I love long term charts. I think they are a great refreshment from all the short term thinking that is going on in the financial world on a daily basis. Those long term charts really show you some perspective.
Most of the time that we are shown the US 30 year treasury bond yield’s people will come up with this chart:
Judging from this chart rates are exceptionaly low now. Some would say that bonds at these level are a bubble and that they will have to crash soon.
But then there also is this chart.
This is a long term chart, covering 222 years, of the interest rate on US 30 year treasury’s: (Source Ritholtz)
Here is one for the treasury’s for the Dutch State. Again a very long term chart. (Source in Dutch)
These charts really shows how exceptionally a 30 year bond yield of 6% actually is. Most of the time in the last 100 years bond yields were under 5%.
Will interest rates really shoot up to 6% maybe 7% soon? That’s an event that is highly unlikely in the low-growth, paying-down-debt environment we are in now. People are not spending and borrowing enough. Rates will go up when inflation(-expectations) go up or when there is fear amongst investors that a government will not pay down its debt.
Examples of this can be found in the 70’s when inflation was really high and bond yields went up to keep up with that inflation. Nowadays inflation is very low.
The only countries that pay a high yield on their bonds right now are countries of whom investors are afraid that they may default (partially) on their debt in the future. The higher yield is simply a risk premium.
My take is that interest rates will remain low the coming years. Probably stay between 2% and 4% on the 30 year bond.
I’ll leave you with Japan’s bond yield. Which has been below 2% for more than 15 years. I talked about Japan´s Huge Debt in another post found here. In Japan there has been almost no inflation the last two decades and there hasn’t been any fear that the government can’t pay down its debt. So far.