What are Bonds, Treasuries and Yields?
On November 8, 2023
A Simple Explanation
In recent weeks, the bond market has experienced a significant crash, which is causing concern on Wall Street. This market turmoil is impacting Treasury prices, and 10-year Treasury yields have surged above 5% for the first time in 16 years. But what are bonds, treasuries and yields in simple terms?
To understand the implications of this bond market meltdown, it helps to have basic knowledge of the key concepts.
What are Bonds?
Bonds are essentially loans, issued by governments or companies when they need to borrow money. When you buy a bond, you are providing a loan and receive regular interest payments, with the loan amount returned to you at a later date. Bonds can also be traded in secondary markets, making them flexible investments.
What are Treasuries?
U.S. government-issued bonds are known as Treasuries, and the 10-year Treasuries serve as a benchmark for the market, influencing the pricing of other loans and investments.
What are Yields?
Bond yields represent the interest-rate returns as a percentage of the initial investment. They move inversely to bond prices, meaning that when yields rise, bond prices (their values) fall.
What’s causing the bond-market meltdown?
Two main factors are driving the recent surge in yields:
- Federal Reserve Actions: Over the past 18 months, the Federal Reserve has raised benchmark interest rates substantially, attempting to combat inflation. When interest rates increase, bond prices decrease, as fixed returns become less appealing to investors.
- U.S. Government Debt: The U.S. government’s debt has grown significantly over the last two decades, reaching an alarming $33.64 trillion, which far exceeds the country’s GDP. In the past five weeks, the debt has increased by $640 billion, creating an oversupply of bonds and bills that exceeds market demand.
Why does this matter?
- Impact on Stocks: The rapid rise in bond yields is detrimental to the stock market. Higher yields make bonds more attractive to investors compared to stocks, leading to a slowdown in equity markets. Some experts are even recommending favoring bonds over equities.
- Economic Consequences: Higher bond yields can affect the broader economy and ordinary Americans. When Treasury yields rise, other interest rates, including those for mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards, are likely to increase. This can lead to increased borrowing costs for individuals and companies, potentially resulting in layoffs as firms seek to reduce expenses.
The Key Takeaway
The bond market’s recent turmoil, with 10-year Treasury yields exceeding 5%, is a cause for concern for the entire financial system – which runs on debt and the interest rates tied to debt.
The main drivers are the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases and the rapidly growing U.S. government debt.
This turmoil has implications for stocks, the broader economy, and the financial well-being of ordinary people, as it can lead to significantly higher interest rates and borrowing costs for everyone.
Related Article – A direct example of the growing treasury bond crisis in the banking system.
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