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The gap between U.S. GDP growth and bond yields is expected to rise to the highest level since the 1970s amid unprecedented amounts of fiscal and monetary stimulus and an accelerating vaccination roll-out. The chart depicts nominal U.S. GDP growth rates year-over-year less the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield over the last 60 years. Beyond 2020, we profile the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) forecasted nominal GDP growth rate for 2021 and 2022, minus the forecasted 10-year U.S. Treasury yield from the Treasury forwards market, which projects a 25 basis point rise each year over the next four years.
The quarterly GDP growth rate is much more volatile than bond yields. It can decline precipitously in a recession much faster than bond yields as well as rebound much faster than bond yields in a recovery. The ratio has spiked down several times in the past: during the early 1980s and early 1990s recessions, following the dot-com bust of 2000 and the housing bust of 2008, and most recently after the COVID panic of March 2020. This is because the GDP growth rate reflects actual economic growth, measured year-over-year quarterly, while bond yields reflect the market’s anticipation of economic growth over a longer time period. While this gap is expected to reach its highest level in roughly 50 years as the economy rebounds from the depths of COVID, it is then expected to moderate back to pre-pandemic levels, as the CBO forecasts GDP growth to normalize throughout 2021 and 2022 after the initial recovery. Therefore, despite the spike in this ratio it is not a fundamental concern for investors and is not suggestive of a coming market downturn.
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