|10 year government bond yield
|30 year fixed rate mortgage
Stocks are higher after the jobs report comes in better than expected. Bonds and MBS are down.
Jobs report data dump:
- Nonfarm payrolls up 4.8 million.
- Unemployment rate 11%
- Labor force participation rate 61.5%
- Average hourly earnings down 1.2% MOM, up 5% YOY
Overall, an extremely positive report. The Street was looking for an increase of 3 million jobs, so the payroll number was much better than expected. The labor force participation rate increased by 0.7%, but is still 1.9% below February’s level. The unemployment rate fell by 2.2 percentage points despite concerns that a statistical error had understated May’s rate. The drop is average hourly earnings was simply a reversal of previous increases as lower-paid hospitality and restaurant / retail workers return to the workforce.
The FOMC minutes pretty much said what everyone expected: that rates will remain low for the forseeable future, and the Fed is going to probably err on the side of caution given how intractable low inflation has been. The FOMC seems to be considering the idea of yield capping, and idea the Fed used in the 1940s to lower the government’s borrowing costs.
The second staff briefing reviewed the yield caps or targets (YCT) policies that the Federal Reserve followed during and after World War II and that the Bank of Japan and the Reserve Bank of Australia are currently employing. These three experiences illustrated different types of YCT policies: During World War II, the Federal Reserve capped yields across the curve to keep Treasury borrowing costs low and stable; since 2016, the Bank of Japan has targeted the 10-year yield to continue to provide accommodation while limiting the potential for an excessive flattening of the yield curve; and, since March 2020, the Reserve Bank of Australia has targeted the three-year yield, a target that is intended to reinforce the bank’s forward guidance for its policy rate and to influence funding rates across much of the Australian economy. The staff noted that these three experiences suggested that credible YCT policies can control government bond yields, pass through to private rates, and, in the absence of exit considerations, may not require large central bank purchases of government debt. But the staff also highlighted the potential for YCT policies to require the central bank to purchase very sizable amounts of government debt under certain circumstances—a potential that was realized in the U.S. experience in the 1940s—and the possibility that, under YCT policies, monetary policy goals might come in conflict with public debt management goals, which could pose risks to the independence of the central bank.
You can cue the jokes about the government believing that interest rates (and asset prices) are too important to be determined by a mere market. While these are unprecedented times, the Fed runs the risk of staying too long at the party. Inflation is always a risk, but the bigger risk is asset bubbles fueled by ultra-low interest rates. When pension funds etc cannot earn a yield with Treasuries they will be forced to reach for yield because their future liability streams are not affected by interest rates.
I hope the Fed can stick the landing here, but the quote about the risks to the independence of the central bank is not an idle threat. It also assumes the Fed can fight the market indefinitely. That is by no means guaranteed, as we saw when George Soros broke the Bank of England. The Fed has been swelling its balance sheet without any injection of equity, which means the margin for error is becoming smaller and smaller. If the markets get a whiff of inflation, nobody is going to willingly tie up their money for 10 years at 70 basis points. The inverse of interest rates is bond prices, and it won’t take much of an increase in market rates to wipe out the Fed’s equity.
Escape from New York: Manhattan apartment sales the worst in 30 years, falling by 54%. Median prices fell by 18%. There were only 1147 sales in the quarter, the lowest on record. Renters are fleeing the City, and we should see an increase in rental renegotiations. While some of this is COVID-19 related, New York City seems determined to return to the 1970s.