We use a range of cookies to give you the best possible browsing experience. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our use of cookies.
You can learn more about our cookie policy here, or by following the link at the bottom of any page on our site.

Free Trading Guides
EUR/USD
Mixed
Low
High
of clients are net long.
of clients are net short.
Long Short

Note: Low and High figures are for the trading day.

Data provided by
GBP/USD
Bearish
USD/JPY
Bullish
Gold
Bullish
Oil - US Crude
Bullish
Low
High
of clients are net long.
of clients are net short.
Long Short

Note: Low and High figures are for the trading day.

Data provided by
Bitcoin
Mixed
More View more
Real Time News
  • RT @YuanTalks: #China temporarily suspend additional tariffs of either 10% or 5% on some #US goods scheduled to take effect on Dec 15, said…
  • The gold-silver ratio is simple. It is the number of silver ounces you would need to trade to receive one ounce of #gold at current market prices. Find out how you can use this in your trading strategy here:https://t.co/kh5DZvv5ib $XAUUSD https://t.co/eJGODpfTNc
  • How can traders avoid #FOMO in trading? Start by implementing a well-heeled plan taking only four hours per week. Get your insight from @JStanleyFX here: https://t.co/vwUShQPc27 https://t.co/DoVBd1l1oO
  • #Silver is a precious metal commodity that investors use as an inflation hedge and safe-haven asset. Find out what are some strategies and tips to trade silver here: https://t.co/k4tVcFuwxW #CommoditieswithDailyFX https://t.co/zXCSmH2HLX
  • Markets are trying to maintain a bullish tilt as a new week rolls around, a look ahead at the charts of the #Dow, #DAX, and #FTSE. Get your technical analysis on major world indices from @PaulRobinsonFX here: https://t.co/bYjRDvQsdM https://t.co/mbg0rUbv3K
  • Trade conflict is clearly awful for the broad world economy, but some countries are already benefiting from it. More stand to do so. Spotting them early could be profitable. Get your update on the #tradewar from @DavidCottleFX here: https://t.co/og0VAPAqwm https://t.co/xB8hYUj4OA
  • #Gold prices may suffer if better-than-expected US economic data and progress on US-China trade negotiations cool 2020 Fed rate cuts and alleviate demand for anti-fiat hedges. Get your $XAUUSD market update from @ZabelinDimitri here: https://t.co/3ula2sUpqL $gld https://t.co/2iZwxcm3wP
  • What's the difference between leading and lagging indicators? Find out from @RichardSnowFX here:https://t.co/vGx8HCagF5 https://t.co/KCZ48rDnhy
  • Why financial market traders must monitor both monetary and fiscal policy? Find out from @MartinSEssex here: https://t.co/Fkzk88Y5gm https://t.co/tTXcw1b7Tp
  • RT @dlacalle_IA: ... “Temporary” Fed plans to double repo market intervention to avoid cash crunch https://t.co/j6N3Qmo6HX
Why Does the US Yield Curve Inversion Matter?

Why Does the US Yield Curve Inversion Matter?

2018-12-06 12:00:00
Christopher Vecchio, CFA, Sr. Currency Strategist
Share:

US Yield Curve Inversion Talking Points:

  • With US equity markets plunging this week, financial news media has been quick to point out movement in the bond market as the key catalyst.
  • Certain measures of the US Treasury yield curve have started to invert, sparking fears that the US economy is heading towards a recession within the next two years.
  • However, the key yield spread that traders should watch – the 3m10s – has yet to invert, so recession fears should be contained for now.

See the DailyFX Economic Calendar and see what live coverage for key event risk impacting FX markets is scheduled for next week on the DailyFX Webinar Calendar.

US equity markets have been struggling the past few days, with a variety of reasons being offered up: Brexit; the US-China trade war; and the Federal Reserve’s rate hike path, among others. But a new explanation has appeared in recent days, one that has yet to make an appearance in 2018, or really at any point in the past decade: the inversion of the US Treasury yield curve.

Why Do Investors Look at the Yield Curve?

The yield curve, if it’s based on AA-rated corporate bonds, German Bunds, or US Treasuries, is a reflection of the relationship between risk and time for debt at various maturities. A “normal” yield curve is one in which shorter-term debt instruments have a lower yield than longer-term debt instruments. Why? Put simply, it’s more difficult to predict events the further out into the future you go; investors need to be compenstated for this additional risk with higher yields. This relationship produces a positive sloping yield curve.

When looking at a government bond yield curve (like Bunds or Treasuries), various assessments about the state of the economy can be made at any point in time. Are short-end rates rising rapidly? This could mean that the Fed is signaling a rate hike is coming soon. Or, that there are funding concerns for the federal government. Have long-end rates dropped sharply? This could mean that growth expectations are falling. Or, it could mean that sovereign credit risk is receding. Context obviously matters.

Does the US Treasury Yield Curve Inversion Matter?

It’s true that part of the US Treasury yield curve started to invert this week. We’ve seen both 2- and 3-year yields rise above 5-year yields. The “flattening” of the yield curve over the past year, predating this week’s inversion, is rather apparent when comparing the shape of the yield curve today relative to that from last December:

US Treasury Yield Curve (December 6, 2018) (Table 1)

Why Does the US Yield Curve Inversion Matter?

The knee-jerk reaction by many market participants, but mainly financial news media, has been to declare the inversion of the US Treasury yield curve as a harbinger of a forthcoming recession. The stats speak for themselves: yield curve inversions predict recessions (more on this shortly).

While there are certainly good reasons for concern – the US-China trade war, the fading impulse of fiscal stimulus from the Trump tax plan, a housing market that is looking weaker amid higher interes rates – its best to take a step back.

Let’s Ask the Professor

Amid all of the talk about the US Treasury yield curve inverting this week, the Duke University finance professor who is the godfather of yield curve analysis (his 1986 dissertation explored the concept of using the yield curve to forecast recessions) gave an interview to NPR (which can be listened to here). Professor Campbell Harvey made a few key points regarding the yield curve inversion which traders should take to heart:

1) The model Harvey used initially looked at the 3-month, 5-year spread (3m5s), and conventional wisdom points to the 2-year, 10-year (2s10s) spread as the yield curve; all of the concern this week about the 2-year, 5-year (2s5s) and 3-year, 5-year (3s5s) spreads inverting did not interest him, given that they as shorter-maturity instruments didn’t qualify as “short-term” enough in his model;

US Treasury Yield Curves: 3m5s and 2s10 (1975 to 2018) (Chart 1)

Why Does the US Yield Curve Inversion Matter?

2) The yield curve inversions being discussed now are not significant. According to his research, the yield curve needs to invert in the 3m10s for at least one full quarter (or three months) in order to give a true predictive signal (since the 1960s, a full quarter of inversion has predicted every recession correctly);

3) Regardless of the 3m5s and 2s10s curves not inverting this week, Harvey still believes the period of aggressive flattening is significant and it the yield curve is signaling slower economic growth for the US, but not yet a recession.

Read more: US Dollar Unable to Rally Even as Risk Appetite Erodes

--- Written by Christopher Vecchio, CFA, Senior Currency Strategist

To contact Christopher Vecchio, e-mail cvecchio@dailyfx.com

Follow him on Twitter at @CVecchioFX

View our long-term forecasts with the DailyFX Trading Guides

DailyFX provides forex news and technical analysis on the trends that influence the global currency markets.

DISCLOSURES

News & Analysis at your fingertips.