After a good hike in long-term rates during the second half of 2013, just about every analyst in the country seemed to be sure that this was just the first phase of rate increases to come. After all, rates were the lowest in a generation and the increase we witnessed last year still put rates in very, very attractive territory. Jobs growth started accelerating during the second half of the year and the systems were ready to fire on all cylinders while the recovery finally got into full gear. Then came the long, cold and hard winter. So we understand that factor. Once again, the recovery halted and rates came down.
But this factor has passed. Job growth has heated up again and the stock market is at all time highs. The Federal Reserve has been slowing their purchases of treasury bonds and home loans in an effort to slow down fiscal stimulus and they are meeting this week with most observers feeling that rate hikes will be coming in early 2015. The question remains, why aren’t rates going up in response to all of these factors? We could take the easy way out by saying that predictions of the future are futile and while this is true, we believe there are other factors at work.
Certainly one factor encompasses the political tensions around the world. Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Gaza are all spots of conflict right now. The tragedy of a passenger jet being shot down just demonstrates how dangerous these situations are. When the world erupts, while our economy has not been as stable as we would like — it is still a haven of safety compared to the rest of the world. When there is unrest, Treasuries are still a choice for those who are looking for safety in a world of conflict. While this factor does not completely explain why rates are not rising right now, there is no doubt that this factor is important and it also explains why predictions are futile. Next week, in addition to the analysis of the Fed meeting and the employment data, we will talk about one other factor contributing to low rates.