Tick by tick by tick, yields on long-term U.S. government bonds are heading higher and back near levels last seen in November.
And the rise in yield to a 6-month high is giving investors a little bit of a scare.
On Monday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note ticked up as high as 2.28%, up from around 2% in late April. It resumed its upward move again in early trading today, with yields jumping to 2.355%, the highest level since late November.
The bump up in yields began earlier this month amid fears of a Federal Reserve rate hike, and a sharp rise in rock-bottom government bond yields in Germany, which nearly hit 0%, at a time there were early signs of economic improvement in the eurozone and a resulting drop in global deflation fears. The selloff in global bond markets is due in large part to investors being less pessimistic about future growth potential in Europe, which means traders are unwinding many of the trades that were working earlier in the year, such as buying German government bonds.
Higher yields cause all sorts of headaches. When the yield on the 10-year note goes up, it means borrowers have to pay more for money they borrow on things like mortgages and student loans. A quarter of a percentage point rise won’t break the bank, but it does mean you’ll have to cough up an additional $15 a month for each $100,000 in mortgage debt. But if rates jump further, which Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen has said is possible once the U.S. central bank starts to hike short-term rates, the financial bite could become more painful.
A sharp rise in yields also tends to spook stock investors. Not only do rising bond yields make stocks, especially ones purchased mainly for their dividend yields, appear less attractive, but higher borrowing costs at some point could cause economic activity to slow, and crimp corporate earnings.
In pre-market trading, at 7:15 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 131 points. The early selloff is due to rising bond yields and a stock market selloff in Europe, where the German stock market is off 1.7% in trading today, following a two-day rally.
With the 10-year Treasury now trading around 2.35%, it is nearing the 2.4% yield currently being paid out by companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and is now well above the overall 1.96 % yield of the entire large-company stock index.
For now, the yield on the 10-year note is still well below where it has been historically, so the pain will be felt less. Still, today’s yield spike marks the first time the 10-year yield has hit 2.35% since Nov. 20.
The 52-week high for the 10-year Treasury was 2.69% on July 3, 2014.