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Pressure has been building over inflation expectations. When will the Federal Reserve cut interest rates? How long before CRE could return to, if not to a zero-rate policy, then closer to the pre-pandemic situation?

But another storm is on the horizon, one that some have been warning about although they’ve been largely ignored. The issue is the level of government debt, which is up to almost $34.6 trillion according to the non-partisan nonprofit Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The reason is structural factors, such as a large aging segment of the population, rising healthcare costs, and government spending that doesn’t bring in enough taxes to pay for what Congress authorizes.

Deficit spending requires more borrowing through government debt instruments as Reuters reports.

“Investors are bracing for a flood of U.S. government debt issuance that over time could dwarf an expected rally in bonds, as they see no end in sight for large fiscal deficits ahead of this year’s presidential election,” they wrote.

The mechanism that worries them is straightforward. There are three methods the U.S. government can use to obtain revenue to pay for its obligations. One is through taxes, but the amount brought in isn’t close to what is needed. The second is by printing money, which would eventually generate inflation. Third is borrowing, the approach the U.S. has used for generations.

Borrowing dynamics follow basic economics keeping one dynamic in mind — bond prices and bond yields move inversely. The more demand there is from those who want to lend the U.S. money by buying bonds, the lower the yield the government has to offer. The more debt the government wants to sell — that is, the more supply— the higher yields need to be to attract buyers. Also, the more the U.S. presents as a risky borrower, the greater the yield lenders/buyers will demand, and the more the government has to borrow, the riskier it seems.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields, now at around 4.4%, could go up to 8%-10% over the next several years, Ella Hoxha, head of fixed income at Newton Investment Management, who favors short-term maturities in Treasurys, told Reuters. “Longer term, it’s not sustainable.”

Meanwhile in some quarters concerns are reaching nightmare proportions. Jeffrey Gundlach, the CEO of investment management company DoubleLine Capital, is afraid the growing debt burden of the US government could eventually lead to a restructuring of US government debt, which would be unprecedented.

The world would likely see debt restructuring as an admission of problems and greater risk, increasing yields even more.

The bottom line for CRE: higher yields on the 10-year and SOFR — and both are strongly correlated and baselines of loan rates — would force real estate borrowing rates up.


Source:  GlobeSt.


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In the latter half of last week, yields on Treasury 10-years jumped, hitting 4.55% on Wednesday, moving to 4.56% on Thursday, and dropping down to 4.50% on Friday. By the end of Monday, it was 4.63%

If you ignore 2023 when rising interest rates had a heavy impact on Treasury yields, the last time the 10-year was in this range was in the fall of 2007, as the initial rumblings of what would become the Global Financial Crisis.

Markets are not seeing the trembling of an out-of-control housing market and the derivatives built on top of it. But the current shakings might be worse.

“A series of weak auctions for U.S. Treasurys are stoking investors’ concerns that markets will struggle to absorb an incoming rush of government debt,” the Wall Street Journal reported. “A selloff sparked by a hotter-than-expected inflation report intensified this past week after lackluster demand for a $39 billion sale of 10-year Treasurys. Investors also showed tepid interest in auctions for three-year and 30-year Treasurys.”

The worry among investors is that if inflation doesn’t continue to sink, the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates where they are now rather than start cutting as investors have wanted. Or maybe increase rates if they decide it’s necessary to break the back of rising prices.

May will bring another $386 billion in bond sales, and, as the Journal notes, this will continue no matter who is elected president in November. The first quarter of 2024 saw the Treasury sell $7.2 trillion in debt. Last year, the government issued $23 trillion in Treasurys, “which raised $2.4 trillion of cash, after accounting for maturing bonds.” But a number of Treasury auctions did more poorly than expected. The Treasury Department decided to push short-term instruments as the Fed encouraged the idea that eventually they would cut interest rates. That would make higher-rate Treasurys more valuable in a presumed near term.

With inflation started to strengthen again, that strategy becomes less appealing to buyers. Also, the Fed has said it will slow quantitative tightening, which is how it reduces its balance sheet holdings of Treasury instruments. Tightening expects that investors would buy more debt. As the Fed reduces tightening, the government might lower its expectations of how much investors needed to buy.

From a CRE perspective, the more debt on sale, the greater degree that circumstances invoke the law of supply and demand. Prices will likely drop to get enough investor purchases, which would send yields up as the two aspects move inversely. The 10-year yield is one of the standard baseline rates used in CRE lending. The other, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, or SOFR, is strongly correlated to the 10-year, though often with a timing gap.

If baseline rates go up, so do borrowing costs, which is the big problem faced by many with maturing loans and who need refinancing but who based their business case on low interest rates and high leverage that are no longer available.

And then there is the psychological factor. All investors, whether individuals, organizations, or sovereign states, are under the thumb of human emotion. The more risk they perceive, the more skittish they are as buyers, which could push down Treasury prices even more, driving up expected yield and negatively affecting CRE.


Source:  GlobeSt.

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Bond traders are getting certain that a long-time aberration in how Treasury bond prices and yields work is about to head back to normal.

They expect that the yield on the 10-year Treasury will rise above the 2-year (though academics often monitor the 3-month and the 10-year), Bloomberg reports.

A look at the numbers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ FRED website shows that July 5, 2022, was when the yields on the 2-year and 10-year Treasurys were the same. Since then, the 10-year sunk below, and there’s been an inverted yield curve. The 3-month and 10-year difference inverted on October 25, 2022. A long haul, either way you look at it.

Inversions lasting for an extended period are generally taken to mean that there’s a recession on its way … eventually. As US News & World Report noted last year, the average time between an inversion and a recession is 12 to 24 months, although the shortest period in 2019 was six months.

The theory behind the yield tea leaves is that investors are sure there’s a recession coming and so they lock in even at lower rates now because they’re sure the Federal Reserve will cut rates to stimulate the economy, making Treasury yields drop.

Harley Bassman, a big name in bonds, told Bloomberg earlier in the month, “It’s done. Stick a fork in it, man. The 10s aren’t moving.” Instead, he expects yields on the short end of the curve to drop and normalize the yield curve.

Kathryn Kaminski, chief research strategist at AlphaSimplex Group, told Bloomberg, “The question we are asking – given the wide range of outcomes – is what is that steeper yield curve? Is that going to be cuts on the short end or could it possibly be, unexpectedly, that we see weakness in long-term bonds and we have a longer time to wait for cuts – and we actually see a steepening from the long end.”

Bill Gross, another bond expert, said on social media that the Treasury 10-year with a 4% yield, around which it has lately hovered, is “overvalued.” Jeffrey Gundlach, founder, CEO, and chief investment officer of Doubleline, a money management firm that is a big player in the bond market. He said in a December 2023 CNBC interview that when the yield level of the 10-year Treasury market goes below 4%, it sounds “almost like a fire alarm” and that the 10-year yield would drop to the low 3s by sometime this year.

“In normal times it’s the short rate that comes down sharply given a recession is coming, and that causes the dis-inverting,” said Tobias Adrian, director of the International Monetary Fund’s monetary and capital markets department, told Bloomberg. “But now the US is likely to have a soft landing and so basically the curve could just flatten.”

But then, the 10-year yield has been climbing a bit over the last week, the 3-month has been steady, and the 2-year has been increasing. Some of the prognosticators will be right, others will be wrong, unless things manage to stay in a rough limbo, leaving everyone wondering. But there’s no definite answer right now.


Source:  GlobeSt.