NOTE : Educational purpose only
Bond yields are hardening globally, sending panic wave across global
Dow Jones lost a jaw-dropping 666 points on Friday after 10-year Treasury yield rose some
2.8 per cent to hit the highest level since January 2014. As of Monday morning, the BSE
Sensex is off nearly 1,700 points from its all-time high of 36,443, while midcap stocks were
bleeding even more.
Analysts are attributing this fall to rising global bond yields, which have unsettled investors
and central banks the world over.
Last week, rising bond yields prompted the Bank of Japan (BoJ) to intervene in the bond
market for the first time since July last year.
India, too, is witnessing a rise in yields on 10-year bonds, and the Dalal Street is feeling the
heat. The Reserve Bank of India cancelled a scheduled bond auction on Friday, triggering a
relief rally in the bonds, which had climbed a 23-month high a day earlier amid concerns
over higher-than-expected fiscal deficit projection for the next financial year.
But why are rising bond yields hurting equities?
Take the Indian context. India’s 10-year bond yield hit 7.56 per cent per annum on Friday,
up 115 basis points from 6.41 per cent it quoted at the end of July 2017.
When bond yield rises, the opportunity cost of investing in other assets, including equities,
rises. This makes stock investments less attractive.
Bond wins over equity
Opportunity cost is nothing but the cost of next best alternative – the cost of foregoing one
investment option in favour of the other. In this case, it is the difference between returns
offered by equity and that by bonds.
Equity investments are deemed risky. To take that risk, one would certainly seek a risk
premium over risk-free or less risky assets such as bonds. Given that the market is still
trading near all-time high level – despite the recent correction – on mere earnings revival
hopes, one may, for example, seek that ‘risk premium’ at 6 per cent.
At prevailing bond yield of 7.56 per cent, one would then require 13.56 per cent (adding 6
per cent risk premium) on equity to make a switch from bonds. The more the bond yields
rise, the more will be this opportunity cost.
Now let us look at the trailing market valuations (P/E) and bond yields. A PE ratio of 24.53
for BSE Sensex on Friday suggested that investor were willingness to pay Rs 24.53 for
every Re 1 of Sensex earning. Now if you reverse PE (i.e. 1/24.53 or 4.07 per cent), you
get what is called the earnings yield.
If equities are offering a yield of 4.07 per cent and 10-year bond 7.56 per cent, one would
understand why money is moving away from equities. The BEER ratio (bond yield/equity
yield) now stands at 1.85, suggesting that equities are overvalued.
Hope rally created contradictory trend
The recent strengthening of stocks in India despite rising bond yields suggested that the
market was expecting a strong earnings recovery.
Kotak Institutional Equities in a recent note suggested that the market was overlooking the
rising yield on some ‘misguided view’ about earnings and macro-economic factors being
less relevant to the equity market against ample global liquidity.
What is making bond yields rise?
The sharp increase in bond yields in India over the past few weeks has been attributed to
investors’ concerns about the fiscal slippage in FY18 and a higher-than-expected fiscal
deficit target for FY19. A higher fiscal deficit leads to a spike in government borrowings,
especially when government’s revenue generation has been sluggish. There are also
inflationary concerns, following the Budget proposal to raise minimum support prices (MSP)
Simply put, when a country’s macro-economic situation deteriorates, bond prices fall and
bond yields rise, as investors seek more return on bonds to compensate for the risk
That was the reason why bonds yields had soared in many European economies such as
Italy and Greece during the debt crisis a few years ago.
Rising inflation isn’t always a bad thing. But it certainly prompts central banks to take
monetary action, which reduces liquidity in the system.
“The cause of this correction is the ostensibly withdrawal of liquidity by central bankers, and
consequently rising interest rates. Central bankers have nurtured the world economy to the
general ward from the ICU. They got a lot of steroids of liquidity and low interest rates and
refinancing, whereby US Fed picked up every junk subprime loan in the market. European
Central Bank too picked up even junk bonds from various countries. Now they are saying
we will take out the steroids, because it could have side-effects,” said Nilesh Shah, MD at
Jim O’Neill, Former Commerce Secretary in the UK government, on Monday said the US is
growing and the central bank may need to tighten monetary policy faster than the market
Friday’s employment data was strong and, in particular, wages growth is starting to
accelerate in the US, which means that the Fed may have to raise interest rates more and
as a result bond yields may rise even more significantly.
Equity markets are suffering some competition in terms of investors for the first time in
many weeks, he said.
In the US, recent economic data, including Friday’s wage growth and inflation, has been
positive. A stronger economy generally strokes inflation. A rise commodity prices also
Of late Brent crude prices have been rising and brokerages like Goldman Sachs project the
prices to top $80 a barrel in six months. To fight inflation, central banks go hawkish on
There are speculations that the US Fed may turn hawkish, if inflation hits the target of 2 per
cent growth. Inflation has an inverse relation with bond prices, and positive relation with
“We have seen the US Fed warning the markets that it would be raising interest rates. It is
preparing markets for two-to-three rate hikes, so that it can actually deliver one or two.
There is no doubt interest rates will rise and liquidity will be withdrawn but it will be gradual
and calibrated in nature,” said Shah of Kotak Mutual Fund.
There is no thumb rule though
Rising bond yields do not always lead to poor equity performance. In its recent CIO
Investment Insights – 2018, DBS noted that between December 1998 and January 2000,
the US Treasury (UTS) 10-year yield rose 202 bps and the S&P 500 index correspondingly
gained 13 per cent.
Similarly, between May 2003 and June 2006, a 177 bps surge in the UST 10-year yield
failed to deter US equities from notching up 32 per cent gain.
In recent times, India’s equity indices rallied to record high levels despite a steady spike in
So if you still think a 10 per cent long-term capital gains tax is what is hurting Dalal Street?
NOTE : Educational purpose only