In a simple test of 15 yield-curve variants, we found that the 2s10s spread ranks second to last, based on its correlation with one-year-forward real-GDP growth since 1978. The three best measures employed the 3-month bill as the “short” rate. The spread between the 5-year note and 3-month bill showed the strongest correlation with subsequent economic growth.
The U.S. 10/2-year curve just fell below the key threshold of 50 bps. Over the last 25 years, the yield curve proceeded to invert after this “Rubicon” was crossed. That doesn’t mean imminent trouble. The lead time of a yield-curve signal is lengthy, but it—and real yields—definitely warrant close monitoring.
We can’t count the number of times in the last week we’ve heard analysts worry about “what the Fed might know that we don’t.” In the words of John McEnroe, “You cannot be serious!”
A way to gain perspective on the present is by trying to view it from the future. Ask yourself, “What are the signs of impending decline, now ignored by investors, that will one day be memorialized by the same investors as the most obvious in retrospect?”
This year’s upswing in money-supply growth has been one of many factors that’s prevented our economic work from triggering a recession warning. Following a two-year decline, year-over-year growth in M2 bottomed near 3% late in 2018 and has trended upward all year, reaching 6.7% in the latest week (Chart 1).
The yield curve’s ten-month moving average inverted in September, hence the yield curve inversion can no longer be dismissed as transitory; the Boom/Bust Indicator remains below its descending 10-month moving average, confirming economic weakness predicted by the yield curve; and, the “Present Situation” component of September’s Consumer Confidence survey slipped below its 10-month moving average for the third time in 2019.
We always do our own work and draw our own conclusions. Lately, though, we’ve wondered what the late “Monetary Marty” Zweig might say about the stock market’s current liquidity backdrop.
Over a 12-month horizon, we now believe a U.S. recession is very likely, but aren’t confident enough to make the call when the forecast window is cut in half. Second-half stock returns could be decent if the business-cycle peak is still a year away. Then again, there’s peril in waiting for “too much” confirmation of recession.
While the celebration over Jerome Powell’s “Christmas Capitulation” lingered throughout February, we’re still awaiting signs the capitulation consisted of anything more than words.
Despite the late reversal in rates and the yield curve, the flattening trend of the yield curve remains intact. The fact that longer-term bond yields have fallen while the Fed is raising rates brings back memories of the “bond conundrum” episode during 2004-2006.