Why ECB’s European bond buying will hold down U.S. Treasury yields

The European Central Bank’s aggressive government bond-buying program, aimed at stimulating the eurozone’s sluggish economy, has driven European bond yields to record lows and, in some cases, deeper into negative territory.

But the pressure on yields isn’t confined to Europe. It has also affected the U.S. Treasury market, spurring demand for U.S. government debt and driving yields down this week.

Treasury prices pulled back after a two-day rally Wednesday, lifting the yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.18% by around 3.5 basis points. But the yield remains down by around 10 basis points since the launch of the ECB’s €60-billion-a-month quantitative-easing program on Monday. Yields fall as bond prices rise, and vice versa.

U.S. Treasury yields are expected to continue to feel pressure as European bond yields drop, serving as a counterweight to potential upward pressure on yields tied to expectations the Federal Reserve will begin hiking rates later this year.

Here is why:

Search for yield
ECB President Mario Draghi announced last week that the ECB would buy European bonds with yields as low as negative 0.2%, which is the ECB’s deposit rate.

Since Draghi set the bar so low, European rates are bound to move toward negative values, said David Keeble, head of interest-rate strategy at Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, noting that supplies of many European bonds are already quite tight.

As yields in Europe fall, higher Treasury yields will remain attractive to foreign investors, Keeble said.

Stronger dollar
The prospect of further declines in the euro, which is trading near a 12-year low versus the dollar, also enhances the attractiveness of Treasurys.

That’s because when a European investor buys Treasurys, they not only pick up income but also benefit from any rise in the value of the dollar, said Dan Morris, global market strategist at TIAA-CREF.

“It seems that when looking for the safety of bonds, investors have the choice of extremely low yielding safe eurozone debt, some of which is offering negative yields, or U.S. Treasurys, where there is a high likelihood of capital losses once interest rates rise,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at online currency broker Oanda, in a note.

“The benefit of the latter is that you stand to benefit from the currency appreciation of the dollar which so many people see as inevitable,” he said.

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This article is for general information purposes only. It is not investment advice or a solution to buy or sell securities. Opinions are the authors; not necessarily that of OANDA Corporation or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, officers or directors. Leveraged trading is high risk and not suitable for all. You could lose all of your deposited funds.

Craig Erlam

Craig Erlam

Senior Market Analyst, UK & EMEA at OANDA
Based in London, Craig Erlam joined OANDA in 2015 as a market analyst. With many years of experience as a financial market analyst and trader, he focuses on both fundamental and technical analysis while producing macroeconomic commentary. His views have been published in the Financial Times, Reuters, The Telegraph and the International Business Times, and he also appears as a regular guest commentator on the BBC, Bloomberg TV, FOX Business and SKY News. Craig holds a full membership to the Society of Technical Analysts and is recognised as a Certified Financial Technician by the International Federation of Technical Analysts.
Craig Erlam
Craig Erlam

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