As we roll into the August lull, we cannot help but ask the question: Where has the reflation trade gone? Expectations were for a display of heroism by the Federal Reserve (Fed) with Chair Jerome Powell announcing his grand taper plan at the Jackson Hole symposium, but I guess we will still have to wait for the big reveal.
After many years of trying to stimulate inflation, central banks are now facing inflation levels that are far exceeding recent trends. In May, eurozone inflation rose to 2% and in the US core inflation reached 3.8% (almost a 30-year high).
US Treasury (UST) yields traded in a relatively narrow range in May. Inflation fears resurfaced, prompted by rising commodity prices and a marked increase in headline consumer and producer price indices in the US.
US Treasury (UST) yields stabilised in April. Yields came off despite domestic data confirming that the US economy had gained momentum, and inflation numbers that were above market expectations. The Federal Open Market Committee statement announced no new changes to the direction of monetary policy but offered a more upbeat tone on the outlook.
The striking 52% year-on-year surge in prices of second-hand US vehicles has, as expected, caught market attention, with global chip shortages often blamed for the disruption in the market for used cars. Behind the scenes, however, stands Joe Biden, the US incumbent president, whose first 100 days in the office was marked by several milestones, some of which could quite convincingly add more “meat” to the story.
Emerging Markets (EM) debt began 2021 by consolidating after an exceptional performance at the end of 2020. The negative performance was mostly driven by a widening of US Treasury yields while spreads remained broadly unchanged.
The global credit market saw a positive start into the year in Q12021 as spreads continued to tighten. However, total returns were negatively impacted by the global move toward higher rates. At the beginning of 2021, cyclical sectors came back to the forefront and outperformed. Energy and automotive sectors were among the winners, while utilities lagged the rally.
The UST yield curve steepened further in March as stronger-than-expected domestic economic data prints, passage of the US dollar (USD) 1.9 trillion stimulus package and a ramp-up in the rate of US vaccinations amid slowing daily infection rates prompted investors to increasingly price in accelerating growth in the coming quarters.
The potential return of long-muted inflation sparked a meaningful jump in US Treasury (UST) yields in February. Fears of rising price pressures were prompted by the combination of robust domestic data, positive development on the COVID-19 vaccine front and an anticipated increase in US federal spending. Overall, 2-year and 10-year yields ended the month at 0.13% and 1.41%, respectively, about 1.9 basis points (bps) and 34 bps higher compared to end-January.
The Australian bond market (as measured by the Bloomberg AusBond Composite 0+ Yr Index) returned -3.58% over the month. The yield curve steepened dramatically as 3-year government bond yields ended the month 1 basis point (bp) higher at 0.12%, while 10-year government bond yields spiked by 79 basis points (bps) to 1.92%. Short-term bank bill rates were marginally higher.