Inverted Yield Curve
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Yield Curve and Predicted GDP Growth, December 2012
December 28, 2012
Covering November 24–December 14, 2012
|3-month Treasury bill rate (percent)
|10-year Treasury bond rate (percent)
|Yield curve slope (basis points)
|Prediction for GDP growth (percent)
|Probability of recession in 1 year (percent)
Overview of the Latest Yield Curve Figures
Over the past month, the yield curve has gotten slightly steeper, with long rates edging up and short rates edging down. The three-month Treasury bill fell to 0.07 percent (for the week ending December 14) down from November’s 0.09 percent, itself just down from October’s 0.10 percent. The ten-year rate, at 1.69 percent, is up a scant two basis points from November’s 1.67 percent, but still remains a full ten points below October’s 1.79 percent. The slope increased to 162 basis points, up four basis points from November’s 158, but still down from the 169 basis points seen in October.
The steeper slope was not enough to have an appreciable change in projected future growth, however. Projecting forward using past values of the spread and GDP growth suggests that real GDP will grow at about a 0.6 percent rate over the next year, even with both October and November. The strong influence of the recent recession is still leading towards relatively low growth rates. Although the time horizons do not match exactly, the forecast comes in on the more pessimistic side of other predictions but like them, it does show moderate growth for the year.
The slope change had a bit more impact on the probability of a recession. Using the yield curve to predict whether or not the economy will be in recession in the future, we estimate that the expected chance of the economy being in a recession next December is 8.6 percent, down from November’s 9.2 percent, and up a bit from October’s 8.2 percent. So although our approach is somewhat pessimistic with regard to the level of growth over the next year, it is quite optimistic about the recovery continuing. We’re not sure if that lower chance of a recession counts as a gift from Santa, but we’ll take it.
The Yield Curve as a Predictor of Economic Growth
The slope of the yield curve—the difference between the yields on short- and long-term maturity bonds—has achieved some notoriety as a simple forecaster of economic growth. The rule of thumb is that an inverted yield curve (short rates above long rates) indicates a recession in about a year, and yield curve inversions have preceded each of the last seven recessions (as defined by the NBER). One of the recessions predicted by the yield curve was the most recent one. The yield curve inverted in August 2006, a bit more than a year before the current recession started in December 2007. There have been two notable false positives: an inversion in late 1966 and a very flat curve in late 1998.
More generally, a flat curve indicates weak growth, and conversely, a steep curve indicates strong growth. One measure of slope, the spread between ten-year Treasury bonds and three-month Treasury bills, bears out this relation, particularly when real GDP growth is lagged a year to line up growth with the spread that predicts it.
Predicting GDP Growth
We use past values of the yield spread and GDP growth to project what real GDP will be in the future. We typically calculate and post the prediction for real GDP growth one year forward.
Predicting the Probability of Recession
While we can use the yield curve to predict whether future GDP growth will be above or below average, it does not do so well in predicting an actual number, especially in the case of recessions. Alternatively, we can employ features of the yield curve to predict whether or not the economy will be in a recession at a given point in the future. Typically, we calculate and post the probability of recession one year forward.
Of course, it might not be advisable to take these numbers quite so literally, for two reasons. First, this probability is itself subject to error, as is the case with all statistical estimates. Second, other researchers have postulated that the underlying determinants of the yield spread today are materially different from the determinants that generated yield spreads during prior decades. Differences could arise from changes in international capital flows and inflation expectations, for example. The bottom line is that yield curves contain important information for business cycle analysis, but, like other indicators, should be interpreted with caution. For more detail on these and other issues related to using the yield curve to predict recessions, see the Commentary “Does the Yield Curve Signal Recession?” Our friends at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also maintain a website with much useful information on the topic, including their own estimate of recession probabilities.
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Real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 1.9 percent in the first quarter of 2012 after rising 3.0 percent in the
fourth quarter, according to estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The first-quarter growth rate was unchanged from the second estimate released in May.
Revisions to GDP
For the third estimate of first-quarter real GDP growth, upward revisions to net exports and business investment in structures were offset by downward revisions to consumer spending, inventory investment, and state and local government spending.
Disposable income and saving Real disposable personal income—which adjusts personal income for taxes and inflation—rose 0.7 percent in the first quarter, compared with 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter. The personal saving rate—saving as a percentage of disposable personal income—was 3.7 percent, compared with 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
The personal saving rate has declined for six quarters in a row.
Net exports increased (after decreasing in the fourth quarter), consumer spending accelerated, and residential housing investment picked up in the first quarter. These positive economic contributions, however, were more than offset by a slowdown in inventory investment.
The slowdown in inventory investment reflected a sharp downturn in the manufacturing and wholesale industries. In contrast,
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IT’S OFFICIAL: Obama Recovery Now Ranks Dead Last in Modern Times
Obama now ranks 10th of 10 recoveries in both jobs & economic growth
“…With the new June jobs report in hand, President Barack Obama’s economic recovery now ranks as the worst in modern times in terms of both job creation and economic growth, says the GOP leader of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.
Texas Congressman Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, observed that the June Employment Report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics along with the gross domestic product report released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on June 28th has marked a milestone: President Obama’s economic recovery ranks as dead last in the post-World War II era.
“Since 1945, the United States has had ten economic recoveries that lasted more than one year. In terms of both how fast the U.S. economy has recovered and how many private sector jobs have been created since the recession’s low point, President Obama now ranks tenth of ten – that’s dead last”, said Brady.
“Three years after the recession officially ended in June 2009, we still have more than four million fewer private sector jobs than we did when the recession started,” he continued. “And for the 41st consecutive month, the unemployment rate has soared above a discouraging 8%.”
Brady says that while President Obama boosts about the 4.4 million private sector jobs he claims have been created during the latest 28 months, put in perspective “President Obama’s recovery has been weaker than every one of his predecessors in the past seven decades. He can try to spin it any way he wants but when measured by jobs or by economic growth he’s at the bottom of the list.”
Last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that real GDP grew expanded by 6.7% over eleven quarters since the recession ended. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the number of private sector jobs had grown by a mere 4.1% since the cyclical low point.
In contrast, real GDP expanded by 17.6%, and private sector jobs ballooned by 10.7% during comparable periods of the Reagan recovery. “Obama’s economic record, frankly, is embarrassing,” Brady said.
“Think about it – despite President Obama’s stimulus, financial bailout, housing bailout, auto bailout, cash-for-clunkers, cash-for-caulkers and an unprecedented five trillion dollars in deficit spending, the Obama recovery is officially dead last in results. Can unemployed Americans really afford four more years of this failed economic leadership?” …”
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