It is like we’ve learned nothing about certainty.
Since President-elect Donald Trump won on Tuesday, investors have made big bets that his economic policies could trigger a jump in inflation.
Business Insider’s Bob Bryan detailed why here. In brief, Trump is expected to massively expand fiscal policy — characterised by heavy government spending and tax cuts — and tighten trade and immigration to encourage economic growth. These policies could lead, then, to rising prices.
There was a massive bid for Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS), which, well, protect investors against inflation. According to Thomson Reuters Lipper, $1 billion flowed into funds that invest in TIPS in the week ended November 9, the second largest inflow since at least 2002.
Treasurys aren’t as protected from inflation. So, unlike TIPS, investors sold them. And as happens when bond prices cheapen, yields rose to their highest level since January.
In a note on Friday, Morgan Stanley Strategist Anton Heese reminded clients about the biggest lesson of the past week: no one is sure of anything.
“The widening [in the TIPS market] makes sense in that many of President-elect Trump’s policies — fiscal stimulus, a renegotiation of trade agreements, changes to healthcare regulation — have the potential to be inflationary,” he wrote.
“However, there remains considerable uncertainty about how and if they will be implemented, so it is worth questioning if the market has overshot in pricing inflation expectations so much higher.”
Jefferey Gundlach, the DoubleLine Funds founder who called a Trump win months ago, does not think bond yields have much room to run higher.
“I do think this rate rise is about 80% through,” or at least this leg of it, he told CNBC on Friday.
If yields rise beyond “critical resistance” levels, including 2.35% on the 10-year note, “then things are in really big trouble,” he said.
That’s because the swift run up in rates may end up hurting other areas of the economy. For example, a jump in mortgage rates could trigger a price correction in residential housing as an era of strong demand stoked by super-attractive rates ends.
Trump also faces a mathematical hurdle that could translate into a political headache.
More fiscal stimulus and government spending combined with tax cuts would not be successful without running up the deficit and its ratio to gross domestic product.
However, the Republican party has traditionally taken a more conservative position on fiscal spending.
Brad McMillan, the chief investment officer of Commonwealth Financial Network, said a smaller deficit is a major agenda item for the Tea Party.
“What’s going to be really interesting is whether they’re going to roll over on the deficit for a Republican president,” he told Business Insider on Thursday. “That’s going to be the real story of the next couple of months. If they don’t, Speaker Ryan and President Trump are going to have a tougher time than they would have thought.”
For McMillan, this is the big political story of the next six months.