Biggest Bond Bubble In History Is Turning Into Carnage
“We’ve intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history,” confessed Andy Haldane, Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, to Members of Parliament in London last week. The bursting of that bubble was a risk he felt “acutely,” he warned. There have already been “shades of that.” And he saw “a disorderly reversion in the yields of government bonds” as the “biggest risk to global financial stability.”
And “shades of that,” as Haldane put it with classic British humor, namely understatement, are visible everywhere.
Ten-year Treasury notes have been kicked down from their historic pedestal last July when some poor souls, blinded by the Fed’s halo of omnipotence and benevolence, bought them at a minuscule yield of 1.3%. For them, it’s been an ice-cold shower ever since. As Treasuries dropped, yields meandered upward in fits and starts. After a five-week jump from 1.88% in early May, they hit 2.29% on Tuesday last week – they’ve retreated to 2.19% since then. Now investors are wondering out loud what would happen if ten-year Treasury yields were to return to more normal levels of 4% or even 5%, dragging other long-term interest rates with them. They know what would happen: carnage!
Wholesale dumping of Treasuries by exasperated foreigners has already commenced. Private foreigners dumped $30.8 billion in Treasuries in April, an all-time record. Official holders got rid of $23.7 billion in long-term Treasury debt, the highest since November 2008, and $30.1 billion in short-term debt. Sell, sell, sell!
Bond fund redemptions spoke of fear and loathing: in the week ended June 12, investors yanked $14.5 billion out of Treasury bond funds, the second highest ever, beating the prior second-highest-ever outflow of $12.5 billion of the week before. They were inferior only to the October 2008 massacre as chaos descended upon financial markets. $27 billion in two weeks!
In lockstep, average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates jumped from 3.59% in early May to 4.15% last week. The mortgage refinancing bubble, by which banks have creamed off billions in fees, is imploding – the index has plunged 36% since early May. But home prices have risen as private-equity funds and investors have gobbled up single-family homes, hoping that they could rent them out [which turned out to be difficult … here’s my take: Housing Bubble II: But This Time It’s Different]. These inflated prices are now colliding with rising mortgage rates – and with the possibility that hot money might dump empty homes while it still can. Which would make for one heck of an ugly dynamic.