Yield Curve Inversion - Necessary But Not Sufficient Recession Condition

By: Paul Kasriel | Wed, Dec 21, 2005
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As shown in the chart below, each of the past six recessions (shaded areas) was preceded by an inversion in the spread between the Treasury 10-year yield and the fed funds rate. But there were two other instances of inversion - 1966:Q2 through 1967:1 and 1998:Q3 through 1998:Q4 - immediately after which no recession occurred. It would appear, then, that an inverted yield curve is more of a necessary condition for a recession to occur, but not a sufficient condition. That is, if the spread goes from +25 basis points and to -25 basis points, a recession is not automatically triggered. Rather, whether an inversion results in a recession would seem to depend on the magnitude of the inversion and, to a lesser extent, the duration of it. Recession-signaling aside, the yield curve remains a reliable leading indicator of economic activity. Although the spread going from +25 basis points to -25 basis points might not result in a recession, it does indicate that monetary policy has become more restrictive. For a description of the theoretical underpinnings of why the yield spread is a leading indicator, see http://www.northerntrust.com/library/econ_research/weekly/us/pc070805.pdf. For some descriptive data on the past eight spread inversions, see the table below.

Table 1 - History of Spread Inversions
Period of Inversion* Average

Maximum Negative

Minimum Negative

1966:Q2 - 1967:Q1 -30 56 13
1968:Q3 - 1970:Q2 -102 213 15
1973:Q2 - 1974:Q3 -295 413 101
1978:Q4 - 1980:Q2 -186 313 76
1980:Q4 - 1981:Q3 -326 361 273
1989:Q1 - 1989:Q4 -72 98 23
1998:Q3 - 1998:Q4 -26 33 19
2000:Q2 - 2001:Q1 -42 63 10
* Fed funds rate above 10-yr. Treasury yield



Paul Kasriel

Author: Paul Kasriel

Paul L. Kasriel
Director of Economic Research
The Northern Trust Company
Economic Research Department
Positive Economic Commentary
"The economics of what is, rather than what you might like it to be."
50 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60675

Paul Kasriel

Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director of Economic Research in 2000. His economic and interest rate forecasts are used both internally and by clients. The accuracy of the Economic Research Department's forecasts has consistently been highly-ranked in the Blue Chip survey of about 50 forecasters over the years. To that point, Paul received the prestigious 2006 Lawrence R. Klein Award for having the most accurate economic forecast among the Blue Chip survey participants for the years 2002 through 2005. The accuracy of Paul's 2008 economic forecast was ranked in the top five of The Wall Street Journal survey panel of economists. In January 2009, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes cited Paul as one of the few who identified early on the formation of the housing bubble and foresaw the economic and financial market havoc that would ensue after the bubble inevitably burst. Through written commentaries containing his straightforward and often nonconsensus analysis of economic and financial market issues, Paul has developed a loyal following in the financial community. The Northern's economic website was listed as one of the top ten most interesting by The Wall Street Journal. Paul is the co-author of a book entitled Seven Indicators That Move Markets.

Paul began his career as a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He has taught courses in finance at the DePaul University Kellstadt Graduate School of Business and at the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Paul serves on the Economic Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association.

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