Fed president James Bullard gave auction investors a gift today.
By David Enna, Tipswatch.com
Investors in today’s Treasury offering of $15 billion in a 10-year TIPS reopening auction should give a tip of the hat to St. Louis Fed president James Bullard, who shook up the bond market (just a bit) with some hawkish rhetoric on interest rates. According to CNBC:
“Thus far, the change in the monetary policy stance appears to have had only limited effects on observed inflation,” Bullard said. “To attain a sufficiently restrictive level, the policy rate will need to be increased further.”
Bullard contended that 5% could serve as the low range for the where the funds rate needs to be and that upper bound could be closer to 7%.
A federal funds rate of 7%? That’s a mighty jump from the current range of 3.75% to 4.00% and seems rather alarmist. But Bullard is continuing the Fed’s unofficial strategy of talking tough whenever the stock and bond markets seem to be getting euphoric. The result: Stock and bond markets yawned and took it mostly in stride, with bond yields inching — but only inching — higher this morning.
All of this led to the 1 p.m. close of the reopening auction of CUSIP 91282CEZ0, creating a 9-year, 8-month Treasury Inflation-Protected Security. This TIPS, which trades on the secondary market, closed Wednesday with a real yield of 1.37%. But Bullard’s comments appeared to give investors some caution, pushing the auctioned high yield up to 1.485%. The bid-to-cover ratio was a mediocre 2.25, indicating fairly weak demand.
Because the auctioned real yield was much higher than the coupon rate of 0.625%, investors got this TIPS at a discount, with an adjusted price of about $94.29 for about $102.15 of principal, after accrued inflation is added in. This TIPS will have an inflation index of 1.02147 on the settlement date of Nov. 30.
For today’s investors, all is good. The real yield of 1.485% was the highest for any 9- to 10-year TIPS auction since April 2010, when a 9-year, 9-month TIPS got a real yield of 1.709%. For anyone counting, there have been 75 TIPS auctions of this term since April 2010. Today was a milestone.
Real yields have been climbing throughout 2022, a trend that escalated in March once the Federal Reserve committed to increasing interest rates and cutting its balance sheet in the face of 40-year-high U.S. inflation. Here is the year-to-date trend in 10-year real yields:
Inflation breakeven rate
At the auction’s close at 1 p.m. ET, the nominal 10-year Treasury note was yielding 3.77%, giving CUSIP 91282CEZ0 an inflation breakeven rate of 2.29%, the lowest for this term since an auction in July 2021. That’s an attractive rate, in my opinion, making this TIPS a decent bet versus a 10-year Treasury. If inflation averages more then 2.29% over the next 10 years, this TIPS will out-perform. Inflation over the last 10 years, ending in October, has averaged 2.6%.
Here is the year-to-date trend in the 10-year inflation breakeven rate, showing how inflation expectations have been trending downward as the Federal Reserve maintains its hawkish posture:
Reaction to the auction
The overall TIPS market had been trading lower all morning, indicating higher yields, as shown in the one-day chart for the TIP ETF, which holds a broad range of maturities. This chart is all about the statements by Fed president James Bullard, and the auction result had almost no effect on TIPS prices.
So, investors at today’s auction got a gift from Bullard, amounting to an 11-basis point increase in real yield over the next 9-years, 8 months. Getting the highest real yield in 12+ years looks like a solid investment.
Today’s auction closes the books on CUSIP 91282CEZ0, a TIPS that transitioned the 10-year market from remnants of the easy money days of 2021 to the tighter policies of 2022. Its coupon rate of 0.625% — which now looks low — was the highest for any TIPS of this term since May 2019. A new 10-year TIPS will be auctioned on Jan. 19, 2023.
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David Enna is a financial journalist, not a financial adviser. He is not selling or profiting from any investment discussed. The investments he discusses can be purchased through the Treasury or other providers without fees, commissions or carrying charges. Please do your own research before investing.