Treasury Yield Snapshot: Time For The Fed To Back Down?

by: Doug Short

I've updated the charts below through Friday's close. The S&P 500 is at a new interim high of 1,513.17 and is a mere 3.3% from its historic high set in October 2007. The 10-year note closed Friday at 2.04, which is the highest since early April of 2012. The historic closing low was 1.43 on July 25, 2012.

The latest Freddie Mac Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey puts the 30-year fixed at 3.53 percent, 22 basis points above its historic low set last November.

Here is a snapshot of selected yields and the 30-year fixed mortgage starting shortly before the Fed announced Operation Twist.

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For a eye-opening context on the 30-year fixed, here is the complete Freddie Mac survey data from the Fed's repository. Many first-wave boomers (my household included) were buying homes in the early 1980s. At its peak in October 1981, the 30-year fixed was at 18.63 percent.

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The 30-year fixed mortgage at the current level is a confirmation of a key aspect of the Fed's QE success, and the low yields have certainly reduced the pain of Uncle Sam's interest payments on Treasuries (although the yields are up from recent historic lows of this summer). But, as for loans to small businesses, the Fed strategy is a solution to a non-problem. Here's a snippet from the latest NFIB Small Business Economic Trends report:

Six percent of the owners reported that all their credit needs were not met, down 2 points. Twenty-eight (28) percent reported all credit needs met, and 52 percent explicitly said they did not want a loan. Only 3 percent reported that financing was their top business problem, compared to 23 percent citing taxes, 23 percent citing weak sales and 18 percent citing unreasonable regulations and red tape.

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A Perspective on Yields Since 2007

The first chart shows the daily performance of several Treasuries and the Fed Funds Rate (FFR) since 2007. The source for the yields is the Daily Treasury Yield Curve Rates from the US Department of the Treasury and the New York Fed's website for the FFR.

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Now let's see the 10-year against the S&P 500 with some notes on Federal Reserve intervention. Fed policy has been a major influence on market behavior, and the S&P 500, our market exemplar below, is, as I pointed out above, nearing an all-time high. It's thus not surprising that we're hearing news that some Fed members are rethinking policy. See the Bloomberg news item Fed's Bullard Urges Cutting QE Pace if Data Stay Strong.

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For a long-term view of weekly Treasury yields, also focusing on the 10-year, see my Treasury Yields in Perspective.