Why borrowing costs for nearly everything are surging

on Oct6
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Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference following a Federal Open Market Committee meeting at the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2023.


Violent moves in the bond market this week have hammered investors and renewed fears of a recession, as well as concerns about housing, banks and even the fiscal sustainability of the U.S. government.

At the center of the storm is the 10-year Treasury yield, one of the most influential numbers in finance. The yield, which represents borrowing costs for issuers of bonds, has climbed steadily in recent weeks and reached 4.8% on Tuesday, a level last seen just before the 2008 financial crisis.

The relentless rise in borrowing costs has blown past forecasters’ predictions and has Wall Street casting about for explanations. While the Federal Reserve has been raising its benchmark rate for 18 months, that hasn’t impacted longer-dated Treasurys like the 10-year until recently as investors believed rate cuts were likely coming in the near term.

That began to change in July with signs of economic strength defying expectations for a slowdown. It gained speed in recent weeks as Fed officials remained steadfast that interest rates will remain elevated. Some on Wall Street believe that part of the move is technical in nature, sparked by selling from a country or large institutions. Others are fixated on the spiraling U.S. deficit and political dysfunction. Still others are convinced that the Fed has intentionally caused the surge in yields to slow down a too-hot U.S. economy.

“The bond market is telling us that this higher cost of funding is going to be with us for a while,” Bob Michele, global head of fixed income for JPMorgan Chase’s asset management division, said Tuesday in a Zoom interview. “It’s going to stay there because that’s where the Fed wants it. The Fed is slowing you, the consumer, down.”

The ‘everything’ rate

The yield’s recent moves have the stock market on a razor’s edge as some of the expected correlations between asset classes have broken down.

Stocks have sold off since yields began rising in July, giving up much of the year’s gains, but the typical safe haven of U.S. Treasurys has fared even worse. Longer-dated bonds have lost 46% since a March 2020 peak, according to Bloomberg, a precipitous decline for what’s supposed to be one of the safest investments available.

“You have equities falling like it’s a recession, rates climbing like growth has no bounds, gold selling off like inflation is dead,” said Benjamin Dunn, a former hedge fund chief risk officer who now runs consultancy Alpha Theory Advisors. “None of it makes sense.”

Borrowers squeezed

Retailers, banks and real estate

Housing stocks in the red as bond yieds and mortgage rates rise

5% and beyond?

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