Pimco Joins in Warning U.S. Yields Risk Breaking 2% Threshold

  • Consensus forecast has been coming down, but still nearer 3%
  • TIPS breakeven rate suggests Fed will miss 2% inflation goal

Pimco’s Dan Ivascyn is the latest in a small but growing group of investors and analysts who say benchmark 10-year U.S. yields may drop below 2 percent.

"Later this year, we think inflation’s going to trend lower -- the Fed is going to continue to be very cautious," Ivascyn, global chief investment officer for $1.5 trillion money manager Pacific Investment Management Co., said in an interview with Betty Liu at the Bloomberg Invest New York summit this week. "I can see a scenario where Treasury rates hit one and a half percent again." That would be a level not seen since August.

Among those in the bond-bull camp: Steven Major, the head of fixed income research at HSBC Holdings Plc, who forecasts 1.9 percent at year-end. Yusuke Ito, a bond manager in Tokyo at Asset Management One, which oversees about $460 billion, has a similar view.

Ten-year yields have already fallen below 2.2 percent from this year’s high of 2.63 percent in March, as Trump-fueled reflation trades unwound. Now, inflation expectations are falling, casting doubt over whether the Federal Reserve can raise interest rates as much as it currently anticipates and shrink its balance sheet at the same time.

The difference between yields on 10-year notes and similar-maturity Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, a gauge of expectations for consumer prices over the life of the debt, has narrowed to 1.80 percent from 2.09 percent in January. That suggests traders expect inflation to fall short of the Fed’s 2 percent target. Consumer price gains are slowing worldwide.

Forecasts for sub-2-percent yields are in the minority; while the consensus forecast has come down in recent weeks, the weighted average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg is 2.73 percent for year-end. Of 59 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, only HSBC’s Major predicts a break below 2 percent -- and he did raise his forecast to 1.9 percent from 1.6 percent this week.

The change represents a “tweak,” Major wrote in a report, affirming his view that the decades-long bull market for bonds will continue.

There are broader implications if Major’s forecast pans out. Peter Redward, an analyst and money manager who heads Redward Associates Ltd. in New Zealand, is warning investors that the dollar is poised to weaken because 10-year yields may drop below 2 percent. The doves appear to be winning the policy debate at the U.S. central bank, he said.

Ito at Asset Management is putting his money where his views are -- loading up on just about as many Treasuries as his fund guidelines allow.

“The expectation that the Trump administration is going to boost the economy has been fading,” he said. “Before the election, the yield was 1.8 percent. If the expectations are unwound fully, the yield can easily go down to 1.8 percent again.”

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