The losses sustained by the U.S. bond market over the last few years are the worst in the nation’s recorded history, according to research from strategists at Bank of America that is cited in an article in Bloomberg. While some of the data from 200-plus years ago may be less than accurate, it’s still a startling statistic, and drives home what a significant impact inflation and high interest rates had on the bond market.
Though the U.S. government stepped in to rescue investors as well as regional banks during the banking crisis earlier this year, many on Wall Street are worried about just how robust the federal government’s finances are. Free money—zero interest rates and billion-dollar purchases of Treasuries every week—covered up many of the issues now coming to light, such as high deficits. With higher interest rates, the debt outweighs long-term bonds, putting what was once considered a safe investment on shaky ground. As the price on the 10-year Treasury note falls and its yield rises, investors as well as countries around the world have not only stopped buying them, but also started selling them off, the article reports.
The U.S. defaulting on its debts isn’t the concern; rather, maintaining a policy that drives up yields puts too much pressure on U.S. companies and consumers. Yields that skyrocket too fast and too high could possibly send the economy into a recession. “We’re getting pretty close to the level where something could break,” Ed Yardeni, the founder of Yardeni Research, told Bloomberg. If the 10-year bond goes higher than 5%, it would increase the odds of a recession, Yardeni believes. While just a few years ago the yield was as low as 0.3%, it reached 4.89% last week, according to Bloomberg.
The stress on bond yields is starting to affect stocks, though not to the extent that it did during the 1987 crash, including oil, which posted recent losses after rallying for months. Most did not anticipate the bond reversal, which comes after years of stability built by the Fed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, even after the Fed poured enormous amounts of money into the company during the pandemic. But although the years from 2008 to 2020 felt normal, they weren’t,” Torsten Slok of Apollo Global Management reminds Bloomberg. In fact, global interest rates during that time were the lowest in 5,000 years, according to the Bank of America strategists. “The new world that we live in is really the normal world that we were in,” Slok told Bloomberg.