Bond Vigilantes started in 2006, when the world looked pretty different
When we started the Bond Vigilantes blog back towards the end of 2006, the world looked pretty different – and even the term “bond vigilantes” had fallen out of use. Looking back at our first couple of months of blogging, we were writing about the first signs of weakness in the Chicago housing market, our worries about aggressive lending by the UK banks, and the new developments in the supercharged CDO market. But this was still a world in which Central Bankers had “won” the war on inflation after a two decade long battle, where the term “sovereign debt crisis” was solely used in relation to the emerging markets, and where Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns sat at the top table of global investment banks..
Ten years later, and we may have emerged from the biggest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the world looks a very different place. Interest rates remain at, or close to, record lows and aggressive central bank policy action continues to distort many government and corporate bond markets.
“I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.”
As populations feel the squeeze from two directions – mediocre income growth and higher goods prices – being a self-proclaimed “bond vigilante” feels somewhat uncomfortable. Is it right that the markets should have the power that James Carville talked about in his famous quote? Is a AAA credit rating worth more than half a million jobs? Is stable inflation more important than growth?
Many government bond yields remain close to historic lows. However, with signs that inflation may finally be returning as a force to be reckoned with, this extended cycle may be approaching an end. For many investors, this could be their first real experience of a rising rates/yields environment. Equally, central bankers will once again be faced with sustaining the delicate balance between encouraging growth and anchoring inflation close to their targets.