By Weamein Yee
In times of economic distress, investors flock to safety. The bond market usually acts as a safe harbor for many investors but the precarious financial position of many bond insurers has many shying away from corporate and municipal debt.
Since last summer, demand for treasury securities as well as the Fed’s rate cutting campaign, has steadily driven down yields. Demand for 1 month T-bills has been especially brisk, with a number of money market funds reluctant to invest in short term commercial paper.
Back in March, in the wake of the near collapse of Bear Sterns, the yields on 1 month T-Bills fell to 0.27%, it’s lowest in over half a century. Yields recovered slightly in the beginning of this month but are once again below 1 percent.
With many institutional investors feeling that the stock market hasn’t hit it’s bottom yet, the short maturing T-Bill gives them a safe haven to tide their money away until they feel the time is right to jump back into stocks while sacrificing very little liquidity. The Treasury Department has also decreased the minimum face value of it’s securities to $100, down from $1,000 as of April 7, which makes it viable purchase for a larger number of investors.
Keep in mind that this is all taking place while inflation is on the rise and that the “real” yield is actually negative. What we have now is an upward sloping yield curve, which is a favorable situation for banks. Banks are able to borrow short at lower rates and lend long at higher rates. Depending on how inflation plays out, long term interest rates may even rise further in the near future.