Picture this: The bond market gets spooked by a sudden interest rate scare, sending a throng of buyers streaming toward the exits, only to find a dearth of buyers on the other side.
As a result, liquidity evaporates, yields soar, and the U.S. finds itself smack in the middle of another debt crisis no one saw coming.
It's a scenario that TABB Group fixed income head Anthony J. Perrotta believes is not all that far-fetched, considering the market had what could be considered a sneak preview in May 2013. That was the "taper tantrum," which saw yields spike and stocks sell off after then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made remarks that the market construed as indicating rates would rise sooner than expected. (The "taper" referred to Bernanke's statement that the Fed would soon begin unwinding its open-ended monthly bond-buying program.)
The market calmed down shortly after, but Perrotta, writing in the TABB Forum, an invitation-only site for market analysis, thinks the die has been cast for an uncertain future, particularly if the market gets antsy over the future of rates:
(T)he fear is that the committed posture of the U.S. government may provide the impetus for a doomsday scenario in credit markets. While the market focuses so intently on the reasons to keep rates low, it may be blinded to the problem brewing just underneath the surface—the structural imbalance that is developing as the size of price takers (bond fund managers) grossly dwarfs traditional price makers (dealers).