singaporeen
Stop whining about the US yield curve

Stop whining about the US yield curve

09-01-2018 | Monthly outlook

Talk of an inverted US yield curve flagging a recession is completely misplaced, says Robeco investor Lukas Daalder.

  • Lukas Daalder
    Lukas
    Daalder
    Former CIO Robeco Investment Solutions. Daalder left Robeco in July 2018.

Speed read

  • Flattening US yield curve has triggered misplaced recession concerns
  • Flatter curve does not reflect lower growth, inversion is no sell signal
  • The steepness of the yield curve is a non-issue for investors in 2018

Fears have grown that a flattening in the curve that depicts the difference in yields between shorter-dated and longer-dated government bonds is a bad omen. “This has triggered a lot of concerns, with people claiming that this is a sign that US expansion is coming to an end,” says Daalder, Chief Investment Officer of Robeco Investment Solutions.

“People are worried mostly because since the mid-1970s, all recessions have been preceded by a period when the yield curve was inverted, meaning that the 10-year yield was lower than the 2-year yield. This correctly signaled five out of five recessions: neither economists (‘zero out of the last seven’) nor the stock markets (‘nine out of the past five’) can boast such a strong track record of predictions.”

Robeco Singapore Private Limited

12 Marina View 
#10-02, Asia Square Tower 2 
Singapore 018961 
Email: robecosg@robeco.com
Tel: +65 6909 6898

Contact

A negative yield curves spell doom, or so it seems. Source: St Louis Fed, Robeco

“So although this does look like a reliable leading indicator, there are a number of reasons why we think the whole ‘a-recession-is-around-the-corner’ theme is overdone right now.”

Beware of false signals

Daalder says firstly, the notion that an inverted yield curve is an early warning system is not infallible, particularly if the bond durations used are changed, as shown in the chart below. “Things look somewhat different when we extend the timeframe, such as by switching from a 2-year Treasury yield to a 3-month interest rate,” he says.

“Here we now have two false signals: neither the inversion of 1966, nor that of 1998 were precursors of a recession. Not every inverted yield curve ‘leads’ to a recession, apparently. It is clear that the yield curve has not always acted as a reliable early warning system, and it can be questioned whether in this day and age of central bank intervention in bond markets, it still has the same predicative qualities that it used to have.”

The longer lookback gives a slightly different perspective. Source: St Louis Fed, Shiller and Robeco

So why does this fear persist, when the US is nowhere near an inverted yield curve using either 2-year bonds or 3-month rates at the short end? It stems from the Fed signaling that it expects to make three quarter-point rate hikes in 2018, which would bring policy rates above 2% for the first time since 2008, Daalder says.

“If you add the 75 basis points of rate rises to the 2-year yield while keeping the 10-year yield unchanged, voila! … you end up with an inverted yield curve,” he says. “If only things were that simple. There are a number of important assumptions being made here, all of which can be questioned.”

How many rate hikes?

“First, in recent years we have seen that the Fed’s expectations are usually too optimistic when it comes to rate hikes. Not surprisingly, financial markets only expect rates to rise by 50 basis points, as can be deduced from the December 2018 Federal Funds Future.”

“Second, the link between the Federal Funds rate and 2-year yields is fuzzy at best. But by far the biggest – and the mostly unlikely – assumption however is that 10-year yields will remain unchanged during 2018. This would imply that the Treasury market will not be affected by the steady unwinding of the Fed’s bond holdings, along with other issues such as the Trump tax cuts and a tighter labor market.”

“In other words, the Fed would be raising rates as a result of an ongoing improvement in growth, but we are assuming here that bonds would not be impacted by that same underlying momentum improvement. This is a story that does not sound very plausible.”

18-month time lag

Daalder says that even if the yield curve does eventually invert, this still does not mean that a recession is around the corner. “Historically, on average it has taken another 18 months before the recession started,” he says. Given the fact that stocks typically start their descent four months prior to a recession, it is clear that this is not a very reliable sell signal, at least for the time being.”

“Another misnomer is that the steepness of the yield curve is an indicator for the underlying strength of an economy. If this is indeed true, then it is clear why there is rising concern about the flatter yield curve: the flattening would signal an even lower growth rate than the one we have seen in recent years.”

“However, historically there has not been a clear-cut relationship between the two. Neither in the late 1980s, nor in the late 1990s, did the flattening of the yield curve coincide with a lower growth rate; instead, it coincided with a higher one. In fact, looking at growth and the yield curve during the current expansion phase, one might even claim that the relationship seems to have been inverse.”

Important information

This information is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation.
The contents of this document have not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”). Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services license for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such license.
An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.

Logo

Important Information

Warning/Important note: This website contains information which is only available to qualified investors as defined below. If you are not a qualified investor, please click “I Disagree” to leave the website.

By clicking on "I agree", I declare that: 

  • I am a qualified investor as defined under 1
  • I have read and understood the Terms and Conditions and Disclaimers as described under 2

1 - This website may only be accessed directly or indirectly by the following persons in Singapore:

1) “institutional investor” under section 304 of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289)(“SFA”), which means:
(i) the Government; (ii) a statutory board as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (iii) an entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by a central government of a country and whose principal activity is (A) to manage its own funds; (B) to manage the funds of the central government of that country (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country); or (C) to manage the funds (which may include the reserves of that central government and any pension or provident fund of that country) of another entity that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of that country; (iv) any entity (A) that is wholly and beneficially owned, whether directly or indirectly, by the central government of a country; and (B) whose funds are managed by an entity mentioned in sub-paragraph (iii); (v) a central bank in a jurisdiction other than Singapore; (vi) a central government in a country other than Singapore; (vii) an agency (of a central government in a country other than Singapore) that is incorporated or established in a country other than Singapore; (viii) a multilateral agency, international organisation or supranational agency as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (ix) a bank that is licensed under the Banking Act (Cap.19); (x) a merchant bank that is approved as a financial institution under section 28 of the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186); (xi) a finance company that is licensed under the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108); (xii) a company or co-operative society that is licensed under the Insurance Act (Cap.142) to carry on insurance business in Singapore; (xiii) a company licensed under the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336); (xiv) a holder of a capital markets services licence; (xv) an approved exchange; (xvi) a recognised market operator; (xvii) an approved clearing house; (xviii) a recognised clearing house; (xix) a licensed trade repository; (xx) a licensed foreign trade repository; (xxi) an approved holding company; (xxii) a Depository as defined in section 81SF of the SFA; (xxiii) an entity or a trust formed or incorporated in a jurisdiction other than Singapore, which is regulated for the carrying on of any financial activity in that jurisdiction by a public authority of that jurisdiction that exercises a function that corresponds to a regulatory function of the Authority under this Act, the Banking Act (Cap.19), the Finance Companies Act (Cap.108), the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act (Cap.186), the Insurance Act (Cap.142), the Trust Companies Act (Cap.336) or such other Act as may be prescribed by regulations made under section 341 of the SFA; (xxiv) a pension fund, or collective investment scheme, whether constituted in Singapore or elsewhere; (xxv) a person (other than an individual) who carries on the business of dealing in bonds with accredited investors or expert investors; (xxvi) the trustee of such trust as the Authority may prescribe, when acting in that capacity; or; (xxvii) such other person as the Authority may prescribe.

2) “relevant person” under section 305(1) of the SFA, which means:
(i) An accredited investor; (ii) a corporation the sole business of which is to hold investments and the entire share capital of which is owned by one or more individuals, each of whom is an accredited investor; (iii) a trustee of a trust the sole purpose of which is to hold investments and each beneficiary of which is an individual who is an accredited investor; (iv) an officer or equivalent person of the person making the offer (such person being an entity) or a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of that officer or equivalent person; or (v) a spouse, parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of the person making the offer (such person being an individual).

3) any person who acquires the units [in a collective investment scheme] as principal if the offer is on terms that the units may only be required at a consideration of not less than $200,000 (or its equivalent in a foreign currency) for each transaction, whether such amount is to be paid for in cash or by exchange of units in a collective investment scheme, securities, securities-based derivatives contracts or other assets, and if the following condition is satisfied: (i) the offer is not accompanied by an advertisement making an offer or calling attention to the offer or intended offer; (ii) no selling or promotional expenses are paid or incurred in connection with the offer other than those incurred for administrative or professional services, or by way of commission or fee for services rendered by any of the persons specified in section 302B(1)(d)(i) to (vi) of the SFA; and (iii) no prospectus in respect of the offer has been registered by the Authority or, where a prospectus has been registered (A) the prospectus has eAccxpired pursuant to section 299 of the SFA; or (B) the person making the offer has before making the offer 1. informed the Authority by notice in writing of its intent to make the offer in reliance on the exemption under this subsection; and 2. taken reasonable steps to inform in writing the person to whom the offer is made that the offer is made in reliance on the exemption under this subsection.

4) Or otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA.

If you are not any of the types of persons described above, you are not authorized to enter this website and you should leave this website immediately.

2 Terms and Conditions
You acknowledge that you have read these Terms and Conditions (“Terms”) prior to accessing the website located at www.robeco.com/sg (“Website”) and you agree to be bound by the Terms.  If you do not agree to all of the Terms, you are not an authorised user and you should not use the Website. The Website is owned by Robeco Singapore Private Limited (company registration number: UEN. 201541306Z), which is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) pursuant to the Securities and Futures Act (Cap.289) (“SFA”) of Singapore, and is managed by Robeco Singapore Private Limited and/or its affiliates (collectively, as “Robeco”). The Website is intended for and should be accessed by institutional investors or accredited investors (as defined under Section 4A of the SFA) of Singapore.  The Website is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject the Robeco to any registration or licensing requirement within such jurisdiction.  It is your responsibility to observe all applicable laws, rules and regulations of any relevant jurisdiction. The content contained in the Website is owned by Robeco and/or its information providers and is protected by applicable copyrights, trademarks, service marks, and/or other intellectual property rights.  You may not copy, distribute, modify, post, frame or link the Website, including any text, graphics, video, audio, software code, user interface, design or logos.  You may not distribute, modify, transmit, reuse, repost, or use the content of the Website for public or commercial use, including all text, images, audio and/or video.  Robeco may terminate your access to the Website for any reason, without prior notice. Neither Robeco, nor any of its associates, nor any director, officer or employee accepts any liability whatsoever for any loss arising directly or indirectly from the access of the Website.  You agree to indemnity and hold Robeco, its associates, directors, officers or employees harmless against any and all claims, losses, liability, costs and expenses arising from your use of the Website due to violation of the Terms. Robeco reserves the right to change, modify, add or remove any parts of the Terms at any time and for any reason.  The Terms shall deemed to be effective immediately upon posting. The Terms shall be governed by, and shall be construed in accordance with, the law of Singapore.

Disclaimers
The Website has not been reviewed by the MAS. Accordingly, the Website may not be accessed directly or indirectly to persons in Singapore other than (i) to an institutional investor under Section 304 of the SFA, (ii) to a relevant person pursuant to Section 305(1), or any person pursuant to Section 305(2), and in accordance with the conditions specified in Section 305, of the SFA, or (iii) otherwise pursuant to, and in accordance with the conditions of, any other applicable provision of the SFA. 

Nothing in the Website constitutes tax, accounting, regulatory, legal or investment advice.  The Website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as an offer to sell or an invitation to buy any securities or products, nor as investment advice or recommendation or for the purpose of soliciting any action in relation to Robeco’s businesses, or solicitation by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation is not authorised or to any person to whom it is unlawful to make such an offer and solicitation. Any reproduction or distribution of information from the Website, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited.  By accessing to the Website, you agree to the foregoing.  

The funds referred to in the Website are for information only.  It is not a recommendation or investment advice, nor does it mean the funds is suitable for all investors.  The contents of the website is not reviewed by the MAS.  Any decision to participate in the funds should be made only after reviewing the sections regarding investment considerations, conflicts of interest, risk factors and the relevant Singapore selling restrictions.  You should consult your professional adviser if you are in doubt about the stringent restrictions applicable to the use of the Website, regulatory status of the funds, applicable regulatory protection, associated risks and suitability of the funds to your objectives.

Any decisions made based on the information contained in the Website are the sole responsibility of yours.  Any investments made or to be made shall be with your independent analyses based on your financial situation and objectives.  The investments and strategies contained in the Website may not be suitable for all investors and are not guaranteed by Robeco.  

Investment involves risks and may lose value.  Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future.  The value of your investments may fluctuate.  Past performance is no indication of current or future performance.  The Website may contain projections or other forward looking statements regarding future events or future financial performance of countries, markets or companies and such projection or forecast is not indicative of the future.  The information contained in the Website, including any data, projections and underlying assumptions are based upon certain assumptions, management forecasts and analysis of information available on an “as is” basis and without warranties of any kind, whether express or implied, and reflects prevailing conditions and Robeco’s views as of the date published or indicated, and maybe superseded by subsequent events or for other reasons.  The information contained in the Website are accordingly subject to change at any time without notice and Robeco are under no obligation to notify you of any of these changes.  Robeco expressly disclaims all liability for errors and omissions in the information presented in the Website and for the use or interpretation by others of information contained in the Website.

Robeco Singapore Private Limited holds a capital markets services licence for fund management issued by the MAS and is subject to certain clientele restrictions under such licence.  An investment will involve a high degree of risk, and you should consider carefully whether an investment is suitable for you.

I Disagree