Are German Bonds Now The Risk-Free Rate?

By | February 19, 2016

bond spreads

As all of the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) fans out there know, the value representing the ‘risk-free’ rate is a critical data point!

But for those who may be unfamiliar with CAPM, it’s ‘a model that describes the relationship between risk and expected return and that is used in the pricing of risky securities.’ (Source)

In finance classes professors taught that the proxy value used in the formula below for the risk-free rate of return was to be one of the short-dated U.S. treasury securities, because the U.S. government had no perceived risk of defaulting.

CAPM,finance,risk reward

And, as the theory goes, the more inherent risk perceived in an investment, the more return that will be demanded by an investor.

This is why an apartment building in NYC’s Soho will be sell at an appreciably lower cap rate than the exact same building located in one of the outer boroughs of New York City.

Spread Between U.S. Treasury Bonds And Other Sovereign Debt!

So if risk-reward is the determining factor for the yield on a bond, why then is the yield spread between the 10-year German government bond and the 10-year U.S. treasury bond so wide (Germany .20% and U.S. 1.75%)?

Why then are the spreads between the yield on 10-year U.S. government debt and a wide-range of other 10-year sovereign securities negative in many cases by more than 100 basis points?

Ten year government bond spreads

Country Latest yield Spread vs bund Spread vs T-bonds
Australia 2.47% +2.27 +0.71
Austria 0.51% +0.31 -1.25
Belgium 0.54% +0.34 -1.22
Canada 1.11% +0.91 -0.64
Denmark 0.54% +0.34 -1.22
Finland 0.50% +0.30 -1.26
France 0.56% +0.36 -1.19
Germany 0.20% -1.56
Greece 10.84% +10.64 +9.08
Ireland 0.83% +0.63 -0.92
Italy 1.55% +1.35 -0.21
Japan 0.01% -0.19 -1.74
Netherlands 0.34% +0.14 -1.42
New Zealand 3.08% +2.88 +1.32
Portugal 3.26% +3.06 +1.51
Spain 1.69% +1.50 -0.06
Sweden 0.78% +0.58 -0.98
Switzerland -0.32 % -0.52 -2.07
UK 1.42% +1.22 -0.34
US 1.75% +1.56

Source

While the policy of the ECB (easy money) and the policy of the Federal Reserve (December 15, 2015 tightening) are divergent, can that explain all of what is being presented in the chart above?

With the 10-year bond yield of Spain basically trading on par with the U.S. 10-year and +150 to the German 10-year it certainly makes one wonder.

Any other explanations? Please leave them in the comments below.

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Michael Haltman is President of Hallmark Abstract Service in New York. He can be reached at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com

2 thoughts on “Are German Bonds Now The Risk-Free Rate?

  1. Hallmark Abstract Service Post author

    From a LinkedIn Connection…

    The US is in Fantastic shape and Germany is F’d. Europe is the new Japan. The Germans created the Euro to artificially deflate their currency so they could sell cars and such to the rest of Europe. The problem is they also financed these purchases and now the Greece’s & Portugal’s can’t pay back the loans. It’s something like $600 billion of debt from Germany itself, Deutsch Bank, Commerzbank and a few others. If the Mark could freely trade vs the Drachma Germany would fall off a cliff. What your seeing in US markets is the rebalancing of the largest pools of money do to the Saudis manipulating the price of oil to screw Iran amongst others. I think risk in the US are voilent moves to the upside in stocks and interest rates. Hope you find my 2 cents useful.

    Reply
  2. Hallmark Abstract Service Post author

    From a LinkedIn Connection…

    With all that central banks are doing, I’m not sure we have a risk free reference rate anymore. That’s the shame of it all — French yields where they are doesn’t begin to reflect the current state of their economy, to take but one example. I wish there was a better explanation but until market forces are allowed to take hold once again, we all sit in the dark unable to realistically price investments.

    Reply

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