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Strategist: Negative interest rates 'should be the most hardcore morphine'

Adam Shapiro

The United States is still the best place for investors to put their money whether in equities or fixed income.

And that will likely remain so even if the Federal Reserve cuts interest rates in September. Some analysts predict a total of three cuts by March 2020 and that would lower the federal funds rate to a range between 1.25% and 1.5%.

“The U.S. economy is still relatively solid,” Chris Konstantinos, chief investment strategist at RiverFront Investment Group, told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move. “Negative interest rates should be reserved for absolutely the most hardcore morphine for a patient that’s in the ICU. We are not necessarily projecting that the U.S. economy is going to be in the intensive care unit over the next couple of years so I like to think that negative interest rates are still not all that likely in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, central banks In other parts of the world have already lowered interest rates to boost slowing economies in Europe and Asia. The drive toward the “zero bound” worries Konstantinos because more than $15 trillion of sovereign debt now trades at negative yields.

Getting back less than you invest is ‘bonkers’

The German government auctioned close to $1 billion in 30-year bonds Wednesday that yielded negative 0.11% but it failed to sell all of the $2 billion that was brought to market.

“It sort of bends the mind a little bit thinking about the idea, the concept of negative interest rates, the idea of giving someone else, a sovereign, your money and then at the end of that loan getting back less than you gave them to me is kind of bonkers,” he said.

Konstantinos says the developed world has structurally lowered growth projections for several years following the global recession in 2008 and because of declining population growth in several countries.

He calls the demographic outlook in places like Italy, Germany and Japan, pretty lousy and predicts negative interest rates there could be in place for the foreseeable future.

“In the United States our demographics while not great by say Brazil’s standards or by certain parts of Southeast Asia, by developed country standards the U.S. demographics are still pretty strong,” he says, adding that’s “why negative interest rates are not a real high probability here.”

All eyes on Jackson Hole

Investors will pay close attention later this week to statements from Fed Chair Jerome Powell and other key members of the Fed, who are set to meet in Jackson Hole, Wyoming for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual economic symposium.

Minutes from the last meeting of the FOMC show that members of the Fed debated a more aggressive 50 basis point cut in the federal funds rate when they cut rates by a quarter percent at the end of July.

"A couple of participants indicated that they would have preferred a 50 basis point cut," according to the minutes. But members worried about appearing pressured by President Donald Trump and the bond market. "Participants generally favored an approach in which policy would be guided by incoming information... and that avoided any appearance of following a preset course."

Konstantinos says the global economy is mixed, which is putting pressure on the U.S. economy and the Fed.

But, he expects the economies in China and parts of Europe will see their economic slowdowns hit bottom in the next 12 months and “hopefully that will have an upward thrust on global bond yields particularly giving some of the additional fiscal stimulus that should be coming down the pike in some of these places,” he says.

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance On the Move.

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