Have you seen interest rates lately?

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    The most fascinating paradigm is how the bond markets have reacted following the election.  Below is a chart that demonstrates the shift in the yield curve before and after the elections, majority of which is the bond market reacting to promises of debt-fueled stimulus. As of 11/14 the 10-year yield was at 2.2%, and the 30-year just shy of 3%.  Markets now expect inflation to be 1.88% over 10 years, with the trend picking up.

    Image show interest rates

    Prior to the election, there was already a lot working in favor for rising interest rates including: improving global economic growth; global inflation and inflation expectations coming off of a bottom that leads to higher interest rates; and, central banks acknowledging that negative rates aren’t working as intended, and are shifting to steeper yield curve objectives to help strengthen banks.

    image shows bond rates

    If we had to make predictions from here, we would say that in the short/medium-term rates are probably going to pull back as the market realizes that this post-election euphoria has been completely based on the potential of promises. The faster-than-expected yield spikes can also be interpreted as the bond market’s message to the new president-elect to tread carefully as Americans’ creditors can still exert considerable power to constrain public spending via higher borrowing costs.  Overall, the effects of the changes mentioned above are likely to push bond yields higher and stoke volatility over the next few months. Municipal bonds could underperform Treasuries because of the likelihood that tax rates for high income earners will be lowered.

    So, what are the implications for ExxonMobil households?

    As many of you know, there are two categories of employees when it comes to their pension/lump-sum options.  Those who were born before 1958 and hired before 1998 take 95% of the quarterly average of the 30-year Treasury Rates as the discount rate for the lump sum; these individuals are given the title of “Grandfathered” category.  For those who were born after 1957 or hired after 1997, they use a combination of short term, intermediate term, and long term corporate bond rates, and as you could guess, these individuals are considered “Non-grandfathered.”

    For the grandfathered individuals, we know that the discount factor for the 1st quarter of 2017 will be 2.25% based on the past performance of the 30-year Treasury rates.  The question is, where do we go from here?  Prior to the election, we already saw the 30-year Treasury rates trending upward, but it was after the election that we saw a more dramatic increase in rates from just under 2.6% up to just over 3.0%.   We are now looking at the very real possibility that the 2nd quarter 2017 rates will now jump up to 2.75% if we see 30-year Treasury rates average above 2.9489% for the remainder of the quarter.

    For those in the “non-grandfathered” category, the comparison is more difficult to make.  To simplify the comparison, we first calculate a single “equivalent” rate for someone who is retiring at age 60; then we can compare the spread of grandfathers vs. non-grandfathered.  As you can see in the table below, it is segment 1 (the short-term bonds) that has made the most significant shift in recent years.

    Segmented Rate History Single Rate Grandfathered  
    Quarter Seg 1 Seg 2 Seg 3 Retire at 60 Rate (T30 x 95%) Spread
    3Q-2013 0.98 3.82 5.07 2.67% 3.0000 -0.33%
    4Q-2013 1.11 4.01 5.22 2.83% 3.0000 -0.17%
    1Q-2014 1.38 4.63 5.60 3.27% 3.5000 -0.23%
    2Q-2014 1.22 4.55 5.63 3.17% 3.5000 -0.33%
    3Q-2014 1.20 4.26 5.34 3.00% 3.5000 -0.50%
    4Q-2014 1.20 4.00 5.05 2.85% 3.2500 -0.40%
    1Q-2015 1.32 3.92 5.00 2.86% 3.0000 -0.14%
    2Q-2015 1.44 3.83 4.88 2.86% 2.7500 0.11%
    3Q-2015 1.37 3.55 4.49 2.67% 2.5000 0.17%
    4Q-2015 1.49 4.01 5.09 2.97% 2.7500 0.22%
    1Q-2016 1.69 4.08 5.03 3.09% 2.7500 0.34%
    2Q-2016 1.79 4.14 5.07 3.17% 2.7500 0.42%
    3Q-2016 1.70 3.93 4.94 3.01% 2.5000 0.51%
    4Q-2016 1.47 3.53 4.55 2.70% 2.5000 0.20%
    1Q-2017 1.43 3.31 4.24 2.55% 2.2500 0.30%

    The pension/lump sum conversation is just one part of any household’s financial plan.  We encourage all to review this in conjunction with their financial advisor.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.


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