Rates May Have Just Peaked… This Is Why

March 29, 2021

Last Week in Review: Rates May Have Just Peaked… This Is Why

We watched long-term interest rates improve nicely this past week from the highest levels in over a year. The recent chatter about higher inflation has cooled down, allowing other themes to come in and influence stocks and interest rates. It was mostly negative and bond-friendly. Let us break down what happened.

Bonds and rates love bad news and slower economic conditions, so when the talk of “largest tax increase in decades” went across the wires this week, stocks and rates moved lower with the 10-year Note yield dropping to 1.59% from 1.75% just days earlier.

It’s far from clear what and who will be taxed, but what is clear is that corporate tax rates are going up, and that has a negative effect on stocks – hence the pullback. Taxes, whether you love them or hate them, hamper economic growth and weigh on consumer demand, which lowers inflation pressures: another positive for rates.

“Vaccination is a national priority” – French President Emmanuel Macron

Another big negative and uncertain event has been the sharp rise in COVID cases throughout Europe. The main cause of the spike appears to be a slow vaccination rollout.

Fresh lockdowns throughout the region could cause economic harm and elevate uncertainty, which again may cause stocks and rates to move lower.

The Buck Is Strong

Despite enormous spending by the U.S. government and much more on the way, the U.S. dollar has strengthened against other global currencies, touching the highest level since November 2020.

Why does this matter? Many commodities, like oil, are priced in U.S. dollars, so as the dollar gets stronger, it has put downward pressure on the price of a barrel of oil. This has an effect of lowering inflation pressures, because so many products are made of oil.

A strong dollar also makes our imports cheaper, which also lowers inflation pressures which bonds and rates love.

Bottom line: Rates have improved week-over-week and the trend may very well continue. However, like we experienced several weeks ago, any further rate improvement may be modest and short-lived. As economies reopen, we should expect rates to continue to increase further over time.

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