Speeches from ECB and Federal Reverse’s officials will be in focus.
The bond market will listen carefully to what central bank officials will have to say regarding inflation and the economic outlook. Bostic, Mester, Evans, Bullard, and Williams will all speak throughout the week in the US. However, the focus will be on Jerome Powell speaking in front of the House Committee on Financial Services on Wednesday and before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. In Europe, Panetta, Lagarde, Guindos, Lane, and de Cos will speak before the blackout period starts on Thursday in conjunction with the release of the ECB minutes.
It's key for markets to understand whether inflation or growth will be given priority. That choice could have severe consequences in the bond market. If central banks sound too hawkish, a tantrum might ensue within risky assets as yield curves will bear flatten. If central banks are instead dovish, the yield curve might steepen as markets pare back rate hikes expectations. However, a tantrum might just be postponed if volatility doesn't normalize due to the escalation of geopolitical tensions.
CPI numbers and ECB minutes will drive sentiment in the Eurozone, while nonfarm payrolls will be a focus in the US.
Despite volatile markets, investors will be looking at data coming from Europe and the US. In Europe, the focus is on the CPI numbers, expected to show a yearly increase of 5.6% in February. The focus will be on nonfarm payrolls and particularly on average hourly earnings in the US, which gives a picture of wage inflation. Yet, depending on how things evolve in Ukraine, these data might not provoke a strong market reaction, as priority will be given to March's monetary policies announcements expectations.
A paralyzed primary junk bond market is signaling troubles on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the short term, it’s safe to expect real rates to continue their fall as breakeven rates rise and nominal rates drop. Yet, dropping real rates might not work in support of credits as they did in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Volatility in markets is causing corporate bond spreads to widen sensibly and freezing the primary market. Investment-grade corporates can still borrow in the primary market. Still, there is no pipeline for high-yield deals, signaling that investors remain wary of credit risk amid high inflation and escalating geopolitical tensions. The only junk bond deal to have been priced in the US since the 10th of February has been Twitter. However, I don't consider it a bellwether for the high yield space, as Twitter is a well-known name, attracting a lot of attention. The real test for the junk bond space would have been the issuance of 10y bonds from BellRing Brands, which should have come through the following day, but was canceled due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the junk bond primary market has been completely paralyzed with no signal of upcoming deals. The same can be said about the European high yield bond space, which didn’t see a junk bond priced since the 16th of February.
Before the war in Ukraine, a slowdown in junk bond issuance was attributed to central banks' tightening agenda. However, now, risk aversion has taken a leading role. Suppose the war continues while central banks signal the need to tighten financial conditions regardless. In that case, it's a matter of time before a tantrum ensues.