Monday, February 7, 2011

Bond Market Flashes Warning Signs

"The U.S. bond market has begun sending a message that inflation risks are rising and the Federal Reserve may be too slow to act, potentially marking a significant turning point in the economic recovery.

In the past week, Treasury-bond yields have jumped to their highest levels since last spring. Yields on 10-year Treasurys surpassed 3.5% and 30-year yields broke through 4.7%, which makes some worry could mean rates will march even higher."

"Long-term rates have been gradually moving higher in response to an improving economy and rising commodity prices. But in recent days the increases in yields accelerated, a move many say is due to the worry that the Federal Reserve may be underestimating inflationary pressures in the economy, and may act too slowly to tame them. Inflation is bad for bondholders, eroding the value of their fixed returns and sending the prices of their bonds lower."

"The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond ended Friday at 4.732%, its highest since last April. Adding to the almost-panicky feel in the bond market on Friday, traders circulated a chart of 30-year-bond yields showing that the yields had broken out of a 30-year trendline—a sign that the decades-long bull market in Treasurys may be drawing to a close. Most in the market have suspected that the long bull market was likely over. Friday's move seemed to help confirm these suspicions."

"The Fed isn't even halfway through the second round of its quantitative-easing program to buy $600 billion of bonds, commodity prices are much higher, and the economic recovery has been in progress for a year. Rates are also rising because of gnawing concerns about government finances. That will be in fresh relief this week, with the Treasury planning to sell $72 billion of new notes and bonds."

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