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.)
Data as of 4/16/21
1-Week Y-T-D 1-Year 3-Year 5-Year 10-Year
Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks) 1.4% 11.4% 49.5% 16.1% 14.9% 12.4%
Vanguard Total Intl Index (Foreign Stocks) 1.5 7.9 53.5 7.3 10.3 5.4
10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only) 1.6 NA 0.6 2.8 1.8 3.4
Gold (per ounce) 1.9 -6.0 2.6 9.6 7.5 1.7
Bloomberg Commodity Index 3.0 10.9 39.5 -0.9 1.4 -6.5
S&P 500, Vanguard Total Intl Index, Gold, Bloomberg Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance; MarketWatch; djindexes.com; Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly. N/A means not applicable.
WHAT’S ON THE BENEFITS MENU? The impact of COVID-19 on workplaces has been profound. As we move toward a new normal, it is likely work as we once knew it will be changed forever. Employer benefits is one area in which there may be significant change.
Remote work options may be necessary for employers to remain competitive, according to the Pulse of the American Worker Survey:
“…a “war for talent” may be looming if companies don’t address workers’ needs…[the] war will be won by companies who affirm their standing as a top destination for both current and future talent. These employers will cultivate cultures that reflect what is most important to workers, such as remote-work options and flexible work arrangements, opportunities for career development and mobility, and comprehensive benefits that foster employee health and well-being and build financial resiliency.”
Financial wellness has become a top concern for Americans – at work and at home. Two-thirds of survey participants said they spent more time thinking about their finances in 2020 than they have in prior years, and they identified key barriers to financial security which included:
72% Lack of retirement savings
65% Lack of emergency savings
65% Not enough invested to grow
64% Too many bills
58% Not enough financial “know-how”
55% Too much debt
Some employers are considering new benefits that help address these issues, including emergency savings programs and other financial wellness options.
If you have concerns about any of these issues, please get in touch.
Weekly Focus – Think About It
“Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.”
— Robert Orben, Comedian