Treasury Slashes I Bond’s Fixed Rate To 0.2%

Summary

  • The I Bond’s fixed rate is falling from 0.5% to 0.2% for purchases through April 2020, a move that was expected after a year of declining interest rates.
  • Bad news? Disappointing, yes, but I Bonds will remain an attractive investment into 2020 as long as real yields on TIPS remain depressed.
  • Also, no change for the terms of EE Bonds. They’ll earn a lousy fixed rate of 0.1% but double in value in 20 years, for an effective return of 3.5%.

In response to deep declines this year in real interest rates, the U.S. Treasury announced today it is cutting the fixed rate for U.S. Series I Savings Bonds issued through April 2020 from 0.50% to 0.20%.

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5-Year TIPS Auction Results In Surprisingly Low Yield

Summary

  • The real yield to maturity of 0.054% was much lower than Treasury estimates at the market close Wednesday.
  • The inflation break-even rate popped up to 1.50%, still low but higher than recent trends.
  • Obviously, this TIPS issue was met with strong investor demand, indicated by both the lower-than-market yield and then higher-than-trending inflation break-even rate.

The U.S. Treasury’s auction today of $17 billion in a new five-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Security generated a surprisingly low real yield to maturity of just 0.054%. That was well below the Treasury’s estimate of 0.22% at the market close on Wednesday.

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This Week’s 5-Year TIPS Auction Looks Mildly Interesting

Summary

  • At Friday’s close, the Treasury’s estimate of the real yield of a five-year TIPS stood at 0.25%, a bit higher than recent numbers.
  • At that yield, the five-year inflation break-even rate would come in at 1.34%, an extremely low number.
  • I expect reasonably strong demand for this new issue, but smaller-scale investors can find a better alternative with I Bonds, or possibly insured bank CDs.

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday will auction $17 billion in a new five-year Treasury Inflation-Protected Security – CUSIP 912828YL8. The real yield to maturity and resulting coupon rate will be set by the auction bidding.

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I Bond Investors: Act Now, Don’t Delay

Summary

  • I Bonds issued before November 1 will carry a permanent fixed rate of 0.50%, creating a real return higher than that of a 5-, 10- or 20-year TIPS.
  • The Treasury will reset this fixed rate on November 1, and it is very likely to go lower.
  • With interest rates sliding lower, this could be a “last chance” opportunity (for years?) to get a good fixed rate on an excellent inflation-protected investment.

It pains me to say this: The market’s best inflation-protected investment could go “poof” on November 1. That’s the date the U.S. Treasury will reset the fixed rate on its U.S. Series I Savings Bonds. And the news isn’t likely to be good.

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Inflation Report Sets Social Security COLA At 1.6%; I Bond’s Variable Rate Rises To 2.02%

Summary

  • The Social Security COLA of 1.6% for 2020 is well below this year’s increase of 2.8%, reflecting the dip in overall U.S. inflation this year.
  • The variable interest rate for U.S. Series I Savings Bonds will rise to 2.02% on November 1, up from the current 1.4%.
  • While overall inflation is being driven down by falling energy prices, core inflation is still running at a solidly-moderate rate of 2.4%.

This is the most important inflation report of the year because it provides the final pieces of data needed to determine the 2020 cost-of-living adjustment for the nation’s 67 million Social Security beneficiaries. It also sets in stone the next inflation-adjusted variable rate for U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.

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10-Year TIPS Reopening Gets Real Yield Of 0.174%, Lowest In 3 Years

Summary

  • Real yields are near Treasury-estimate lows for 2019, but have popped slightly higher in recent weeks.
  • Today’s auction yield of 0.174% meant that investors had to pay a premium to get a 0.250% after-inflation coupon rate.
  • The inflation breakeven rate came in at 1.60%, a three-year low. A number this low had to spur interest from big-money investors.

I’d suggest steering away from five-year TIPS yielding lower than 0.40% and 10-year TIPS below 0.65%. It may be a while before we see yields that high again.

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Avoid This Week’s 10-Year TIPS Reopening

Summary

  • The real yield to maturity looks likely to come in at around 0.22%, well below the yields of 10 months ago.
  • The inflation breakeven rate is currently running at 1.68%, a low number that should draw interest in this TIPS from big-month investors.
  • For a small-scale investor, the U.S. Series I Savings Bond offers a better yield and better terms. But make your purchases before November 1.

The U.S. Treasury announced last week it will auction $12 billion of a reopened CUSIP 9128287D6 Thursday, creating a 9-year, 10-month Treasury Inflation-Protected Security.

Although TIPS traders may be eyeing this issue as a potential money maker, I’m going straight to the point: Avoid it.

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