Where are Treasury bonds going?
The direction of bond yields is influenced by investors’ expectations for economic growth, among other factors. When economic growth is expected to weaken, bond yields tend to move lower. When economic growth is expected to strengthen, bond yields tend to move higher.
Last year, U.S. Treasury yields began to climb higher on optimism that vaccines, in tandem with fiscal and monetary stimulus, would strengthen economic growth. The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose more than 1 percent in just a few months, from 0.54 percent at the end of July 2020 to 1.75 percent at the end of March 2021.
Last week, Treasury yields moved lower. Ben Levisohn of Barron’s explained it’s “…possible that after yields nearly doubled to start the year, investors were simply waiting to see that the move higher was over before buying again. Of course, nearly everyone was predicting a 2 percent yield on the 10-year, while often forgetting that rarely does anything in financial markets move in a straight line.”
There are reasons for investors to be optimistic about what may be ahead and there may be reasons for concern:
Corporate earnings are positive, so far. Corporate earnings are encouraging. Almost 10 percent of Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies have reported first quarter earnings. Earnings show how profitable a company was during a given period of time. So far, 81 percent of the companies have reported higher than expected earnings per share, reported John Butters of FactSet.
Vaccine rollouts offer mixed messages. As of last weekend, about 50 percent of Americans 18 and older had received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 32 percent were fully vaccinated, reported the Centers for Disease Control.
There is trepidation about the effectiveness of mass vaccinations and the pace at which people in other regions of the world are being vaccinated, reported Chris Wilson of Time. In the United States, the pause in distribution of single shot vaccines caused some investors to be concerned, reported Hope King of Axios.
Economic data was compelling. U.S. economic data released last week showed declines in weekly unemployment claims and strong retail sales numbers. The news strengthened expectations that economic recovery remained on track, reported Simon Jessop and Hideyuki Sano of Reuters.
Other issues that may be weighing on investors include uncertainty about infrastructure spending and sanctions on Russia.
No one is ever certain what the future will bring. It’s one reason for having a well-diversified portfolio.
(The one-year numbers in the scorecard below remain noteworthy. They reflect the strong recovery of U.S. stocks from last year’s coronavirus downturn to the present day.)