Key measure of Treasury yield curve nears inversion again, underlining recession fears

2-year Treasury yield hits 2-week high as investors factor in another half-point Fed rate hike for September
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Treasury yields jumped Monday, with the rate on the 2-year Treasury note nearing the 10-year — threatening to invert the yield curve again and underlining fears that persistently hot inflation will require the Federal Reserve to tighten rates so aggressively it will push the economy into recession.

What yields are doing
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
    was 3.236%, compared with 3.156% at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday. The level on Friday was the highest since Nov. 9, 2018, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.

  • The 2-year Treasury note yield
    was 3.187% versus 3.047% on Friday afternoon — the highest 3 p.m. level since Dec. 31, 2007.

  • The spread between the 10- and 2-year notes narrowed as far a 0.24 basis point early Monday, according to FactSet. The spread briefly inverted in late March and early April.

  • The 30-year Treasury bond yield
    rose to 3.256% from 3.195% late Friday.

What’s driving the market

The yield curve typically slopes higher, with investors demanding higher yields to hold longer-dated Treasurys. Inversions of the curve can reflect fears over the outlook for economic growth. An extended inversion of the 2-year/10-year measure of the curve is considered a reliable recession warning signal, albeit with a lag.

Federal Reserve policy makers meet Tuesday and Wednesday and are expected to raise the fed-funds rate by at least 50 basis points, or half a percentage point. Some economists and investors are penciling in the prospect of a 75 basis point move after data on Friday showed the consumer-price index saw a 1% monthly jump and surged 8.6% year over year in May, a 40-year high after a modest slowing in April.

See: ‘Doves don’t exist on the FOMC right now’: Economists expect hawkish Fed meeting this week

The selloff in Treasurys comes alongside a steep drop in equities. U.S. stock indexes fell hard last week, including a post-CPI drop on Friday. Futures pointed to another round of heavy losses for U.S. stocks on Monday, in line with a global equity selloff.

What analysts say

“The U.S. CPI data wasn’t that much worse than expected but the market was over-invested in the idea that inflation has peaked,” said Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale, in a note.

“We’re still seeing waves of price pressure crashing through the economy one after another, and while each wave may be ‘transitory’, they keep on coming and will do so until U.S. demand has softened significantly,” he wrote. “The policy challenge is that the Fed has no idea how much monetary tightening is needed and will only find out it has done too much, long after the event. And we know what happens then.”

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