Tag Archives: Federal Reserve

Does The Inversion Of The Yield Curve Signal a Recession?

An inverted yield curve is one of the few indicators that before have always correctly signalled an upcoming recession. An inverted yield curve happens when the yield on 10 year treasuries is below the yield on 2 year treasuries (sometimes called the “2s10s”). The 2-10 year yield curve is the most common people view. Currently the 2-10 year yield curve is positive after it turned negative for the first time since 2007 at the end of August.

Yield Curve Inversion
Yield Curve Inversion

In the past a negative yield curve has always signalled that a recession could happen in the next 1 to 2 years. Note from the chart below that the curve can be at or below zero for a long period before a recession happens. Furthermore from the chart it looks like a rapidly steeping yield curve signals a recession is close.

Yield curve inversion long term chart
Long term chart of the yield curve

The question arises will an inverted yield curve signal a recession this time? A big difference in my opinion with other times is that this time the yield curve is watched by a lot of participants in the market and so a lot of stories are published about it.

Stories mentioning "yield curve"
Stories mentioning “yield curve”

From the mainstream media such as Drudge Report.

Drudge report yield curve inversion recession
Screenshot of the frontpage of Drudge Report on August 14, 2019

To the president of The United States who even talks about a “crazy” inverted yield curve.

Donald Trump President of The United States Tweets on the Yield Curve Inversion
Tweets from the president of the United States Donald Trump mentioning the yield curve inversion

And even members of the Federal Reserve such as Atlanta Federal Reserve President Bostic (picture below) and Neel Kashkari (in a post on Medium here) the President of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve are openly talking about the inversion of the yield curve and what it means for the economy.

Federal Reserve Bostic Yield Curve Inversion
Headlines from Fed’s Bostic on May 16, 2018

It remains to be seen whether the signal works this time.

Historical View Of Federal Reserve Balance Sheet

The balance sheet of the Federal Reserve has been big in the past as can be seen in the below chart. This chart depicts the balance sheet to GDP ratio of the Federal Reserve from 1913 till 2012. The Federal Reserve was created in the year 1913.

After the crash of 1929 the balance sheet had to be increased in order to save the economy. The balance sheet to GDP ratio hit a high of 23% right at the start of World War II. Since then it had slowly trended lower to 5% of GDP until the financial crisis of 2008 hit.

Historical View of Federal Reserve Balance Sheet
Historical View of Federal Reserve Balance Sheet

Here is a chart which has the balance sheet since today. As can be seen from the chart is that the Fed’s balance sheet started rising after the financial crisis and hit a high of $ 4.4 trillion in 2014 when the Fed ended the QE program. In 2018 the Fed chose to unwind the balance sheet.

Federal Reserve Balance Sheet 2003 - 2019
Federal Reserve Balance Sheet 2003 – 2019

Right now the Federal Reserve balance sheet to GDP ratio sits around 18% after having hit a high of 25% in 2014. This is explained by the Fed unwinding the balance sheet from 2018 and the rise in US GDP.

Federal Reserve Balance Sheet to GDP 2003 - 2019
Federal Reserve Balance Sheet to GDP 2003 – 2019