Why buy U.S. stocks when yields are high?

At 4.33%, the 10-year Treasury yield in the U.S. is at its highest in 16 years. That represents a risk-free, long-duration asset with relatively high returns and this is challenging the stock market.

Why should traders invest in stocks that may not return as much, or just slightly more and take unecessary risks, when there is an asset class that guarantees around 4% return or slighlty more?

Cash is king?

Cash is now yielding 5% in the U.S., short term bonds are yielding 5% plus, so equities for the first time in a long time, have actually got some competition.

Typically stocks if they do well, are likely to return more than a risk-free asset, precisely because it isn’t certain stocks will rise. That’s called the equity risk premium, a return that’s supposed to compensate stock investors for the chance that they might lose money. But, as  the premium is below 1% now. Historically, it’s been between 2% and 4% – meaning stocks are looking much less attractive than Treasuries.

Harder job for the Fed?

Another potential issue that could crop up with high Treasury yields is that it could make the Federal Reserve’s job tougher. During the recent Jackson Hole gathering, the Fed head has indicated that more interest rate hikes are still high possibility.

But don’t panic just yet… this is likely a pullback phase of a bull market analysts suggest. That is, it’s still too early to be bearish on stocks.

Yardeni Research president Ed Yardeni is reported to have said that the market is ‘going to hang in there’ and ‘a year-end rally will bring the S&P 500 back to something like 4,600‘.

That implied an increase of almost 5% in stocks – while not certain – would give Treasuries a run for their money again.

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