By Colin Barr
July 29, 2010

Think this is a flight to quality? You ain’t seen nothing yet, one prominent bearish forecaster insists.

Gluskin Sheff economist David Rosenberg (right) is predicting the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond will fall below 2% in the coming year as the economy runs out of gas and investors flee riskier assets such as stocks for the relative safety of government bonds.

The yield on the 10-year note has already fallen sharply this year, as weak economic numbers have scotched hopes for a return to more normal Federal Reserve policy. The yield, which started 2010 at 3.85% and briefly topped 4% in April, fell as low as 2.85% this month – the lowest rate in half a century, aside from the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown.

Economists have been expecting the slow recovery of debt-soaked Western economies to send Treasury rates higher. Even skeptics on the U.S. growth outlook, such as the economists at Capital Economics in Toronto, have been saying the 10-year note will be around 3.25% by year-end, compared with a recent 3.04%.

But Rosenberg says he expects the yield on the 10-year note to drop below its 2008 record of 2.08%, as Americans pull in their horns in response to the credit collapse that began in 2007 and hasn’t been reversed in spite of expansive Fed policy. He says he expects the slowdown will continue into next year.

Fellow gloom-and-doomers aren’t necessarily jumping onto this bandwagon, preferring instead to question the strength of the dollar. Marc Faber, a longtime critic of U.S. fiscal profligacy, views the current situation as inflationary because politicians will be tempted to expand their support of the economy, further devaluing the dollar.

But Rosenberg has been making a case based on the collapse of credit expansion since 2007, and he has been consistently skeptical of the rebound in stocks and other risky assets since then.

The comments come as the view that America is facing a Japanese-style malaise is gaining hold. Pimco’s Bill Gross, who only eight months ago was suggesting the bond vigilantes would soon be on the ride, is now pointing out that a slowdown in global population growth will provide another hurdle for the economy to scale.

Meanwhile, Rosenberg remains relentless in poking at the supposed recovery of the U.S. economy, which he contends is much weaker than is commonly held.

“Let’s conclude by saying that to have durable goods orders and shipments go down in back-to-back months outside of recessions is a 5% event or 1-in-20 odds,” he writes in a note to clients Thursday. “We’re either still in a recession or into something that cannot be good even if it’s not an official recession.”

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