(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions
expressed are her own.)
By Agnes T. Crane
NEW YORK, June 26 (Reuters Breakingviews) - The bloodletting
in financial markets may be more 2003 than 1994. Bankers are
smart to ask if the recent jump in rates could cause a replay of
bond pain two decades ago. But 2003 may be a better comparison.
Markets threw a hissy fit when the Fed signaled easy money would
end. But it didn't last long. More importantly, nothing big blew
The missing body count may be why many don't remember 2003.
But the similarities between now and then are hard to ignore.
The Federal Reserve had been on a mission to get the economy
back on track. It had cut short-term rates and Ben Bernanke, a
mere Fed governor, had put bond buying on the table as a means
to bolster the economy, if needed. But in June, the Fed cut
rates by a smaller than expected amount, signaling that money
wasn't likely to get much easier.
Then, like now, investors had a tantrum. The benchmark
10-year Treasury yield jumped more than 100 basis points in six
weeks, credit spreads widened and overseas markets quaked.
Investors pulled more than $10 billion out of U.S. bond
mutual funds in just five weeks, according to Lipper. That
equated to 1.4 percent of fund assets, more than the 0.9 percent
of outflows over the three weeks ending June 19 this year. But
investors soon adjusted and markets settled down. The 10-year
yield even eventually fell.
Back to 2013, rates may still rise further, including
short-term rates which have been at or near zero in Japan and
the United States for some time. And the magnitude and duration
of the developed world's extraordinary monetary policy, which
has helped add $10 trillion to central bank balance sheets in
the past six years, according to the Bank for International
Settlements, has distorted asset prices. These may swing too far
the other way before finding more normal levels.
By putting an expiration date on quantitative easing,
Bernanke has essentially hit the reset button on the global
financial system. It may yet get worse. But the events of 2003
should at least give some hope that markets can adjust without
SIGN UP FOR BREAKINGVIEWS EMAIL ALERTS:
- Comparison of 10-year Treasury yields in 2003 and 2013: link.reuters.com/xyt29t
- BIS report from Sept. 2003: link.reuters.com/pyt29t
Ace of rebase [ID:nL2N0F20MD]
Interest rate what? [ID:nL1E8KS7UQ]
A convex world [ID:nL2N0EM0U2]
- For previous columns by the author, Reuters customers can
click on [CRANE/]
(Editing by Antony Currie and Martin Langfield)
Keywords: BREAKINGVIEWS MARKETS/2003
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