Alan Greenspan says negative rates will spread to US

It will not be long before the spread of negative interest rates reaches the U.S., former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said.

“You’re seeing it pretty much throughout the world. It’s only a matter of time before it’s more in the United States,” Greenspan told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street ” on Wednesday, adding investors should watch the 30-year Treasury yield.

The 30-year U.S. rate traded at 1.978%. It reached an all-time low last week.

There are currently more than $16 trillion in negative yielding debt instruments around the world as central banks try to ease monetary conditions to sustain the global economy. The 10-year sovereign bonds in Belgium, Germany, France and Japan — among others — are trading with a negative rate.

U.S. Treasury yields are still well within positive territory, but the Fed has already cut rates once and is expected to ease later this month. Market expectations for a rate cut in September are at 92.7%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

An aging population is driving demand for bonds, pushing their yields lower, Greenspan said.

“We’re so used to the idea that we don’t have negative interest rates, but if you get a significant change in the attitude of the population, they look for coupon,” Greenspan said. “As a result of that, there’s a tendency to disregard the fact that that has an effect in the net interest rate that they receive.”

He added that gold prices have been surging recently because people are looking for “hard” assets they know are going to have value down the road as the population ages. Gold futures are up more than 21% in 2019 and are trading around levels not seen since 2013.

Greenspan’s comments come after New York Fed President John Williams called low inflation the “problem of this era” in a speech earlier in the day.

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