Inflation-adjusted yields on U.S. government bonds are rising after a nearly three-quarter lull, which has lead to renewed risk-taking in all corners of financial markets.
The 5-year real yield rose to nearly 2% last week, topping the September 2022 high of 1.92% to hit the highest since late 2008, according to data tracked by TradingView. At 1.6%, the 10-year yield is just 11 basis points short of probing levels last seen in 2009. Meanwhile, the two-year real yield has reached 3%, the highest in at least ten years.
Rising real rates can put the brakes on economic growth and reduce the incentive to invest in risky or zero-yielding assets like bitcoin and gold. Bitcoin and Wall Street’s tech-heavy index Nasdaq have historically moved in the opposite direction of real yields.
The latest spike in real yields is problematic for stocks rather than for digital assets, according to crypto banking firm BCB Group’s head of OTC trading Richard Usher.
“Real yields are an issue with a return in a one-year bond yielding 6%; it is now a genuine alternative to stock market exposure. The question to ask is which type of investor does this return appeal to,” Usher said.
“The typical investor in Crypto or Tech stocks is looking for a higher potential return or is investing for the longer term in the sector or asset class growth. Hence I suspect the rise in real yields is more a headache to blue chip stocks than to markets like technology or crypto and will not disrupt the medium-term growth story,” Usher added.
Most macro traders, sensitive to changes in interest rates and inflation-adjusted bond yields, left the crypto market during last year’s price crash, leaving long-term “HODLers” in control.
Treasury inflation-indexed securities are indexed to inflation – the non-seasonally adjusted U.S. city average all items consumer price index for all urban consumers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the data.
The five-year real yield has broken out of a nine-month consolidation pattern, signaling a continuation of the rally from December 2021 lows. So far, bitcoin and Nasdaq have ignored the uptick in the real yield.
Both assets took a beating in the first half of 2022, as a prolonged period of unconventional negative real yields, which supported rampant risk-taking and capital misallocation, ended with central banks resorting to the fastest pace of liquidity tightening in decades. Market mood improved after the uptrend in the real yield stalled in Q4 2022.
Per Ben Lilly, a crypto economist at Jarvis Labs, the increasing real borrowing cost may actually bring more capital to productive sectors like blockchain over the long run.
“It just speaks to the normalization of the cost of capital. Many tend to lean into the narrative of crypto when things get bumpy and that’s fine. I like to view crypto as a way to boost productivity. And when we look at the cost of capital being normalized, capital can start to be allocated to things that will bring higher productivity in the years to come,” Lilly told CoinDesk.
“I expect the normalization of yields to bring more money into areas of innovation like smart contracts, programmable money, and DeFi, which are expected to boost productivity,” he added.
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