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Explainer-Why is the yield curve flattening and what does it mean?

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November 1, 2021

By David Randall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A surge in the yields of short-term U.S. government debt has investors focused on the shape of the Treasury yield curve, where the yield advantage that longer-dated securities usually hold over shorter-dated ones is on track to narrow at its fastest pace since 2011.

Money managers and economists often view a shrinking of the gap between yields on shorter-term Treasuries and those maturing out years – known as yield curve flattening – as a sign of worries over economic growth and uncertainty about monetary policy.

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Here’s a quick primer explaining what a flat yield curve is and how it may reflect investor expectations.

WHAT IS THE U.S. TREASURY YIELD CURVE?

The U.S. Treasury finances federal government budget obligations by issuing various forms of debt. The $14.8 trillion Treasury market includes Treasury bills from one month out to one year, notes from two years to 10 years, as well as 20-and 30-year bonds.

The yield curve plots the yield of all Treasury securities and investors watch its shape to extrapolate market expectations for U.S. growth and monetary policy.

Typically, the curve slopes upwards because investors expect more compensation for taking on the risk that rising inflation will lower the expected return from owning longer-dated bonds. That means a 10-year note will often yield more than a 2-year note because it has a longer duration. Yields move inversely to prices.

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From time to time the yield curve can invert, a phenomenon that is considered bad news for the short-term economic outlook and has presaged past recessions.

WHY IS THE YIELD CURVE FLATTENING NOW?

The Federal Open Market Committee is widely expected to announce at the conclusion of its November monetary policy meeting on Wednesday that it will begin tapering its $120 billion-per-month bond buying program.

While that move has been well-telegraphed to investors, some are starting to worry that surging inflation will force the central bank to unwind its bond buying faster and eventually raise interest rates sooner than investors had expected.

Expectations of sooner-than-expected rate increases have pushed short-term yields higher in recent days. Longer-term ones have fallen in part due to bets that a potentially more hawkish rate policy will successfully tamp down inflation, precluding the need for raising borrowing costs as high as previously projected over the longer term, analysts have said.

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Rate increases can be a weapon against inflation, but they can also slow economic growth by increasing the cost of borrowing for everything from mortgages to car loans.

The Federal Reserve has signaled that it does not expect to raise interest rates until next year and that borrowing costs should rise to at least 1% by the end of 2023 from its current rate of 0 to 0.25%. [L1N2RO2FM]

IS THE ENTIRE YIELD CURVE USUALLY UPWARD SLOPING?

No. Distortions can occur anywhere along the curve without inverting the entire curve. On Thursday the yield on the 20-year bond rose above the 30-year bond.

ARE OTHER COUNTRIES ALSO SEEING FLATTER YIELD CURVES?

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The phenomenon is not confined to the United States. Short-term rates have climbed in Australia, Germany, Canada and other countries where central banks are projected to tighten monetary policies at a faster-than-expected pace.

(Reporting by David Randall; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili, Alden Bentley and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Buying the Omicron dip

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November 29, 2021

A look at the day ahead from Danilo Masoni.

Sell first, get answers later. With stocks near lifetime peaks, the Black Friday reaction to the new fast-spreading virus strain Omicron was hardly surprising.

But a weekend later, investors look heavily engaged in buying the dip, as markets take a more balanced view of risks attached to what the WHO called a “variant of concern”.

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After their ninth biggest drop ever on Friday, gains in crude prices topped 5% earlier in Asia and stock futures point to a solid bounce across Europe and America.

A South African doctor said patients with Omicron have “very mild” symptoms and investment houses don’t look to have budged that much. Credit Suisse, for example, made no portfolio changes, staying slight overweight on equities.

Perhaps more telling is that retail traders poured north of $2 billion into U.S. stocks on Friday, setting the second biggest daily inflow on record, per Vanda Research data.

Of course there are uncertainties and that will likely make for volatile days heading into the Christmas shopping season.

Understanding the level of severity of the variant “will take days to several weeks”, said WHO. And vaccine maker BioNTech needs up to two weeks to figure out whether the shot it makes with Pfizer needs to be reworked.

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So while Omicron has spread from Australia to the Netherlands and governments ban travel and mull lockdowns, markets may also gamble on central bankers turning more patient in their path towards rates normalisation.

Lots of speakers from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are lined up for today. On Sunday, speaking about risks to the recovery, ECB’s Lagarde said: “We now know our enemy and what measures to take.”

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Monday:

* ECB speakers: Governor Lagarde, ECB board members AndreaEnria, Isabel Schnabel, Pentti Hakkarainen; ECB Vice PresidentLuis de Guindos * Euro zone consumer sentiment/inflation expectations * German preliminary CPI/HICP * Fed speakers: Chairman Jerome Powell, New York PresidentJohn Williams, Governor Bowman * Emerging markets: Kenya central bank meets; Turkey tradebalance and bank NPL ratios (This story refiles to fix chart)

(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Saikat Chatterjee)

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UK regulator set to block Meta’s Giphy deal – FT

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November 29, 2021

(Reuters) -The UK competition regulator is expected to block Meta Platforms’ acquisition of online GIF platform Giphy in the coming days, the Financial Times reported https://www.ft.com/content/662c8e3f-4909-4bec-9131-c0237bb4897d on Monday.

The Competition and Markets Authority is set to reverse the deal in what would be the first time the watchdog has reversed a Big Tech acquisition, the report said, citing individuals close to the matter.

Meta Platforms and the regulator did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters sent outside working hours.

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The regulator had in October fined the U.S. social media giant Facebook, now Meta, 50.5 million pound ($67.35 million) for breaching an order that was imposed during an investigation into its purchase of the GIF platform, Giphy.

Facebook bought Giphy, a website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, in May last year to integrate it with its photo-sharing app, Instagram. The deal was then pegged at $400 million by Axios.

($1 = 0.7499 pounds)

(Reporting by Sneha Bhowmik in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V)

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Evergrande shares fall after chairman cuts stake; Fantasia suspends trading

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November 29, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Shares in China Evergrande Group fell as much as 4.8% on Monday morning, after its chairman trimmed his stake in the cash-strapped property developer to raise about $344 million.

The group’s electric vehicle unit, China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd, also dropped more than 5% after it said the company was still exploring ways to pump capital into the unit with different investors.

Evergrande has been scrambling to raise capital as it grapples with more than $300 billion in liabilities and Chinese authorities have told its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, to use some of his personal wealth to help pay bondholders, sources have said.

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Evergrande failed to pay coupons totalling $82.5 million due on Nov. 6 and investors are on tenterhooks to see if it can meet its obligations before a 30-day grace period ends on Dec 6.

The developer disclosed late on Friday that Hui had sold 1.2 billion shares in the company at an average price of HK$2.23 each, lowering his stake in the Shenzhen-based real estate developer to 67.9% from 77%.

Once China’s top-selling developer, Evergrand’e troubles have hit the broader Chinese property sector with a string of debt defaults and credit rating downgrades of its peers in the last couple of months.

Fantasia Holdings suspended trading in company shares on Monday pending release of information. On Thursday, the developer said a winding-up petition was filed against a unit related to an outstanding loan.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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