Faced with a crisis of historic proportions, central banks responded with equal gusto; plunging policy settings further into uncharted territory. So far, the major central banks have all been reading from the same hymn sheet, with policy comprising three key pillars:
Slashing short term rates to effectively zero – unfortunately as rates were already very low, this had only a minor impact.
Flooding the bond market with ample liquidity and money supply, in a process called Quantitative Easing, which reduces the long-term rates for Governments and Corporates.
Forward guidance of the intention to keep rates on hold until inflation exceeds the target range (2-3%).
Such a significant rise in money supply does create the risk of an increase in inflation, and in turn tighter monetary policy. Our view is that the excess capacity in the labour market, most significantly in Tourism and the Arts, will prevent any sustain broad-based price inflation (although we note that there will be an uplift in 2021 due to base effects).
As a result, short-term interest rates will most likely remain at current levels until unemployment returns to the pre-crisis lows, sub 4% in the US and sub 5% in Australia, which is not expected to occur until 2023 or 2024.
With short-end yields anchored, the yield curve is likely to steepen as fiscal stimulus supports rising growth rates. The extent of the rise in long-end yields is likely to be suppressed by central bank intervention as they seek to maintain low borrowing costs for Governments to encourage an uplift in investment.