Apr 242017

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By G. Steven Bray

Investors seem to have found their swagger again. After spending a couple weeks fretting over the many uncertainties in the world, and as a result pushing bond yields lower, they’re casting their fears aside and back on the happy juice. The inspirations for this change in sentiment seem to be the outcome of the French election and expectations for a Trump tax plan.

Interestingly, the French election results were as expected: the establishment candidate bested the “scary” nationalist candidate Le Pen by a couple points, and they will meet in a runoff election in a couple weeks. What seems to have quelled fears is that Le Pen didn’t outperform pre-election polls, and those polls predict a drubbing for her in the runoff. The EU is safe again – for now.

I’m not sure that would have been enough to turn market sentiment if it wasn’t for the Trump talk. Investors had started therapy sessions over the failed advance of the Trump agenda, but the depression lifted last Fri when Trump promised details of his tax reform plan this week. Never mind that it faces a still divided Republican House. Tax cuts are like crack for investors causing them to ignore the difficult week ahead culminating with a potential government shutdown.

While I think we could see some further pressure on interest rates for the next few weeks, the crystal ball beyond that period is cloudy. Recent US economic data has been surprisingly weak, especially inflation data, and it’s still unclear whether Congress can find consensus. Balance that against central bankers’ urge to normalize monetary policy. The resulting mixed picture leaves rates without much direction and subject to headline abuse.

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