The Bond Market Rally Is Overlooking a Soaring $2 Trillion Debt Problem

Right around the start of November, two words suddenly disappeared from the chatter in the bond market: debt supply. As bond prices surged across the developed world day after day, sending yields tumbling and handing investors some much-needed profits, the angst about soaring budget deficits melted away.

But for how long?

Over the next several weeks, governments from the US, UK and the eurozone will start flooding the market with bonds at a clip rarely seen before. Saddled with the kind of bloated deficits that were once unthinkable, these countries — along with Japan — will sell a net $2.1 trillion of new bonds to finance their 2024 spending plans, a 7% increase from last year, according to estimates from Bloomberg Intelligence.

With most central banks no longer hoovering up bonds to bolster economic growth, governments must now entice more buy orders out of investors around the world. To do so, the thinking goes, they will have to dangle higher yields, just as they did when concern about ballooning government debt loads was amplified this summer by Fitch Ratings’ move to strip the US of its AAA credit rating. The rout that resulted sent the rate on benchmark 10-year Treasuries above 5% for the first time in 16 years.

Those jitters may have faded of late — primarily because slowing inflation prompted investors to suddenly fixate on the idea that central banks will start cutting interest rates — but many bond-market analysts argue that, given the current supply-and-demand dynamics, it’s only a matter of time before the nervous chatter picks up. Indeed, bond yields have already lurched higher this year and the 10-year rate is now about 4%.

“Right now, the market is just obsessed with the Fed rate cycle,” says Padhraic Garvey, head of global debt and rates strategy at ING Financial Markets. “Once the novelty of that fades away, we’ll start to worry more about the deficit.”

US Stands Out in Era of Sustained Fiscal Deficits