Recent strength in the corporate bond market isn't necessarily a sign the economy will improve significantly, said former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, founder of Evercore Partners.
Altman made his comments in response to a Wall Street Journal article
that suggested record bond sales by companies with good credit ratings in October was an upbeat sign for the economy. Corporate bond sales reached $103 billion in October, the Journal reported, citing Dealogic.
"I think that's a sign … marginally, of relative confidence, but it's a sign of confidence in the status quo, not a kind of resurgent growth," Altman told CNBC.
Altman noted that several forecasts suggest the U.S. economy will continue chugging along at 2.5 percent growth.
"I think the good news is that it's pretty predictable. I don't see any scenario under which we have a recession. I think the bad news is it's slowing, and so I don't think that bond surge is a sign of anticipated upward movement in the economy myself."
To be sure, ask any bond trader in Tokyo, London or New York what their view on the global economy is, and you’re likely to get a similar, decidedly downbeat answer, Bloomberg reports.
That’s not just because fixed-income types are a dour bunch at the best of times. A quick scan across government debt markets suggests that investors are pricing in the likelihood that growth and inflation around the world will remain tepid for years to come.
In Europe, bonds yielding less than zero have ballooned to $1.9 trillion, with the average yield on securities in an index of euro-area sovereign notes due within five years turning negative for the first time. Worldwide, the bond market’s outlook for inflation is now close to levels last seen during the global recession. And even in the U.S., the bright spot in the global economy, 10-year Treasury yields are pinned near 2 percent -- well below what most on Wall Street expected by now.
“Where are the animal spirits to turn us around?” said Charles Diebel, the London-based head of rates at Aviva Investors, which oversees about $377 billion. What you see in the bond market is “a lack of confidence in the future.”
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