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Morgan Stanley Takes on Goldman, Buffett With Bullish Bond Call

  • Bell has tolled for best of bond bear market: Morgan Stanley
  • Warren Buffett warns that safe-looking bonds can be risky

Not the Time for 'Grandstanding Calls' on Treasuries, M&G Says

Morgan Stanley says it’s time to get bullish on bonds -- even as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Warren Buffett issue warnings.

The sell-off in Treasuries, that began in earnest in September and ramped up in January, is ending, according to Morgan Stanley strategists. Not so for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which is running its models through a scenario in which yields on 10-year notes hit 4.5 percent -- though it expects that number to be closer to 3.25 percent by the end of this year. Warren Buffett cautioned over the weekend that bonds can lift risk levels in portfolios as inflation eats away at returns.

There’s a lot at stake following the six-month rout in the $14 trillion U.S. government bond market that helped trigger jitters in global equities after years of gains. While record levels of short positioning in Treasury futures may augur the next leg down as the risk premium for holding longer-dated notes climbs, it’s far from a given that tighter U.S. monetary policy will drive ever higher yields after an almost 1 percentage point jump in the 10-year yield.

“We think the bell has tolled for the best of the bear market in longer-duration bonds,” wrote the Morgan Stanley team, led by Matthew Hornbach, global head of interest-rates strategy. “We like the long end.”

After U.S. economic growth picked up last year and the Fed looking more determined to stick to its tightening path now, comments from Chair Jerome Powell during his first public speeches since taking over from Janet Yellen will be closely scrutinized this week.

Bond-market veteran Bill Gross has said a mild bear market in bonds was confirmed last month and Ray Dalio, manager of the world’s largest hedge fund, says the bull run seen over the past 30 years is over.

Read how this veteran bond investor says bulls have run out of compelling arguments

Morgan Stanley’s Matt Hornbach speaks on portfolio positioning.

Source: Bloomberg

The value for Morgan Stanley is buying bonds at the long end of the Treasury curve. Hornbach’s team advised maintaining an existing bet that the gap between two-year notes and 30-year Treasuries will narrow from its current level of about 92 basis points, according to the report on Saturday.

Hornbach called 2016 the year of the bull for bonds and was vindicated when yields fell to record lows four months later. Yet, 10-year yields failed to push as low as his forecast for 1 percent.

— With assistance by Garfield Clinton Reynolds

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