A bond market 'taper tantrum' lurks after Georgia Senate runoff results loom: expert

Brian Sozzi

President Trump may have inadvertently riled up the otherwise sleepy bond market, and put the bull market he loves so much in short-term jeopardy of a pullback.

With the hotly contested Georgia Senate runoff looking more like two Democratic challengers will win on Wednesday (fueled in large part by Trump’s many missteps since Election Day), Wall Street pros think it will raise the prospect of a President Joe Biden passing a sizable new round of fiscal stimulus and some form of infrastructure package this year. In turn, that raises the prospect of the return of inflation and the Federal Reserve signaling an end to the ultra accommodative stance on monetary policy it has employed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

That could mean a higher cost of borrowing for consumers and businesses still dealing with the pandemic’s fallout, as initially seen in moves in the 10-year yield like the rise to above 1% Wednesday on the Georgia election outcome. While stocks are surging on the prospect for more government support to fight the pandemic, any sustained rise in the 10-year yield could eventually be viewed unfavorably by market participants.

“A taper tantrum is now a real risk. We expect the 10yr Treasury yield to reach 2% by the end of 2021 vs. our previous forecast of 1.3%,” warned Jefferies economist Aneta Markowska. “We assume an additional $1 trillion of stimulus in the next few months, which will add roughly two percentage points to growth over the next two years. This will close the output gap roughly 4-6 quarters "ahead of schedule," pulling forward the Fed liftoff from 2024 to early 2023.”

For those rusty on their stock market history, the term “taper tantrum” first came to pass in 2013.

The U.S. Treasury Department building at dusk, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The U.S. Treasury Department building at dusk, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In May 2013, then Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke suggested an imminent reduction in the amount of bond purchases by the governing body. Similar to now, quantitative easing was being employed to juice an economy still dealing with the hangover of the Great Recession. After Bernanke’s comments, the 10-year yield spiked about 140 basis points through September. Yields rose in many international markets, too, namely Germany and Japan.

The S&P 500 dropped about 5% from the time of Bernanke’s initial comments to the end of June. All three major indexes went on to bottom in late June and rallied into year-end.

Other pros aren’t yet sold on the risk of a a “taper tantrum,” however.

“I think we have got a chance at avoiding the 2013 tantrum effect mostly because we are going to have Janet Yellen [former Fed chair] at the Treasury and recognizing how good she was in leading the Fed during her tenure, I think she brings very much a calming influence to the outlook in terms of policy at Treasury and is likely to have a healthy influence on the Fed,” said Oppenheimer chief market strategist John Stoltzfus on Yahoo Finance Live. “The inflation picture is less worrisome if we consider the trends in globalization and technology, which are secular and counter inflationary.”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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