Those who regularly read this site will know that the last two days' worth of action in the interest rate markets has piqued my interest. I am still unclear on what the rather sharp rise means and whether it is just movement tied to currency market volatility or it is a reflection of something else.
I have gone over to look at the TIPS spread to see if there is any pattern or development there that warrants further attention.
Thus far I do not see anything of note. There is no spike higher indicating a shift towards inflation worries in the market at this point even though yields have risen.
As you can see, back during the depths of the credit crisis, when deflation fears were at their peak, the spread collapsed almost to zero. That meant that the market had basically ruled out any chance whatsoever of the least bit of inflation.
Since the Fed has gotten involved with the QE programs, the spread has moved up towards 2.5 and then dropped off as the various QE programs ran their course and expired (You can see where the inflation expectation falls below 2% when the market feared the impact of a QE cessation). As each new QE program was announced, the market built back inflation expectations between 2.0 - 2.5% or so. Currently we are looking at an expected inflation rate by the market of 2.3% as of Friday this week.
It seems to me that the Fed is using this indicator as a means of determining whether or not its policies are having the appropriate impact on investor sentiment. Based on what I can see of this spread, those Dovish Fed governors who are expressing concerns about inflation not being high enough do not really have much to justify their concerns.
I think we would have to see the spread move below 1.75% to give their view any credence. I would think that if the market believes the economy is strong enough on its own to no longer need any QE efforts, talk of ending that program would not move this spread to narrow significantly. In the past, when those programs expired, the market moved back towards expecting deflationary pressures to begin reasserting themselves.
The flip side to this is the ceiling on this spread. Since the beginning of 2008, the spread has not exceeded 2.64%. Anytime it has run up above 2.5% it has not lasted long even with all the massive QE. It just goes to show you that in spite of the enormous sums of money that have been created through the QE programs, it has barely been sufficient to offset the debt that was being extinguished. Inflation expectations have not been nurtured in spite of it all.
AT what point this changes is unclear but once this spread were to ever exceed that 2.64 - 2.65% level we would know without a shadow of a doubt what the market was thinking in regards to inflation. I still believe that at some point we are going to have to pay the piper for all this massive money creation; I am just not sure about the timing of it all.
Let's keep an eye on this spread to see if we can get any advance warnings of when that just might be.
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