Feb 272017

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By G. Steven Bray

Interest rates equaled their lows for the year on Fri and promptly bounced the other way today, staying inside the narrow range they’ve traced all year.

Rates continue to defy the maxim that they should move in the same direction as equity prices. It’s the “risk on” trade. Stock market indices continue to hit record highs, but rates haven’t budged this year. So, what gives?

While stock market investors are trading on the prospects for lower taxes and more government spending, bond traders are hedging. Uncertainties abound. When will Pres Trump’s infrastructure spending plan come into play? What are the details of the tax plan? Will the Fed raise interest rates too fast and choke growth? In Europe, we have upcoming elections, and leading candidates generally want to upset the status quo. China’s economy seems to have moved back from the cliff, but it’s not clear whether it’s found stable ground.

It’s a busy week for economic reports. The biggest could be the Personal Consumption Expenditures report (the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation), which is released Wed. Wed is doubly important because it’s the first trading day after Trump’s speech to Congress at which he’s expected to lay out some details of his plans. I really think equity markets will find a way to view the details as an excuse to continue the current rally. As we’ve seen, that doesn’t mean rates will rise, but it makes it harder for them to break below last week’s lows.

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