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The Global Bond Sell-Off and Its Impact on Canadians

The recent global sell-off in bonds has raised significant questions about the future of interest rates and has important implications for Canadians, especially those with mortgages. In this article, we’ll delve into what’s happening in the bond markets, its consequences for Canadians, and what the future might hold.

The Global Bond Sell-Off and Its Impact on Canadians

The Bond Market Unveiled

Bond yields in both the U.S. and Canada have recently reached 16-year highs. This surge follows signals from central banks in both countries that suggest elevated interest rates are here to stay. The Bank of Canada has hinted at a prolonged period of high rates due to ongoing concerns about inflation, while the U.S. Federal Reserve has indicated the possibility of more rate hikes this year, with only two expected cuts in 2024.

Market experts, including Bill Blain, a market strategist at Shard Capital, suggest that this shift in the bond market reflects a growing acceptance of the idea that higher interest rates might be a long-term reality. Investors are adjusting their strategies accordingly, expecting higher yields to persist and reallocating their assets accordingly.

Factors Behind the Sell-Off

Several factors have contributed to the bond market sell-off:

  1. Bond Market Exodus: Major players like U.S. banks and foreign buyers are exiting the bond market, resulting in an oversupply of bonds.
  2. Abundance of Supply: Record-breaking bond supply, especially in long-term rates, is further pushing yields upward.
  3. Shift in Investment Strategy: Investors holding long-term bonds with lower interest rates are selling them in favor of shorter-term bonds with higher rates. This shift is driven by an inverted yield curve, where short-term lending becomes more lucrative than long-term commitments.

Impact on Canadians: Mortgage Rates and Housing Market

The bond sell-off is expected to impact Canadian mortgage rates, particularly for those with fixed-rate mortgages when it’s time for renewal. However, these effects are unlikely to be felt until 2025 and 2026 when more borrowers are up for mortgage renewals.

Jules Boudreau of Mackenzie Investments predicts that if rates on five-year bonds, on which five-year mortgages are based, don’t decrease, many borrowers may face substantially higher payments upon renewal. This could help cool the housing market, potentially leading to a slowdown or even a decline in real estate prices, undoing some of the gains made in 2023.

Despite these concerns, experts like Boudreau believe that the broader impact on the Canadian economy may not be “dramatic” as other sectors remain rate-resilient.

Managing the Shift

Experts like Bill Blain do not anticipate rate cuts until at least the summer of 2024. Historically, economies have coped with high rates, even when bond rates were significantly higher.

Opportunities in Fixed Income

While higher bond yields may seem concerning, experts like Naseem Husain of Horizons ETFs suggest that investors can find attractive returns in fixed income, offering stability in an otherwise volatile market. Higher yields are making fixed-income investments more appealing.

Etienne Bordeleau-Labrecque, Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Ninepoint Partners, adds that the current bond market, with its higher interest rates, presents opportunities for investors to purchase short-term bonds at lower prices, resulting in potentially more attractive and tax-effective yields.

Kristina Hooper, Chief Global Market Strategist at Invesco, recommends a diversified portfolio that includes fixed income, international stocks, and real estate, particularly in an economic slowdown.

In conclusion, the recent bond market sell-off has important implications for Canadians, particularly in the realm of mortgage rates and the housing market. While challenges lie ahead, opportunities for investors also abound in the fixed-income space. Navigating this evolving landscape requires a balanced approach and a keen eye on market dynamics.

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