As investors fretted for most of the year that the trade war and slowing growth would end in a global recession, assets like gold and sovereign bonds provided protection. That ended spectacularly Thursday.
Gold lost as much as $30 an ounce, Treasuries tumbled the most since summer and defensive equities sank. While continued signs of a detente in the U.S.-China trade war sparked the day moves, such a beat-down has been months in the making as peak pessimism on global and U.S. growth has ebbed.
“If you’re priced for a pretty direct move into recession, which is what bonds, the yield curve, and some, but not all U.S. data, were pointing to late in the summer, suddenly you’re walking that back and saying not only will you not see a recession, but actually a pick-up in growth,” said George Pearkes, macro strategist at Bespoke Investment Group. “There are going to be days like these.”
Strategists have long been pointing to an unwind of recessionary pricing across asset classes as the end of the end of the world trade.
Sovereign bonds plunged around the world, with an 10 basis-point rise in the 10-year Treasury yield constituting a near three-sigma event, based on data going back to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.
Rates on benchmark 10-year French and Belgian securities climbed back above 0% for the first time in months. The German equivalent surged 10 basis points, though remained negative. The worldwide stock of bonds with sub-zero yields has shrunk to around $12.5 trillion.
Gold was at $1,467.27 an ounce as of 10:55 a.m. in Tokyo Friday, having fallen 1.5% on Thursday. Silver lost 0.7%, extending its 3% slide in the prior session.
“A large stock of positioning in precious metals has been built up on the long side, driven especially by ETF flows,” said Naufal Sanaullah, chief macro strategist at EIA All Weather Alpha Partners. “Real yields declined on FOMC, but have reversed that bounce and now metals are cracking important technical levels. So we believe precious metals have more downside to come.”
Higher real rates decrease the relative value proposition offered by gold, an asset with no yield that had been benefiting from a rising stock of negative-yielding debt earlier this year, he added.
The Japanese yen — often sought after in times of stress — weakened beyond 109 per dollar and is about 1% lower this week against the greenback. Bonds in the Asia Pacific region also retreated Friday, with Japan’s benchmark bond yield poised for its biggest weekly jump in more than six years.