Opening Bell: Bond turmoil

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10 THINGS BEFORE THE OPENING BELL

Good morning, team. I'm Phil Rosen. 

The long-awaited Ethereum merge event, which experts say will ramp up energy efficiency on that blockchain by 99%, has been finalized, co-founder Vitalik Buterin said in a Twitter post

Top financiers have talked about it all week at the SALT conference in New York. 

One macro investor said the merge parallels the corporate governance structure seen in securities, Insider's Laila Maidan writes, while another exec said the event could spark mass confusion.

Read our correspondent's breakdown here.

The stock market, meanwhile, is still recovering from Tuesday's bludgeoning, with the S&P 500 just barely eking out a gain after its biggest one-day drop in two years

But it's not just equities and crypto that are churning this week.

Below, I'm breaking down what you want to know about the bond market — and why it's seeing some of its most dramatic volatility since the 2008 financial crisis.


If this was forwarded to you, sign up here. Download Insider's app here.


Fed Chair Jerome Powell testifies to the House Financial Services Committee.

1. Most investors are watching the Fed's interest rate hikes, but policymakers' balance sheet plans might have an even bigger impact on markets. 

The central bank has committed to reducing its balance sheet, which mostly consists of US Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

During the pandemic, the Fed ramped up purchases of those bonds and securities, as well as corporate debt, in an effort to keep credit markets open. 

At the time, the move worked — but it ballooned the Fed's balance sheet from about $4 trillion to about $9 trillion today

Now, as Jerome Powell moves to unwind those holdings, trading liquidity in government bonds has declined significantly since April. 

Bloomberg's US Government Securities Liquidity Index is currently showing "stressed" conditions, and is already sitting at precarious levels last seen at the height of the pandemic and on par with the 2008 crisis. 

"The Fed may be creating different problems this time. Trading liquidity has been steadily getting worse all year and rivals the worst of the March 2020 period. Corporate distress has also risen," Ned Davis Research said in a note.

That bond market volatility is beginning to bleed into the stock market, according to analysts.

"Realized volatility is almost seven percentage points above its historical mean, while implied is nearly four points above its mean," NDR said. "You have to go back to the Great Financial Crisis and the European sovereign debt crisis to find comparable levels before the pandemic."

Last week, Bank of America said declining liquidity in the Treasury market represents the largest systemic risk to financial markets. 

Falling liquidity and resiliency of US Treasurys, BofA said, could be a bigger risk to stocks than the 2007 housing bubble.

How are you adjusting your investments to account for market volatility? Email prosen@insider.com or tweet @philrosenn.  


In other news:

A view of hardware of the Jauniunai Gas Compressor station, near Vilnius, Lithuania, Thursday, May 5, 2022.

2. US stock futures edged higher early Thursday, as investors await fresh economic data and mull the prospect of a large interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve. Here are the latest market moves.

3. On the docket: Adobe Inc., Ryanair, and more all reporting. Plus, keep an eye out for the unemployment insurance weekly claims report, import and export price indexes, and the advance retail sales report, all due later this morning.

4. Here are six places to invest your money after August's inflation reading shocked the stock market. The S&P 500 shed 4.3% on Tuesday following the hotter-than-expected CPI report. Three market experts explained their bets on where to stow your cash.

5. Massive floating gas terminals are headed to Europe to help solve its energy crisis. Dozens of vessels that pump natural gas are on their way to the continent while energy-strapped nations continue to seek alternative supplies. Check out these photos of the massive ships.

6. The European Union wants to raise $140 billion in windfall taxes from energy companies. The aim is to soften the hit consumers are enduring from surging prices. As the European Commission president put it: "It is wrong to receive extraordinary record profits benefiting from war and on the back of consumers."

7. Jeremy Siegel said inflation is "overstated." It's possible the Fed will make a policy mistake and over-tighten if it doesn't correct its view on high prices, the Wharton professor said. In his view, inflation lags behind the official statistics for about 18 months and prices have already been falling.

8. Goldman Sachs just revealed new stock market and economic growth forecasts. The analysts included a downbeat "recession scenario" for the S&P 500, as well as what the index was likely to do in two possible landscapes. The bank recommends these 12 stocks if the bleaker scenario comes true. 

9. This 33-year-old paid off $45,000 in debt and now teaches women how to take control of their finances. Focus on spending better instead of just spending less, according to Laurie-Annie King. She explained how the "aligned money method" can help dig you out of debt.

Lumber

10. Lumber prices dropped Wednesday after rallying earlier in the week. The potential for rail strikes sparked fears of a supply disruption for the key commodity — and mortgage rates topped 6% for the first time in 14 years, spelling trouble for housing demand. However, Bloomberg reports this morning that US railroad companies and unions representing more than 100,000 workers reached a tentative agreement


Keep up with the latest markets news throughout your day by checking out The Refresh from Insider, a dynamic audio news brief from the Insider newsroom. Listen here.


Curated by Phil Rosen in New York. (Feedback or tips? Email prosen@insider.com or tweet @philrosenn).

Edited by Max Adams (@maxradams) in New York and Hallam Bullock (@hallam_bullock) in London.

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