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Bond Market Continues to Price Out Rate Cuts

Lawrence Gillum | Chief Fixed Income Strategist

Last Updated:

The bond market may have finally gotten the hint. After numerous attempts to “front-run” rate cuts in 2024, the bond market is now taking a less aggressive stance on rate cuts than even the Federal Reserve (Fed) has suggested in its most recent communications. Even before the March Consumer Price Index (CPI) report that continued to show sticky inflationary pressures, the bond market has been discounting the potential of rate cuts in 2024. Coming into the year, bond markets had penciled in nearly seven rate cuts for 2024, a number that we certainly disagreed with. Now, markets are hoping for two, which we think is more reasonable and likely tempers much higher yields in the near term.

The Number of Expected Rate Cuts Has Come Down Meaningfully This Year

Line graph depicting Federal Reserve rate cut expectations from December 2023 to April 2024 as described in the preceding paragraph.
Source: LPL Research, Bloomberg, 4/10/24

Moreover, the bond market thinks this rate-cutting cycle will be shallower than the Fed has suggested (absent a deep recession or financial crisis). Markets currently expect the Fed to take the fed funds rate down to 4% in 2026 versus the 3.125% rate that was recently highlighted on the Fed’s dot plot. With less than two cuts priced in and an expected neutral rate nearly 1% higher than the Fed’s expectations of how low interest rates can go this cycle, the bond market may have finally taken the hint that the Fed is in no rush to start cutting rates. 

If there is a silver lining to the sell-off in the bond market, it’s that yields for high-quality fixed income remain elevated and provide very attractive (relative to history) income opportunities. And while price appreciation may be limited until inflationary pressures abate, which we think will happen, income levels remain attractive. It’s important to remember that fixed income investors don’t need yields to fall, per se, to generate positive returns, especially those investors that own individual bonds and can hold to maturity.

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Lawrence Gillum

Lawrence Gillum, CFA, guides the fixed income view for LPL Financial Research and has over 20 years of investing experience.