03.06.2015
By Terry Flanagan

OPINION: Real-Deal Rate Rise?

It looks like interest rates are finally headed higher. After a couple false starts over the past few years — most notably a four-month stretch in 2013 that saw the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield climb from 1.7% to 3%, before receding — today’s banner jobs headline may well force the Fed to move sooner rather than later.

The 10-year yield rose 13 basis points to 2.24% as of midday, and the benchmark is up from 1.67% just five weeks ago.

I’m not here to predict rates. I’m an editor, not an interest-rate strategist. I can offer a prediction, but I don’t think it would be any better than others. (Okay, just for fun, I predict the 10-year yield will be 2.45% at mid-year, 3.1% at year-end 2015, and 3.2% at year-end 2016.)

Rather, I’m here to opine that rising interest rates will be a boon to many of the market operators, trade handlers, and technology vendors that are near and dear to the heart of Markets Media.

It doesn’t take rocket science to reach this conclusion. Rising interest rates would touch off volatility across markets, which would in turn create more need to hedge and more opportunities to speculate. That translates into more trading volumes, which lifts all boats operating in the secondary market.

The most direct boon can be expected in fixed-income markets, specifically the brokerage desks and electronic platforms that facilitate the trading of fixed-income securities. But many across Wall Street are licking their chops at the prospect of rising rates and how that will reverberate across asset classes.

Terry Duffy, executive chairman and president of futures powerhouse CME Group, has said a more ‘normalized’ interest-rate environment would be good for the economy — and presumably for CME volumes. Gary Katz, chief executive officer of options-exchange operator International Securities Exchange, said rising rates will bring not only volatility, but also increased trading volume as more companies opt for equity financing over debt financing. And just last night, folks at the ITG media/analyst dinner I attended noted that higher rates will help trading, brokerage and technology firms such as ITG, KCG and Virtu.

To be sure, there’s no free lunch. Rising interest rates may also cause market dislocations, whose negative effects could more than offset the gains from trading-volume increases. But if rates rise in a controlled way, it might hit a sweet spot that Wall Street hasn’t seen in a number of years.

 

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