No one likes losing money, but Tuesday’s stock-price fall worries me more than the headline of a 2% fall in the S&P 500 should. In itself, 2% is no biggie: three days this year had bigger falls, and on average we have had seven worse days a year since 1964.
What bothers me is that the rise in bond yields that triggered the fall was really quite small, and there could easily be a lot more to come. The 10-year Treasury yield rose only 0.05 percentage point, taking it above 1.5%, and the 30-year rose slightly more to just above 2%. If this is the sort of response we should expect, then get out your tin hat. Yields need to rise four times as much just to get back to where they were in March.
Why, you might reasonably ask, are stocks suddenly spooked by bond yields? In the boom up to March, stocks and yields marched higher together, and for the past two decades higher yields have generally been better for stocks. The difference is that investors see the central banks turning hawkish, even as economic growth slows, because they can’t ignore high inflation.