullish positions on long-term government debt after a huge rally in recent months, analysts said, while others highlighted more constructive developments on international trade, geopolitics, and the U.S. economy which may be lowering the risk of recession.
The 2-year Treasury note yield /zigman2/quotes/211347045/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD02Y +0.02% is on track Friday for its biggest weekly gain since 2009, after rising 24 basis points this week to trade at 1.769%. The 10-year Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y -0.55% and the 30-year bond yield /zigman2/quotes/211347052/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD30Y -0.34% were both up more than 30 basis points this week, leaving them both on pace for their biggest weekly jump since November 2016 when President Donald Trump’s election raised fears about increased fiscal stimulus spending, sparking a vicious selloff in government bonds.
Only a month ago, the 30-year bond yield had carved out a record low, falling below 2%. The 10-year note rate also touched a multiyear low of 1.43%, close to its own all-time low at 1.32%, Tradeweb data show.
Bonds sold off this week in part because investors were given another reminder in the last few days of the strength of U.S. consumers, which have helped the economy defy bearish forecasts that it would succumb to a global trade slowdown.
Analysts pointed to August’s U.S. retail sales increase of 0.4%, and 4.1% for the year reported Friday, and a better-than-expected reading in U.S. core consumer price inflation this week. Last week, the employment report showed wages had risen by 0.4% last month, higher than the 0.3% forecast from MarketWatch polled analysts.
“Even though growth around the world is struggling, even though the tariffs impacted the U.S. and Chinese economies, the U.S. economy seems to have shrugged a lot of it off, without the negative effect of inflation,” wrote Kevin Giddis, head of fixed income at Raymond James.
Waning tensions between the U.S. and China over trade this week also added to the bearish impetus for bond trading. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he was willing to contemplate an interim trade deal, and Beijing announced it would remove agricultural goods from tariffs on U.S. imports on Friday.
“Juxtaposed with news that China is once again buying U.S. soybeans, rumors that the U.S. could be willing to mollify its position are causing overbought and expensive bond [yields] to rebound,” according to an analyst at BCA Research.
Investors could also be taking the opportunity to pocket profits from their bullish positions in long-term rates. Fund managers have been trimming their long positions on futures for extended maturity government bonds in August, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey conducted in September.
To be sure, the sudden climb in rates doesn’t necessarily point to the bond-market paring back its bets on a Federal Reserve going on a full-blown easing cycle. Traders are all but expecting a quarter point rate cut from the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting next week.