Friday, July 6, 2018

"As the Yield Curve Flattens, Threatens to Invert, the Fed Discards it as Recession Indicator"

From Wolf Street, July 5: 

This Fed is getting seriously hawkish: It revealed that instead of thinking about backing off rate hikes, it’s replacing the yield curve.
In the minutes of the FOMC meeting on June 12 and 13, released this afternoon, there was a doozie, obscured somewhat by the dynamics of the rate hike plus the indication that there would be two more rate hikes this year, for a total of four, up from three at the prior meeting, with more hikes to come in 2019, along with other changes – a phenomenon I called, This Fed Grows Relentlessly More Hawkish, Gone are the Kid Gloves.

But the doozie in the minutes was about the flattening “yield curve.”
The yield curve is formed by Treasury yields of different maturities: normally, the two-year yield is quite a bit lower than the 10-year yield. Over the last several decades, each time the yield curve “inverted” – when the two-year yield ended up higher than the 10-year yield – a recession followed.  The last time, the Financial Crisis followed.

So this has become a popular recession indicator that has cropped up a lot in the discussions of various Fed governors since last year. Today, the two-year yield closed at 2.55% and the 10-year yield at 2.84%. The spread between them was just 29 basis points, the lowest since before the Financial Crisis.

The chart below shows the yield curves on December 14, 2016, when the Fed got serious about raising rates (black line); and today (red line). Note how the red line has “flattened” between the two-year and the 10-year markers, and how the spread has narrowed to just 29 basis points:
The chart below shows the two-year yield (black) and the 10-year yield (red) going back to 1992. Note how the spread has been narrowing in recent months (click to enlarge):


June 29
"Who’s Afraid of a Flattening Yield Curve?"