A Fed Failure to Deliver Could Finally Push U.S. Yields Above 1%

The Treasury market’s bears may find a dose of vindication this week given that the Federal Reserve may disappoint some traders by not tweaking its bond-buying program, which could finally catapult 10-year yields above 1%, even if only briefly.

That psychological mark has proved elusive since March -- several attempts to crack through it stalled out quickly as investors anticipating that the Fed will eventually tilt its debt purchases to longer maturities to support the economy used dips in Treasury prices as opportunities to buy.

The next big moment for the world’s biggest bond market is looming in Wednesday’s policy decision by the central bank, and all eyes are on whether it alters the bond program or keeps the status quo. Most economists see officials forgoing a shift now. But with the raging pandemic posing the risk of further lockdowns and Congress failing to agree on virus-relief aid, a minority is leaning toward a move this week. That means Fed inaction could provide enough fuel to break through the headwinds around the key 1% mark.

“We are in the camp that the Fed is not going to do anything with its purchase program this week,” said Tom Garretson, senior portfolio strategist for RBC Wealth Management, which oversees $416 billion. “But there’s potential for volatility given what’s priced in. Maybe the thing that finally takes the yield back above 1% is if the Fed shies away from doing anything with its asset-purchase program.”

The 10-year yield has moved between around 0.50% -- a trough reached in August -- and just under 1% since March. It nearly broke that upper level in early December, after tepid job data appeared to temporarily lift hopes for more government spending. It was trading around 0.90% at 7:30 New York time Tuesday.