Bond Yield Inversion vs. SPX

TVC:US03MY   US 3M yield
This is nothing new, really. People who have been in markets long enough know that when short term bond yields (3 month and 2 year, for example) come up to meet and invert to a higher yield than longer term bonds (like the 10 year, 30 year etc) that it often precedes a large market sell off as well as a recession that affects most everyone, not just stock prices.

On this graph, I maybe got a little carried away. I have the 1 month, 3 month, 1 year, 2 year, 10 year and 30 year as well as the actual Fed Funds rate with SPX in the background.

This goes back to the mid 1990s, you can see the dotcom boom, you see the yields invert, SPX tops and then takes near 3 years to finally find bottom before reversing course.

Unfortunately for long only stock holders, the treasury yields started to climb with stocks as well until they inverted in 2007 once more. Stocks started to come down, and, well, then 2008 happened...

You can see that in general, the fed funds and the shorter term yields find a plateau at their top, tend to stay there for awhile (sometimes for a whole year), then as they start to come back down, the stock market tends to be near its highs, and then the stock market starts to come down.

Big money tends to see higher treasury yields as a safer haven for their money than stocks at this point. If you have the ability to hold the treasury to expiration, you're guaranteed to get 100% of the money back plus whatever the yield % was at time of purchase as interest paid to you by the government.

Furthermore, there is an inverse relationship between bond yield percentage going up, and the value of bonds on the open market. As yields go up, the value of bonds goes down. Vice versa, as yields start to retract, bond values go up. So, there is high incentive to start buying a lot of bonds as the rates plateau near the top. Maybe some of these large hedges start to sell some equities as a hedge and buy more bonds as we get to that point. Rebalance their portfolio to be more bond-heavy.

Higher short term yields, higher fed funds rate also generally mean that the cost to borrow money for anyone is higher. Higher interest rates means more money out of the pocket of anyone borrowing to pay interest. Bonds themselves are just government debt.

The stock market is generally forward looking, so it's often making moves in response to moves in the bond market before main street really starts to feel the effects of the tightening in a meaningful sense. As time has gone on, it seems the market is reacting earlier and earlier to rate hike cycles.

Take 2018 for example, the yields didn't really invert until they all were already on their way back down. 2018 had volmeggedon to deal with to start the year, then came back, set a new high, then had a very rough second half of the year as bond yields plateaued. But, as the market saw that this small rate hike cycle didn't do any meaningful harm to the economy and started retracting, stocks took off again:

Then COVID happened, yields plummet, cost to borrow was as cheap as it ever has been, the government pumped money everywhere to try and prevent a complete collapse of everything, stocks were off to the races harder than ever before after finding bottom just a few weeks into the pandemic.

But, mentioning the market kind-of getting ahead of itself again, we had all of 2022, as it became apparent that inflation was now raging and bigger rate hikes than we've seen since the Great Financial Crisis would be necessary, the stock market sold off despite the economy still showing very solid recovery out of the pandemic.

But now, treasury yields are still climbing, but so are stocks. Treasuries hit a little hiccup in March as a couple regional banks were found to be overlevered in treasuries that had too low of a yield, and as more people began withdrawing money and those banks needed liquidity, they had to sell those treasuries at a loss. If they didn't have to come up with that liquidity and were able to allow those treasuries to mature, they make that small percent of interest for holding them. But because they were forced to sell them as treasury values were at a low because they had inadequate liquidity to cover deposits being withdrawn.

But, now maybe surprisingly, despite some of the troubles and the market sell off for most of 2022, we're now not all that far off of SPX 's highs from the end of 2021, start of 2022. But, we still don't know what the full effect of the current high interest rates are going to be. It's possible the old mechanism where when we finally reach the top for interest rates, right as we get the precipice of rates starting to fall, equities top out and start to sell off shortly thereafter again. For how big and how long? Who knows.

Despite the recent 'skip' from the federal reserve, opting to not hike at the June meeting, the 3 month yield, which typically is what most closely matches/leads what the fed is going to hike to, has in recent days made it look increasingly likely that we see at least a quarter point hike for July. The market probably won't like that news, maybe we get a few red days, but if economy data coming in still looks solid and inflation is showing a slow, steady reduction, it may not be long before the market decides to go back up again. We might even go past the 2021/early 2022 highs this year.

But, eventually, we'll find the top for yields, and I have a feeling a bigger correction for stocks will loom at that point. For right now, seems like a bad idea to go against the bulls. But, keep an eye out for when we finally reach the top in treasury yields, look in particular for the 3 month, fed funds and the 2 year to go sideways. Once all 3 start to go down, pay closer attention to economic data coming in. Also take a look at  ]VIX/VVIX for evidence of lower highs off the lowest point for the current cycle. You see the combination of the two, we may be in for a big correction. Again.

The information and publications are not meant to be, and do not constitute, financial, investment, trading, or other types of advice or recommendations supplied or endorsed by TradingView. Read more in the Terms of Use.