A return to 'risk off'?

Investors looking for safety again may be willing to pay a big premium for it in the Treasury market.

By Jim J. Jubak Mar 26, 2012 3:26PM
Are we headed back to the days of "risk off"?

It certainly looked like it last week with the market worried about slowing growth in Europe and a hard landing in China.

The most striking indicator to me was the reversal in the Treasury market. After climbing for the week that ended on Friday, March 16, in the aftermath of the Fed's slightly more positive take on the U.S. economy, Treasury yields fell this past week as investors looking for safety bid up prices. (Yields fall on Treasuries as prices rise.)

Yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury notes fell the most since January, dropping from last week's five-month highs. Yields fell 0.06 percentage points to 2.23% for the week that ended on March 23. That almost exactly wiped out the increase in yields of 0.27 percentage points in the week that ended on March 16.

The risk-off trade that alternated with period of risk-on trading in 2011 is characterized by flight to dollar and yen denominated assets, selling of emerging market currencies, bonds, and equities, and relative outperformance by "safe" markets such as the United States against "risky" markets such as China or Brazil.

Of course, the shift from risk-on to risk-off takes a bite out of all markets as investors in "safe" markets sell the riskier assets in those markets.

The strength of the "risk-off trend" will get a test in the upcoming week when the U.S. Treasury is scheduled to auction $99 billion in two-year to seven-year maturities.

If yields still drop even in the face of that jump in supply, it means that investors are looking for safety again and are willing to pay a big premium for it in the Treasury market. If that’s the case then I'd say risk-off is likely to last for a while.

At the time of this writing, Jim Jubak didn't own shares of any companies mentioned in this post in personal portfolios. The mutual fund he manages, Jubak Global Equity Fund (JUBAX), may or may not own positions in any stock mentioned. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of the most recent quarter, see the fund's portfolio here. 
Mar 26, 2012 4:50PM
Mar 26, 2012 9:28PM
I can't believe I've made 16.2% since 12/31/2011 while everyone debates risk on and off.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

123 rated 1
262 rated 2
480 rated 3
651 rated 4
649 rated 5
629 rated 6
616 rated 7
496 rated 8
346 rated 9
111 rated 10

Top Picks

TAT&T Inc9



Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.