WTF is an ‘inverted yield curve,’ and what does it mean for the economy?
For the first time since 2007, the 2- to 5-year US Treasury yield curve has inverted. Historically, this has served as a somewhat reliable indicator of economic downturn, which means people are freaking out, which means…
OK, hold up: What exactly is a yield curve, and why is it inverting?
‘Lend long and prosper’ (so say the banks)
In short, a yield curve is a way to gauge the difference between interest rates and the return investors will get from buying shorter- or longer-term debt. Most of the time, banks demand higher interest for longer periods of time (cuz who knows when they’re gonna see that money again?!).
A yield curve goes flat when the premium for longer-term bonds drops to zero. If the spread turns negative (meaning shorter-term yields are higher than longer maturity debt), the curve is inverted…
Which is what is happening now
So what caused this? It’s hard to say — but we prefer this explanation: Since December 2015, the Fed has implemented a series of 6 interest rate hikes and simultaneously cut its balance sheet by $50B a month.
According to Forbes, the Fed has played a major part in suppressing long-term interest rates while raising short-term interest rates.