Art Cashin on stock market swings and Fed control on bond market

Longtime trader Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday that investors should brace themselves for a period of stock market volatility as Wall Street digests rising bond yields.

“You have to be very careful. There is a fine line. If the market begins to believe that the Fed has somehow lost control of where the bond market is going, all that idea of a ‘taper tantrum’ will show up,” the director of floor operations for UBS said on “Squawk on the Street.”

Cashin’s comments Friday came early during a volatile session, with the 10-year Treasury yield above and below 1.5% and the Nasdaq Composite swinging between gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down over 275 points, or 0.88%, but off its session lows.

“If the market begins to believe that the Fed lost control and the Fed senses that, there’s a chance that the Fed will overreact,” explained Cashin, whose Wall Street career spans roughly six decades. “We’re in very a potentially volatile period, maybe for some of the wrong reasons.”

On Thursday, markets sold off sharply, led by the Nasdaq’s 3.5% dive in its worst day since Oct. 28. The yield on the 10-year briefly eclipsed 1.6% on Thursday, its highest in just over a year and about 0.5% higher than levels at the end of January.

As rates ticked higher earlier in February, Cashin said he thought that based on historical standards, it was a reasonable move related to investors believing in a strong economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic. However, he lent credence to those who see inflation fears also contributing to the move higher in yields.

“You know, the housing boom is evident. We’ve got lumber at an all-time high and copper used in the plumbing and whatever moving up very sharply, so we’re beginning to see some inflationary pressure just on the whole reopening aspect,” Cashin said.

Growth stocks, particularly those in the technology sector, are seen as most vulnerable to a move higher in bond yields because low borrowing costs have been helpful in their business expansion. Yields move inversely to prices.

Cashin said investors should watch the tech-heavy Nasdaq as they try to navigate the volatility. The index was trading around 13,200 intraday Friday. He said 13,000 is a key near-term resistance level.

“That was the intraday low on Tuesday. You stayed above it in the wash-out selling yesterday. That helped bring about some of the late buying,” Cashin said. “If you were to go down and punch through that, I would hold onto my seatbelt.”

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