Market Review

The challenge in writing periodic market commentaries is often to make interesting what was essentially more of the same. Not a problem for 2020. It is difficult to overstate how extraordinary the year was. A pandemic, remote conferencing technology, and government economic policies created a sea of change that will be felt for years to come. 

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The risk-on market continued largely unabated in November, sometimes bolstered by positive news and sometimes despite negative headlines. Perhaps most important to markets was the announcement of significant progress on Covid vaccines. 

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The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield had its biggest move in months, rising 20 basis points (bps) to 0.84%.  Likewise, the 30-year bond yield jumped by 18 bps to 1.64%. With short rates anchored at very low rates, the 2- to 30-year yield curve slope steepened by 15 bps.

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During the summer months, the economy found its Covid-era footing. The nation, and indeed much of the world, learned to co-exist with the pandemic as infection rates declined from early peak and progress occurred in testing and vaccine development. Some segments of the economy were able to re-open at least partially, while others remain under siege. Virus-induced changes in lifestyles have created some economic winners – used car sales, suburban single-family housing, and online retail among them.

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Short rates moved up modestly, and longer rates rose more significantly during August, producing negative total returns for Treasuries. The 5- to 30-year yield curve slope steepened by 22 basis points (bps).

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Despite already low levels, U.S Treasury yields fell across the yield curve during July. Long rates fell the most, resulting in a flattening of the curve. TIPS break-even levels rose, as investors judged valuations as attractive given future inflation expectations. 
 
 
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