SG Bonds Weekly – Week 38 September 14, 2020 186

Outlook for the week

The Federal Reserve sets interest rate policy on Thursday. Following the groundbreaking policy changes at the end of August meeting, this FOMC meeting will be focused on how to put the new policy into action. In anticipation of higher inflation, we are tilted towards shorter tenor bonds due to the risk of longer term interest rates rising.

Key economic releases for the week

  • Tuesday, 15 Sep: FOMC meeting (2 days)
  • Thursday, 16 Sep: US FOMC Rate Decision (2:00AM), SG Non-oil Domestic Exports YoY (8:30AM)

 

Review of the new US Federal Reserve policies

  • Flexible 2% average inflation target (FAIT): The Fed will seek to achieve inflation that averages 2% over time instead of the previous 2% absolute target. There is no formula or specified lookback period to determine how the average will be calculated.
  • Unemployment rate: The Fed discarded the idea that unemployment rate can fall too low. A low unemployment rate will, on its own, no longer be enough to justify raising official policy rates, as it was during the 2016-18 period.
  • No yield curve control, which is the targeting of rates on longer-maturity securities by committing to buy them at a predetermined price, and no negative interest rates.

 

While previously relying on relatively fixed rules to control its interest rate policy, the Fed has decided to relax them in a way that allows them to hold interest rates lower for longer. This is in light of notable changes in expectations of its dual mandate of low unemployment and stable prices. What’s notable is the expectation of higher inflation, which we see as a risk of bear-steepening of interest rates. The Fed only holds short-term interest rates low and not longer-term rates. As such, the anticipation and potential rising of long term interest rates in response to higher inflation could lead to underperformance of longer tenor corporate bonds.

 

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Timothy Ang
Research Analyst
Phillip Securities Research

Timothy covers credit analysis of local and foreign bonds. Previously an equity dealer, he handled equity trade execution and portfolio management. He has presented seminars for organisations such as SIAS, SPH and IRAS, commentated live market updates for 93.8FM, and authored investment articles for the Business Times newspaper. He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting & Finance from the University of Western Australia.

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