Well, I have dusted off the short rates file now that the Fed has started moving off the ZIRP
policy. Since the economic recovery began in 2009, the inflation rate has averaged about 2%
per year. My super long term short rate model suggests that the 91day T-bill should have
averaged about 2 - 2.5% over this interval. Obviously the Fed, deeply concerned about nursing
the Us economy back to life and on to a more stable footing, allowed the 'Bill' yield, or risk-
free rate, to hover near zero over most of this period. The T-bill has risen up to around 1.3%
recently, so we remain in an easy money mode when compared to inflation. You can see the
same thing by comparing the low bill yield to total business sales of around 6% measured y/y.
It is interesting to note that my cyclical rate direction model only signaled that short rates should
be rising only twice over the entire 2009 - 17 period. the first time was as 2014 progressed and second time was as 2017 unfolded. It has even been a stretch this year as business shorter term
credit demand has been increasing only modestly. The long term approaches I use show that
the Fed has indeed been very easy with money but not recklessly so.
Investor expectations for the direction of short rates next year and in 2019 reveal modest projections
of higher short rates and are based on the assumption the Fed will continue to move to restore
normality to the interest rate structure on a gradual basis. It is wise to expect short rates to keep
on an upward track through 2019 provided the economy continues to expand and the inflation rates
strengthens further .
Since there is light pressure when one compares short term credit demand against the supply of
loanable funds, economic momentum and the inflation trend will be the key fundamentals going
forward. Naturally, as Mr. Powell eases into his role as the new Fed chair, markets players will
take careful note of whether changes in the Fed's approach evolve.
3M T-bill Yield
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!