The debt crisis that started in Greece and is now engulfing Europe has acted as a catalyst for a sell-off in global risk assets. Investors are liquidating stocks, risky bonds, and commodities and loading up on U.S. Treasury bonds. The 30-year Treasury yield has fallen from a high of 4.84% in early April to a low of 4.05% earlier this week.
If you own long Treasury bonds, you have just been given an opportunity to liquidate your position before prices collapse. And collapse they will. Investors are flocking to long Treasury bonds because they perceive them to be risk-free. That’s a farce. The U.S. is on the same path as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and other overly indebted European countries.
The federal deficit in the U.S. is projected at $1 trillion for the foreseeable future. By 2020, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, government debt will increase to 90% of GDP. Greece’s debt to GDP is only about 115% today. If federal spending is not slashed, investors will begin to abandon U.S. government bonds, which will send yields soaring.
The government likely won’t allow debt to rise to 90% of GDP, though. The debt burden will be inflated away long before it grows to unsustainable levels. Accelerating inflation of course means much higher interest rates, which will also lower bond prices.
Investors flocking to long U.S. Treasury bonds today are likely to be sorry. Savvy investors should be selling into the rally. In either of the scenarios described above, long bonds get clocked. Take advantage of the temporary rally in long treasuries and close out your positions.