When The Fed Starts Raising Rates

Via Twitter, modest proposal summarizes my last post:

This made me think about the last tightening cycle.  For those that hope to use tighter monetary policy to bolster the case against equities, recall that patience may be required:


For those making the bear case against long bonds, recall that initially long rates fell, and over the entire cycle rose just (roughly) 50bp:


The short end of the curve suffered, and the yield curve inverted:


How does this compare to now?  If we consider last December’s taper the beginning of this tightening cycle (the Fed does not; they prefer to think of it at reducing financial accommodation), stocks continue to power higher:


The 10 year bond initially fell on the taper talk and the yield curve steepened through the 10 year.  But that steepening ended when the taper began:


More interesting is the flattening of the very long end after the taper began:


It looks like rates are signalling that the Fed will act to contain activity such that the economy does not overheat. Which, assuming the Fed maintains its current reaction function, tends to support modest porposal’s interpretation – favor the long end of the curve over the short end.

I think the flattening of the yield curve should be a concern to the Fed.  It suggests that while we frequently hear Janet Yellen described as a dove, the expectation is that her actual policy approach will be cautious bordering on hawkish.   Not good if you think like Andy Harless:



I am sympathetic to this view.  I would be a little more optimistic that the Fed would have more room to maneuver in the next recession if the long-end of the yield curve was signalling that the Fed was a little behind instead of a little ahead.  And for more on why that is important, see Brad DeLong and his 17 tweet bear case for inflation.