Eric Lim, CFA
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The U.S. Treasury yield curve briefly inverted a month ago, when the 10-year Treasury yield fell 4 basis points below the 2-year Treasury yield on August 27th. An inverted yield curve has historically signaled a recession to come, as was the case prior to the 2000 tech bubble and 2008 housing crisis. However, the stock markets in the U.S. have been resilient since this latest inversion. The S&P 500 is up 4.2% and the Russell 1000 is up 6.6% since August 27th. This is not surprising as historically there is roughly a 20-month lag between yield curve inversion and the start of a recession.
It should be noted, however, in this most recent case of inversion there is the additional — and unprecedented — phenomenon of yield-seeking from investors whose domestic yields are currently negative. Foreign countries currently own approximately $6.6 trillion of U.S. Treasuries. In fact, countries with negative interest rates such as Japan and Germany increased their U.S. Treasury holdings by 9.2% and 21%, respectively, over the last twelve months. Foreign holdings of U.S. Treasuries amount to roughly 30% of the total amount of U.S. Treasuries outstanding and as a result, the shape of the yield curve has been warped and therefore may be a less-reliable indicator for recessions. It is true that yield curve inversion typically signals a market’s pessimistic view of the economy. However, given the current demand dynamics from foreign investors, yield curve inversion may be less reliable of a recession prediction signal given the overall state of economic growth and consumer health.
The opinions expressed herein are those of Marquette Associates, Inc. (“Marquette”), and are subject to change without notice. This material is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product. Marquette reserves the right to modify its current investment strategies and techniques based on changing market dynamics or client needs.
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