- The US Federal Reserve (Fed) reiterated its commitment to its current easy monetary stance, following its latest policy update. While noting that US economic growth was encouraging, Fed chairman Jerome Powell stated that the recovery was “uneven and far from complete”, and that this prognosis merited a continuation of the Fed’s easy monetary policy stance. He emphasised that there are 8.5m fewer jobs in the US economy in comparison with February 2020, before COVID-19 swept through the country. Economic data continued to be strong. First-quarter GDP grew by 6.4%, on annualised basis, in the first quarter of the year, driven by public spending and renewed consumer spending, while initial jobless claims continued to fall.
- Inflation expectations in the US rose to an eight-year high. Breakeven inflation rates rose to its highest level in eight years. The yield on 10-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, which is an indicator of expected inflation, increased to over 2.4%, the highest level since 2013. The rise in the breakeven level coincided with the pledge of further massive public spending by US President Joe Biden. He announced an additional $1.8trn of measures directed at family support and wider education opportunities. This will be funded by both extra debt and higher taxation on wealthy individuals’ incomes and capital gains, with the proposed tax bands announced last week. The 10-year Treasury benchmark yield rose above 1.65% over the week before falling to finish at 1.63%.
- UK growth is predicted to be the highest in over 30 years. According to economists, the average expected growth rate for the UK in 2021 is currently 5.4%, which, if achieved, would mark the highest rate of growth since 1989. The consensus figure has risen from 4.2% in February and reflects optimism concerning the wide, and relatively quick, COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK and the gradual unlocking of restrictions. The 10-year gilt yield rose back above 0.8% during the week.
- The European Central Bank expects a strong economic rebound in the second half of 2021. In a speech during the week, the central bank’s president, Christine Lagarde, stated that eurozone economic growth will likely surge in the latter six months of the year as the region’s vaccination programme takes off and supply bottlenecks of vaccines disappear. Lagarde believes that 70% of the adult population will be vaccinated by mid-year, at least with the first jab. During the week, the 10-year German bund yield rose to a near two-year high of -0.19% while Italy’s 10-year benchmark bond yield rose to its highest level since late September.
Chart of the Week: US 10-year Treasury yields have risen year-to-date
Source: Bloomberg. Data as at 29 April 2021.
|Bond spreads (over govts)||Week-to-date change (bp)|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Index||88bp||-2|
|Bloomberg Barclays Euro Corporate Index||84bp||-1|
|Bloomberg Barclays Sterling Non Gilts Index||91bp||-1|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index||293bp||-5|
|Bloomberg Barclays Pan-European High Yield Index||292bp||-6|
|Bond yields (10yr)|
|DJ Euro Stoxx 50||3,997||-0.4%|
|Brent Crude ($ per barrel)||68.56||+3.7%|
|WTI Crude ($ per barrel)||65.01||+4.6%|
|Gold ($ per ounce)||1,772.18||-0.3%|
Source: Bloomberg, 30 April 2021. Prices close of business 29 April 2021.
03 May: Eurozone investor confidence, US and eurozone manufacturing PMI
04 May: UK manufacturing PMI, UK consumer credit, US trade balance, US factory orders
05 May: Eurozone PPI, US and eurozone services PMI
06 May: Eurozone retail sales, US initial jobless claims, UK services PMI
07 May: US non-farm payrolls, US unemployment, German industrial production, China trade balance
- Wall Street firms raise large amounts of debt. Several major Wall Street firms have announced record levels of new debt over the past few days. A total of approximately $40bn has been, or is in the process of being, raised by banks such as JPMorgan, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. The prevailing low cost of debt, as well as potential lending opportunities as economies recover after COVID-19, have been factors behind the large issuance. There are also regulatory issues regarding capital ratios, with the latter having become more stretched owing to very high levels of deposit growth. This has led banks to either purchase more Treasuries or deposit the money at the central bank, which requires higher levels of bank capital. Additionally, Bank of America’s CEO intimated that some of the money being raised could be used for the benefit of shareholders, for instance to buy back stock.
- German Bund yields were driven higher due to political developments. In Germany, the major political parties revealed their candidates for the upcoming federal/general elections due in September. The Greens put forward Annalena Baerbock, who has pledged to materially increase fiscal spending in the country, as its candidate. Opinion polls currently indicate that the Greens could take a substantial share of the vote. At the same time, the European Central Bank pledged to continue with its easy money stance and increase the rate of bond purchasing during the second quarter following its policy meeting on Thursday. The 10-year bund yield rose early in the week before falling back thereafter.
- UK inflation rose in March. Consumer price inflation rose 0.7% year on year in March, largely driven by rising petrol and clothing prices. This was up from February’s 0.4% growth rate but the same level as January’s. Annual core consumer price inflation (which excludes energy and food) rose 1.1% in March. Although gilt yields barely reacted to the news, the market expects inflation to continue to pick up in the coming months owing to the combined effects of economic recovery and massive fiscal stimulus. In other economic news, unemployment unexpectedly fell to 4.9% in the three months to February while retail sales rose 5.4% over the month in March, significantly ahead of market expectations.
- Fears of rising coronavirus cases and extended lockdowns drove risk-off sentiment in Japan. Japanese government bond prices rose and equities fell as new cases of COVID-19 caused speculation that tighter restrictions would be enforced in major urban areas of Japan, including Tokyo and Osaka. Investors fear that Japan’s economic recovery could be delayed significantly. Moreover, this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games are looking increasingly unlikely to boost the economy as originally hoped, and indeed may not happen at all. Bond yields, with maturities of five years and above, fell. Meanwhile, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed Japan’s sovereign credit rating of ‘A+/A-1’, with a stable outlook, despite recent pandemic-related headwinds.
Chart of the Week: 10-year German bund yield (%)
Source: Bloomberg. Data as at 23 April 2021.
|Bond spreads (over govts)||Week-to-date change (bp)|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Index||91bp||+2|
|Bloomberg Barclays Euro Corporate Index||85bp||-1|
|Bloomberg Barclays Sterling Non Gilts Index||92bp||0|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index||301bp||+8|
|Bloomberg Barclays Pan-European High Yield Index||297bp||+5|
|Bond yields (10yr)|
|DJ Euro Stoxx 50||4,015||-0.5%|
|Brent Crude ($ per barrel)||65.40||-2.1%|
|WTI Crude ($ per barrel)||61.43||-2.7%|
|Gold ($ per ounce)||1,783.94||+0.4%|
Source: Bloomberg, 23 April 2021. Prices close of business 22 April 2021.
26 April: US durable goods, Japan leading economic index
27 April: US consumer confidence, US house prices, Japan retail sales
28 April: Germany and France consumer confidence
29 April: US initial jobless claims, US (Q1) GDP, UK house prices, Japan CPI
30 April: Eurozone (Q1) GDP, eurozone unemployment, US Michigan consumer sentiment
- US inflation rose further in March. The consumer price index rose by 2.6% year on year and by 0.6% over the month. The annual number marked the highest growth rate since August 2018, while the monthly one was the highest for almost nine years, with both figures ahead of market forecasts. Inflationary pressures mainly came from rising gasoline prices. Core price inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food components, was more muted, growing by 1.6% year on year in March and by 0.3% over the month – not too different from recent growth rates. The bond markets took a relaxed view of the inflation figures and Treasury yields fell over the week. This was despite strong retail sales and initial jobless claims figures released late in the week. The sanguine attitude from bond market investors encouraged equity markets, with many indices, including the S&P 500, touching new all-time highs.
- UK GDP growth rate improves in February. GDP growth rose 0.4% over the month in February, following a 2.2% fall in January. Both manufacturing and construction recovered while the service sector eked out minimal growth. The economy appears to have continued to adapt well to the changing circumstances and uncertainties related to both COVID-19 and Brexit. However, GDP fell 1.6% in the three months to February and is still almost 8% below pre-pandemic levels. In an online discussion during the week, one member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, Silvana Tenreyro, cautioned against tightening monetary policy too quickly. She suggested that central bankers should remember the mistakes made following the Global Financial Crisis when monetary support was withdrawn too quickly and led to both a market and economic setback. Ten-year gilt yields were largely unchanged over the week.
- The Bank of Japan’s governor cautioned on economic recovery. In a quarterly assessment of economic conditions, the head of Japan’s central bank Haruhiko Kuroda warned that Japan’s recovery from coronavirus would be delicate. This reflected the impact of rising infections across Japan and the need for the reimposition of lockdown restrictions in targeted areas. Kuroda suggested that, while the economy would recover owing to an improvement in global economies and the huge fiscal stimulus enacted both in Japan and overseas, the recovery may be more muted than previously expected. Government bond yields across all maturities dropped marginally over the week.
- Fitch announced a delay to further sovereign ratings cuts. The credit ratings agency Fitch stated that it would likely delay downgrades of many countries that it currently has on a negative outlook until economic conditions are clearer next year. This reflects a growing sense that the impact on global economies from the coronavirus can be rapidly overcome, with lost economic growth being quickly recovered. Fitch has downgraded more countries’ sovereign ratings during this crisis than either Moody’s or S&P but looks set to pause any further downgrades, according to comments from Fitch’s managing director for global sovereigns and supranationals.
- Issuance of sustainable bonds reached a record high. Issues of sustainable or ‘green’ bonds rose to a record high in the first quarter of the year. According to data from Refinitiv, issuance of such bonds rose to $264bn in the three months to 31 March, continuing a sequence of ever-increasing issuance from governments, financial institutions and other corporations. The rising totals reflect both the desire for, and pressure on, issuers and investors to embrace sustainability.
Chart of the Week: Quarterly proceeds through issuance of sustainable bonds
Source: Bloomberg. Data as at 15 April 2021.
|Bond spreads (over govts)||Week-to-date change (bp)|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Index||88bp||-1|
|Bloomberg Barclays Euro Corporate Index||87bp||0|
|Bloomberg Barclays Sterling Non Gilts Index||93bp||-1|
|Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index||296bp||+4|
|Bloomberg Barclays Pan-European High Yield Index||295bp||-1|
|Bond yields (10yr)|
|DJ Euro Stoxx 50||3,993||0.4%|
|Brent Crude ($ per barrel)||66.94||+6.3%|
|WTI Crude ($ per barrel)||63.46||+7.0%|
|Gold ($ per ounce)||1,763.95||+1.2%|
Source: Bloomberg, 16 April 2021. Prices close of business 15 April 2021.
19 April: Japan industrial production
20 April: China PBoC interest rate decision
21 April: Canada CPI
22 April: Europe ECB interest rate decision
23 April: Europe PMI
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its global economic outlook. Based on the current rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the huge monetary and fiscal stimulus unleashed (especially in the US), the IMF now forecasts economic growth to rise by 6.0% (previously 5.5%) this year and 4.4% (instead of 4.2%) in 2022. The IMF expects the UK to be the fastest-growing G7 country in 2022, growing by 5.1%, following an estimated 5.3% expansion in 2021. This largely reflects the relatively fast vaccination rollout in the UK.
- US Treasury yields gently declined over the week. The Federal Open Market Committee’s March meeting minutes reassured markets by reconfirming that monetary policy was unlikely to be tightened given still uncertain economic conditions and muted inflationary pressures. Bond yields fell back from recent highs, with the 10-year Treasury yield falling to approximately 1.65%. Additionally, some investors expect Joe Biden’s $2.3trn infrastructure plan to be watered down, given Republican party opposition to certain elements of it. Initial jobless claims for the week ending 3 April were also higher than expected. Corporate spreads tightened 2bp to 89bp over the past week as issuance slowed and pension buying continued. This follows 6bps of tightening the week before due to the long-end outperforming amid pension buying.
- The UK labour market showed signs of tightening. A report published by consultancy firm KPMG showed the strongest rise in permanent job hiring in March for approximately six years. However, gilt yields followed the general global trend of gentle decline during the week, with the 10-year gilt yield dropping to just below 0.75%.
- Minutes from the latest European Central Bank (ECB) meeting were released. The minutes revealed a continuation of the ECB’s dovish stance, albeit with a hint of greater flexibility to adjust measures as conditions dictate. Within Europe, worries escalated about a third wave of COVID-19, amid increasing evidence of some, albeit minimal, risk of blood clots among younger people who have taken the Astra Zeneca vaccine. Strong purchasing managers’ index figure for March showed the strongest rate of increase in manufacturing output for almost 24 years. According to data from Dutch bank ING, government bond issuance in the first quarter of 2021 totalled €373bn, an increase of 20% over the same period last year. The low cost of debt and the requirement for large fiscal spending to fight the COVID-19 pandemic drove the high level of issuance.
Chart of the Week: Rise in yields on 10-year Treasuries stalls
Source: Bloomberg. Data as at 9 April 2021.
12 April: Eurozone retail sales, UK retail sales
13 April: China trade balance, UK industrial production, UK GDP (February), US CPI
14 April: Eurozone industrial production
15 April: US retail sales, US initial jobless claims
16 April: China GDP (Q1), eurozone CPI, US housing starts, US Michigan consumer sentiment