Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bond yields are doing an about face

This chart gives you a good idea of how wild it's been lately in the bond market. Yields on 30-year Treasury bonds were behaving pretty normally until they started plunging in early November. They dropped to 2.5%, which is the lowest yield ever recorded for 30-year T-bonds. Starting early this month they jumped up, and are now up over 100 bps from their recent lows. The main driver of the plunge in yields was widespread fear of significant deflation. That these fears are now reversing suggests the market is beginning to view the future with much less trepidation. It's nice to see more things get back to levels that are more normal.

However, as the chart suggests, bond yields are still pretty low relative to inflation. On average, long-term Treasury yields are at least 2-3% above inflation. So the current level of yields is consistent with inflation averaging no more than 2% per year forever. The CPI hasn't been 2% or less on a sustained basis since 1967. If the Fed's super-accommodative monetary stance gains traction and inflation rises even modestly from current levels, there is a lot more room for Treasury bond yields to rise.

Full disclosure: I am long TBT.

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