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      Inverted Yield Curve: Impacts on Investments & Economy

      By Wasim Omar

      Published on

      April 14, 2023

      4:04 AM UTC

      Last Updated on

      April 17, 2023

      11:02 AM UTC

      Inverted Yield Curve: Impacts on Investments & Economy

      The bond market is a fascinating and complex world that profoundly impacts the global economy. Among the most intriguing phenomena that occur in this market is the inverted yield curve.

      A major reason why many find the inverted yield curve so eye-catching is that it is a clear deviation from the norm, and a strange anomaly. Yield curves have a defined shape according to their nature, and they are normally not prone to inversion.

      The unusual occurrence has often been seen as a warning sign of an impending recession, as it has preceded every recession in the United States for the past 60 years. This is why the concept intrigues economists and financial analysts alike.

      Whether you are a professional investor, financial analyst, or simply someone interested in understanding the complexities of the bond market, this article will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the inverse yield curve and its wider significance.

      What Is An Inverted Yield Curve?

      Before we answer the question, ‘What is an inverted yield curve?’ let’s first discuss a regular yield curve. A typical yield curve looks like the graph depicted below:

      What Is An Inverted Yield Curve

      As can be seen above, the graph plots the maturity of the bonds on the horizontal axis and their yield on the vertical axis.

      As would be expected, bonds of longer maturities have higher yields, as investors demand greater compensation against the risk of their funds being tied in for a longer period of time.

      This is a perfectly normal yield curve where short-term bonds carry the lowest degree of risk, as they can be redeemed in the immediate term, upon maturity.

      Now let’s take a look at the inverse yield curve:

      What Is An Inverted Yield Curve

      Now you might rightfully be wondering, why and when did the yield curve invert? This is a strange occurrence where short-term bonds are carrying a yield much higher than longer-term instruments.

      The inverse yield curve, therefore, is a term to describe an extraordinary situation where the market is yielding short-term bonds higher than long-term bonds.

      This happens when the market anticipates an imminent financial crisis or a slowdown. For this reason, longer-term bonds are seen as safer investments, as opposed to shorter-term bonds, for which they demand a higher return for their risk exposure.

      Understanding Spread

      Having discussed inverted yield curve recession, we now turn to ‘spread’: a term that is always associated with these curves and is especially useful to economists and market participants alike.

      Simply put, spread refers to the difference in yield between two different types of bonds. For instance, if a 10-year treasury note holds a yield of 7% and a 20-year treasury note yields 11%, the spread between the two would be 4% or 400 basis points.

      Economists study the spread in depth to determine the shape of the yield curve. A wide and positive spread is a sign of a healthy economy, and results in a regular yield curve. If the spread becomes narrower, there is an indication of growing pessimism in the bond markets.

      When the spread is negative, it is seen as a sign of alarm and points to an inverse yield curve having taken form. Historically, this is seen as a sign of an emerging recession, which emphasizes why tracking the spread is so critical for economists.

      Interpreting Yield Curves

      When it comes to inverted yield curves, the most crucial domain to master is knowing how to interpret them.

      A yield curve, whether regular or inverted, is essentially a statement on macroeconomic health. Understanding what is an inverse statement, therefore, is of utmost importance.

      The following dimensions of the curve are important ways through which the interpretation can be carried out:

      • Slope Of The Curve

        The number one area of focus in yield curves is typically the slope displayed. Steep curves point to a healthy economy, with investors demanding a high yield for longer-term debt instruments.

        Alternatively, flatter curves and inverse curves are perceived as crisis signals and act as calls to action by policymakers.

      • Spread Between Bonds

        In addition to the slope of the curve itself, economists and analysts also pay close attention to the spread between bonds of different maturities. Wide gaps are perceived as ideal whereas narrow or negative gaps point to pessimism and uncertainty.

      • Absolute Level Of Yields

        Typically, economists do not simply go on the shape of the yield curve and dig deeper into the absolute figures it shows on yield. Higher yields across the board are seen as indicators of both economic growth and inflation.

      What Causes An Inverted Yield Curve?

      A number of factors can potentially influence the shape of a yield curve and even cause it to take on an inverted form. Some of these factors are discussed below:

      • Investor Sentiment

        At the end of the day, yield curves boil down to investor sentiment. The yields are collectively determined by how investors in the market perceive the economy. When a recession is anticipated at a mass level, the yield curve inverts itself.

      • Inflation Expectations

        When there is cause to expect surging inflation in the long term, but relative stability in the immediate term, investors would demand higher yields for long-term bonds against the loss of purchasing power of their wealth.

      • Monetary Policy

        When central banks such as the US Fed increase interest rates to combat inflation, the yield curve typically flattens or takes on a humped shape. If this is taken too far, short-term yields surpass long-term yields and the curve takes on an inverted shape.

      • Bond Supply And Demand

        Yields are heavily influenced by supply and demand dynamics. When the demand for long-term bonds outweighs their supply, relative to short-term bonds, the yield curve is likely to invert itself.

      Which Countries Have An Inverted Yield Curve?

      Today, there are a number of countries that report irregular yield curves. These are either minimally inverted, partially inverted, or completely inverted.

      According to statistics on world government bonds, there are presently 29 countries that presently have completely inverted yield curves. These include economies with strong credit ratings such as the US, South Korea, Singapore, Qatar, and Norway.

      In addition, the list of countries with inverse yield curves also includes economies under considerable stress such as Ukraine, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, each of which has poor credit ratings by credible agencies such as Moody’s and Fitch.

      Historical Examples Of Inverted Yield Curves

      Looking at history we realize the economic significance of the inverted yield curve along with its wider implications. Many economists are certain of an incoming recession in the US due to the inverse yield currently observed.

      Inverse yield curves have been seen in the US during the years 1937, 1989, 1998, 2000, and 2006. Each of these times was followed by recessions and economic slowdowns of varying natures, which indicate its reliability as a crisis predictor.

      The most recent example is from August 2006, when the yield curve inverted, and the yield of the 10-year treasury bond fell beneath that of the 2-year treasury bond. This negative month was maintained for several months, and the financial crisis unfolded in late 2007.

      What Can An Inverted Yield Curve Tell An Investor?

      Although inverse yield curves are great tools for policymakers, their application is not restricted to economics. In fact, these are great ways to guide the decision-making of investors, because of the information they convey.

      The following are some areas that inverse yield curves shed light on, that are directly relevant to investors in the financial markets:

      • Incoming Economic Slowdown

        Inverse yield curves inform investors of emerging recessions and slowdowns. This could signal investors to turn towards safer assets that are not necessarily linked to interest rates such as gold or foreign currencies.

      • Falling Interest Rates

        Another useful insight that investors gain through inverse yield curves is falling interest rates. The implication is a lower cost of debt financing and a lower return on interest-based investment.

      • Investment Strategies

        Through inverse yield curves, investors can amend their investment strategies, or even devise new ones. Higher yields on short-term bonds may encourage investors to take on more aggressive positions in the short term than in the long term, for instance.


      Inverse yield curves are great tools that have successfully, throughout history, helped predict oncoming recessions and economic slowdowns. They are essentially markers of extraordinary conditions in the bond markets where short-term bonds yield higher than long-term bonds.

      In addition to the value of this yield phenomenon to policymakers and central banks, the information conveyed by the inverted yield curve is useful to investors. This is because it can guide market players to adjust their strategies and turn to safer assets.

      Understanding the yield curve and its implications can help investors navigate uncertain economic conditions and manage risk effectively. It is a powerful way for investors to strengthen their financial assessments by gaining a clear picture of the economic landscape.


      Does An Inverted Yield Curve Indicate A Recession?

      Yes, an inverted yield curve is often seen as a warning sign of an economic slowdown or recession in the near future. However, it is not a guarantee and should be considered along with other economic indicators.

      What Is The Opposite Of An Inverted Yield Curve?

      The opposite of an inverted yield curve is a normal yield curve, which shows that long-term bonds have higher yields than short-term bonds. This is the typical shape of the yield curve, and it reflects the market’s expectation of future economic growth and interest rates.

      How Long Do Yield Curve Inversions Last?

      The duration of yield curve inversions varies, but they typically last for several months to a couple of years. The length of an inversion and the subsequent economic conditions depend on the underlying cause and the actions taken by governments and central banks.

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