Rates And Equities Break Away


Talk from the Federal Reserve confirming that the current interest rate environment will last through 2014 has kept institutional investors buying Treasuries, pushing rates lower and lower. Furthermore, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has smacked down the idea of a third round of quantitative easing in the near term and yet Treasuries continue to be purchased ahead of the Fed’s Permanent Open Market Operations.

Yields on Treasuries recently hit historic lows as a $29 billion auction of 7-year Notes captured a yield of 1.347%. With yields this low, it’s clear that investors all over the globe are flocking to Treasuries as a source of cash management and as a safe haven. The 10-year is offering a yield of 1.96% right now, well below the 2% threshold many saw as a line in the sand.

While a rise in Treasuries would typically be correlated with a decline in the major indices of the U.S. equity market, just the opposite has happened. Strong volume in equity options, especially the SPX, boosted shares across the board in Thursday’s trading session. There appears to be a flock to both Treasuries and equities, throwing off the notion of a “risk on” trade.

“Volume’s actually very strong on the voice side,” said one NYSE broker. “Our customers are buying. While the electronic volume is about average, voice is doing really well. It seems to me that a lot of people are into equities when the numbers are this good.”

Jobs data and economic numbers coming out recently have been mediocre at best and in a lot of ways disappointing. The safety play of buying Treasuries, especially shorter-term debt, makes sense but the rise in equities is unaccounted for.

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