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Our investment professionals share and challenge each other’s views, creating a diverse marketplace of ideas for the Wellington Blog.

Monetary policy

Most of the past decade-plus has been characterized by declining interest rates and tightening credit spreads. Against this backdrop, many traditional fixed income benchmarks have performed well, particularly those with longer durations and meaningful credit components.

However, we believe 2021 could mark a transition to a new fixed income reality wrought by ongoing structural changes, potentially leading to more frequent dislocations across market sectors. Here we describe the secular forces that we believe are driving these changes, to be followed by a proposed solution for fixed income investors in our next blog post.

Structural shifts in consumer behavior

The COVID-19 crisis has driven increased adoption of technology and structural shifts in consumer behavior, some of which are…

MARKETS
Emily Bannister
Emily Bannister
CFA
Investment Director
Boston
Richard Gilmartin
Rich Gilmartin
Investment Director
Boston

Hopes and expectations for generous fiscal stimulus to be delivered by the Biden administration are largely baked into the current market narrative. More broadly, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has provided fresh justification for many of the social and economic policies long proposed by US Democrats — health care for all, stronger safety nets, entitlement protections. For the most part, I have viewed such proposals as fodder for future negotiations with Republicans, but as politically unrealistic given the partisan divide in Washington.

However, I now believe there’s a big paradigm shift in the making. It’s becomingly increasingly clear to me that economists close to the new administration want to fundamentally redefine how people think about government spending and responsible fiscal policy. If they can rewrite that narrative, so to speak, it could be…

MACRO
Jeremy Forster
Jeremy Forster
Fixed Income Portfolio Manager
Boston

My team and I often say recessions wipe the slate clean and create new investment patterns that will likely be dissociated from the last cycle. If there was a dominant theme of the last cycle — from the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008 up to the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 — it may have been “secular stagnation,” which I define as low nominal economic growth due to shortfalls in aggregate demand. Naturally, this begs the question of whether or not secular stagnation will still have legs in the post-COVID era.

I don’t claim to have a simple “yes” or “no” answer yet, but for now would like to share my latest thinking on the topic, to be followed by deeper dives on specific aspects of it (and hopefully more definitive answers) in additional blog posts throughout 2021.

Whence secular stagnation?

By way of context, it’s helpful to consider how we got here in the first place. Economists have attributed secular stagnation to…

MACRO
THEMES
Brij Khurana
Brij Khurana
Fixed Income Portfolio Manager
Boston
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Archive

I think the US Federal Reserve (Fed)’s newly unveiled framework for its long-run goals and monetary policy strategy, combined with its recent statements, signals a fundamental change in how the central bank will conduct monetary policy from here on.

Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the Fed would tend to hike interest rates when the unemployment rate fell below NAIRU.1 The Fed’s latest statement made clear that this is no longer a sufficient reason to raise rates, unless accompanied by inflation exceeding its target in order to deliver a 2% average inflation rate.

A closer look at the new framework

In general, the communique was dovish in that the Fed is basically saying that it will need to see both low unemployment and above-target inflation before it will consider hiking rates. The Fed’s policy rate is likely going to be…

MACRO

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Brij Khurana
Brij Khurana
Fixed Income Portfolio Manager
Boston
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