Factors Influencing Term Premium
Adrian, Crump, and Moench's study suggests that term premiums tend to rise during specific economic conditions. These conditions include periods when the economy is entering a downturn, when professional forecasters disagree on future bond yields, and when investors become increasingly uncertain about future Treasury yields. Currently, these conditions seem to be in place.
Additionally, one can conjecture that the increase in uncertainty about the future trajectory of inflation, the Federal Reserve's tolerance for deviations of inflation from the 2% target, speculation about the Fed potentially resetting the inflation target, questions about the long-term level of the Fed's neutral rate, uncertainty surrounding the demand for upcoming large Treasury issuance, a rise in the risks of a liquidity event in the Treasury market, and concerns about of rising fiscal dominance are all contributing factors.
Historical Perspective on Term Premium
Over the past six decades, the term premium for the 10-year Treasury note has typically been positive, with only a brief departure from this pattern occurring since 2015. This period of negativity in term premiums was an anomaly. The mean average term premium over this historical period was +151 bps, while the median stood at +154 bps.
Though the term premium has recently returned to positive territory, registering at 22 bps as of October 2, 2023, it still falls below the mean and median levels observed over the past six decades. This suggests the potential for a mean reversion of the term premium to higher levels, especially given the various factors previously discussed.
In light of the aforementioned analysis, certain investment implications become apparent. We recommend focusing on the short end of the Treasury curve as opposed to the long end. This preference is grounded in the anticipation that the Fed will implement rate cuts in the first half of 2024, even amid what might seem like hawkish rhetoric. These rate cuts are expected to materialize as signs of a weakening US economy emerge. Furthermore, the Fed's efforts to prevent a liquidity event in the Treasury market may lead to reductions in policy rates.
Additionally, the Fed may consider discontinuing interest payments of 5.4% on reserve balances and terminating fixed rate Temporary Open Market Operations that offer 5.3% on overnight reverse repos. This could result in annual savings of USD250 billion for the Fed and incentivize banks to withdraw a substantial portion of their USD3.2 trillion deposits at the Fed to invest in Treasury securities, including T-bills, which are close substitutes for interest-bearing reserves. Money market funds may also transition their USD1.4 trillion reverse repos into purchasing T-bills. This collective action could generate significant demand, amounting to USD4 trillion, for short-term Treasury securities. These factors collectively suggest a potential for lower yields and higher prices for short-term Treasury securities.
For traders looking to capitalize on these dynamics, a steepening trade strategy could be considered. This involves shorting the 10-year T-note futures while simultaneously going long on the 2-year T-note futures. This strategy leverages the anticipated yield curve dynamics resulting from the factors discussed. Readers interested in pursuing this strategy can find more information on how to calculate the duration-neutral number of contracts for each leg of the trade here.
In conclusion, the recent surge in bond yields is not simply a consequence of the Fed signaling a "higher for longer" interest rate stance. It is, in fact, a complex interplay of factors, including expectations of interest rate hikes and term premiums. Understanding these dynamics and their historical context is crucial for making informed investment decisions in the Treasury market. As we navigate these uncertain financial waters, being mindful of the term premium and its potential for mean reversion provides valuable insight into the future trajectory of bond yields and their implications for investors and traders alike.