The US yield curve as a predictor of recession: should we trust it this time?
The shape of the US Treasury yield curve generally contains useful information about future developments in the real economy. In particular, when the Treasury yield curve inverts – that is, when short-term rates exceed long-term yields – a recession usually follows in the next 12 months. Historically, the yield curve has been a very accurate forecasting tool: a curve inversion has preceded each of the last seven recessions in the US. The Treasury yield curve flattened significantly in 2017, and last month, the spread between 10-year yields and two-year yields narrowed to about 50bps. It is therefore possible that the spread could turn negative at some point this year. As such, it is unsurprising that market observers have become nervous about the possibility of an economic slowdown. But given the current environment of loose monetary policy, to what extent should we trust the US yield curve as a harbinger of a recession?