Monday, June 1, 2009

The Bond Market Conundrum

UPDATE: I got allergies that started last weekend on a fishing trip. With the bendryl and its drowsy effects, I'm a little off my game. Will be back soon as I can.

WANT TO talk about government bond markets soon and why it's important, including what the implications (see below) are on all of us and to our economic recovery. It's dull and unsexy, but I believe we ignore it at our peril. More later:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is studying significant moves in the U.S. government bond market last week that could have big implications for the central bank's strategy to combat the country's recession.

But the Fed is not really sure what is driving the sharp rise in long-dated bond yields, and especially a widening gap between short and long term yields.

Do rising U.S. Treasury yields and a steepening yield curve suggest an economic recovery is more certain, meaning less need for safe haven government bonds and a healthy demand for credit? If so, there might be less need for the Fed to expand the money supply by buying more U.S. Treasuries.

Or does the steepening yield curve mean investors are worried about the deterioration in the U.S. fiscal outlook, or the potential for a collapse in the U.S. dollar as the Fed floods the world with newly minted currency as part of its quantitative easing program. This might be an argument to augment to step up asset purchases.

Another possibility is that China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury debt, has decided to refocus its portfolio by leaning more heavily on shorter-term maturities.

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