Bond Bubble Conundrum

October 22, 2018

Wall Street shills are in near perfect agreement that the bond market is not in a bubble. And, even if there are a few on the fringes who will admit that one does exist, they claim it will burst harmlessly because the Fed is merely gradually letting the air out from inside. However, the fact that we are in a bond bubble is beyond a doubt—and given the magnitude of the yield distortions that exist today, the effects of its unwinding will be epoch.

Due to the risks associated with inflation and solvency concerns, it should be a prima facie case that sovereign bond yields should never venture anywhere near zero percent—and in some cases, shockingly, below zero percent. Even if a nation were to have an annual budget surplus with no inflation, it should still provide investors with a real, after-tax return on government debt. But in the context of today’s inflation-seeking and debt-disabled governments, negative nominal interest rates are equivalent to investment heresy.

At its peak in 2016, there was a total of over $14 trillion worth of global sovereign bonds with a negative yield—mostly in European and Japanese debt. And even though that total has decreased recently, it is still above $8 trillion.

black and white graph from Bloomberg


And although the U.S. Ten-year Treasury note yield has never been negative in nominal terms, it is still clearly in the sub-basement of history.