US Markets

Strategist: 'Fragile five' help keep US yields low


U.S. Treasury yields have remained low in 2014, defying the consensus view that yields would rise as the economy improved and the Federal Reserve reduced its bond purchases.

"A market bear is going to tell you this is signaling ominous signs" of weaker growth ahead, said Nick Raich, CEO at the Earnings Scout.

But "the economy is getting better," said Raich, who instead points to increased buying from a group of emerging-market countries that Morgan Stanley dubbed the "fragile five" as helping keep a lid on yields, and as a result, interest rates.

US Treasurys down for the week

The five nations all had their currencies hit hard in 2013, thanks in large part to high and increasing current account deficits that made them more dependent on foreign capital flows, according to currency analysts at Morgan Stanley.

"Everyone thought interest rates were going to spike, and these guys were going to get crushed," said Raich of predictions for 2014.

Looking to avoid a collapse in their currencies and increased global borrowing costs, the central banks of India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey opted at the end of last year to begin "filling the void of the Fed; by purchasing U.S. debt so they can keep interest rates artificially low," Raich said.

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As U.S. interest rates have fallen, it bolstered the currencies of these emerging countries, many of which had their central banks increase interest rates at the end of last year to ward off currency devaluation in the event of a spike in U.S. interest rates, he said.

India has increased its holdings of U.S. Treasurys in 2014 by 3 percent, Brazil 5 percent, Turkey 9 percent, South Africa 36 percent and Vietnam 41 percent, said Raich, citing statistics from the U.S. Treasury Department.

And, as U.S. rates have fallen, stocks in India are up more than 22 percent for the year; Brazilian stocks have climbed nearly 10 percent, Turkish stocks have surged almost 23 percent, South African stocks have risen nearly 11 percent and Vietnamese equities have climbed more than 20 percent, he said.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson