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Is the Government Bond Bubble Getting Ready to Burst? UPDATE>>

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 7, 2009 2:59 PM |

I have tried to highlight my concerns on interest rates for the entire year. Despite the Federal Reserve “cutting checks” to buy hundreds of billions in U.S. Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, the global demand for credit (meaning global governments, companies, and municipalities issuing MASSIVE supply of bonds) is driving rates higher.

As I wrote in my post from April 30th, the U.S. Treasury market has been faced with underwriting tens and now hundreds of billions in government debt on a regular basis. The 30yr government bond auction today was not well received and interest rates have moved higher by 10-20 basis points (.10 to .20%).  

What are the implications of higher rates?
   1. Increased cost of financing the deficit.
   2. Upward pressure on other rates, primarily mortgage rates.
   3. Longer time for economy to improve given higher interest costs.
   4. Given the massive global government deficits, the access to credit for private enterprise is negatively impacted. This is known as crowding out.

As I referenced the other day, “We Still Have To Pay The Bill.”  

Bloomberg reports, Treasuries Tumble as Bond Sale Draws Higher Than Forecast Yield.  

From my piece at the end of April: 

The equity markets have rebounded significantly over the last seven weeks. The Dow and S&P are now down approximately 4-6% on the year. The tech heavy Nasdaq has distinguished itself and is up approximately 10% on the year.

At this juncture, if the equity markets are implying that the economy will not slip into Depression, then the bill for the stability in equities is being transferred to participants in the bond market. Government bonds are facing an almost weekly avalanche of tremendous supply. This week the market is absorbing over $100 billion in 2yr, 5yr, and 7yr Treasury securites. Take a deep breath and next week the market is faced with over $75 billion in 3yr, 10yr, and 30yr government securities. The Treasury is likely going to sell 30yr government debt on a monthly basis!! 

The Federal Reserve has been the biggest buyer of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed’s balance sheet may be large but it is not endless. What have 10 yr. Treasury securities done on the year? Even in the face of massive buying of these securities by the Fed, the 10yr has backed up almost 1% to a current level of 3.1%. That rise in rates is very significant. 

I have maintained and continue to maintain that interest rates will move higher given the overwhelming demand for funds by global governments to pay for deficit spending. Central banks around the world may try to hold the respective bond markets up and interest rates down but investors will continue to demand a higher rate of interest in the process. 

As government rates move higher, mortgage rates, and other corporate rates will likely move higher as well. If we get a whiff of early signs of inflation which I believe is coming these rates could ratchet higher and the bubble in the government market would not merely burst but would actually explode.

LD






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