Visualizing (and Understanding) an Inverted Yield Curve
Visualizing (and Understanding) an Inverted Yield Curve
For a few months in 2019, the yield curve inverted and warned of a potential recession.
Towards the end of 2021, it happened again. And throughout 2022, the inverted yield curve has looked more and more extreme. So what does an inverted yield curve look like, and what does it signal about an economy?
The above visualization from James Eagle shows the yield curve from November 2021-2022 using eurodollar futures yields—which serve as an indicator for the direction of the yield curve.
What Denotes an Inverted Yield Curve?
Generally speaking, the yield curve is a line chart that plots interest rates for bonds that have equal credit quality, but different maturity dates.
In normal economic conditions, investors are rewarded with higher interest rates for holding bonds over longer time periods, resulting in an upward sloping yield curve. This is because these longer returns factor in the risk of inflation or default over time.
So when interest rates on long-term bonds fall lower than those of short-term bonds, it results in an inverted yield curve.
The worrying trend is that an inverted yield curve in key government securities such as U.S. Treasuries can often foreshadow a recession. For every recession since 1960, an inverted yield curve took place roughly a year before, with just one exception in the mid-1960s.
This is because the yield curve has steep implications for financial markets. If the market predicts economic turbulence, and that interest rates will fall in the long term, investors flock to buy longer-dated bonds.
Eurodollars: A Hedging Tool
Let’s now look at eurodollar futures, as seen in the above visual.
Eurodollars are not to be confused with euros, the currency in the European Union. Instead, they are U.S. dollars held in term deposits outside of the United States. Originally it applied to accounts specifically in Europe, hence the “euro” prefix.
The video above charts eurodollar futures, which allow banks and companies to secure interest rates today for USD funds they plan to lend or borrow at a future date. In short, the yields on these futures can tell us how banks and companies around the world feel about interest rates—and economic strength.
How The Yield Curve’s Inversion Has Gotten More Extreme
The animation above clearly shows how the yield curve hasn’t just inverted, it has become more severe:
|Date||Yield Curve||Example Eurodollar Futures Yield|
|Jan-Feb 2022||Upward Sloping||Mar 2023: 1.3%
Mar 2024: 2.0%
|Mar-Aug 2022||Flat||Mar 2023: 2.5%
Mar 2024: 2.5%
|Sep-Nov 2022||Downward Sloping||Mar 2023: 5.0%
Mar 2024: 4.0%
As the above examples show, yields on March 2023 eurodollar futures contracts have continued to rise over the course of the year—from 1.3% to 5.0% by November.
Meanwhile, March 2024 eurodollar futures yields over the same time period began higher than their 2023 counterparts but eventually became eclipsed.
And more immediately, December 2022 eurodollar futures yields in November were much higher than 2024 yields. Not only does this indicate investor pessimism, it suggests that the market expects interest rates to fall by 2024 and for inflation to decline.
The Flip Side
On the other hand, market expectations of looser monetary policy in the future could miss the mark.
“I suspect the market is getting a little ahead of itself in terms of pricing in cuts… Central banks have still been talking about holding rates at higher levels for longer.”
– Andrew Ticehurst, rates strategist for Nomura Inc.
As 2023 unfolds, investors will be watching closely to see if the inverted yield curve indeed serves as a recession harbinger, and the wider consequences of this potential outcome.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023
How free are people to control their own labor, property, and finances? This map reveals the state of economic freedom globally.
Mapped: The State of Economic Freedom in 2023
The concept of economic freedom serves as a vital framework for evaluating the extent to which individuals and businesses have the freedom to make economic decisions. In countries with low economic freedom, governments exert coercion and constraints on liberties, restricting choice for individuals and businesses, which can ultimately hinder prosperity.
The map above uses the annual Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation to showcase the level of economic freedom in every country worldwide on a scale of 0-100, looking at factors like property rights, tax burdens, labor freedom, and so on.
The ranking categorizing scores of 80+ as free economies, 70-79.9 as mostly free, 60-69.9 as moderately free, 50-59.9 as mostly unfree, and 0-49.9 as repressed.
Measuring Economic Freedom
This ranking uses four broad categories with three key indicators each, both qualitative and quantitative, to measure economic freedom.
- Rule of law: property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity
- Size of government: tax burdens, fiscal health, government spending
- Regulatory efficiency: labor freedom, monetary freedom, business freedom
- Open markets: financial freedom, trade freedom, investment freedom
The 12 indicators are weighted equally and scored from 0-100. The overall score is then determined from the average of the 12 indicators.
Here’s a closer look at every country’s score:
|#5||🇳🇿 New Zealand||78.9|
|#15||🇰🇷 South Korea||73.7|
|#24||🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||70.9|
|#25||🇺🇸 United States||70.6|
|#28||🇬🇧 United Kingdom||69.9|
|#45||🇨🇷 Costa Rica||66.5|
|#47||🇨🇻 Cabo Verde||65.8|
|#48||🇧🇳 Brunei Darussalam||65.7|
|#56||🇲🇰 North Macedonia||63.7|
|#59||🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||63.5|
|#63||🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||62.9|
|#65||🇩🇴 Dominican Republic||62.6|
|#66||🇧🇸 The Bahamas||62.6|
|#74||🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe||61.5|
|#79||🇱🇨 Saint Lucia||60.7|
|#81||🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire||60.4|
|#88||🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago||59.5|
|#98||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||58.3|
|#101||🇬🇲 The Gambia||57.9|
|#107||🇸🇧 Solomon Islands||56.9|
|#111||🇧🇫 Burkina Faso||56.2|
|#114||🇸🇻 El Salvador||56.0|
|#116||🇿🇦 South Africa||55.7|
|#136||🇱🇰 Sri Lanka||52.2|
|#140||🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea||51.7|
|#148||🇸🇱 Sierra Leone||50.2|
|#153||🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea||48.3|
|#157||🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo||47.9|
|#166||🇨🇫 Central African Republic||43.8|
|#176||🇰🇵 North Korea||2.9|
Only four countries in the world have a score of 80 or above, Ireland, Singapore, Switzerland, and Taiwan, categorizing them as completely free economically.
Let’s now look at things from a more regional perspective.
From a regional perspective, Europe ranks the strongest in economic freedom.
Despite being a powerhouse within Europe, Germany ranks 10th in the continent, with a score of 73.7. One of the categories Germany scored the weakest in was government spending (28.3/100). Over the last three years, government spending has averaged 49% of GDP.
Ireland ranks third globally, scoring particularly high in categories like property rights and judicial effectiveness. The country also has no minimum capital requirement—which is typically a banking regulation and corporate law issue determining how many assets an organization must hold—making it attractive for businesses to set up shop on the Emerald Isle.
Currently, Africa is the continent with the least economic freedom in the world, however, it is also the region with the highest potential for economic growth. A booming population, and thus, labor force, are promising for future innovation. In fact, it’s anticipated that Africa will see an increase of 2.5 billion people by the end of the century.
The lowest scoring country in Africa is Sudan, a country under further strain thanks to rife civil conflict. Historically, economic development has been constrained by rampant corruption and a lack of institutional capacity.
Conversely, Botswana registered the highest score on continental Africa (64.9), ranking higher than countries like France and Italy.
In the Americas, the United States ranks 3rd regionally—25th overall—with a score of 70.6. The report attributes the categorization of U.S. as only “mostly free” to issues like inflation, increasing government debt, and unchecked deficit spending. Public debt currently sits at a figure equivalent to more than 128% of GDP.
In South America, Chile comes out on top, ranking above many other economic powerhouses like the U.S., the UK, and Japan. However, the 2021 election of a new Constitutional Assembly could risk the current economic state, as it favors a much more socialist approach to the economy.
East Asia and Oceania
China’s score is among the lowest in East Asia & Oceania, ranking 154th in the world categorizing it as a repressed economy. The ruling Chinese Communist Party routinely exercises direct control over economic activity. China’s protectionist stance towards foreign investment and a plethora of trade tariffs imposed by other nations also factor in here.
In India, where public debt is equivalent to about 84% of GDP, fiscal health is the worst-scoring category. Additionally, much of the economy remains quite informal; a large share of people work in jobs without tax slips, recorded income, or formal contracts protecting them, which challenges labor freedoms.
The Middle East and Central Asia
It may come as no surprise that the United Arab Emirates has the highest score in the Middle East. The UAE has implemented various measures and initiatives, such as tax exemptions, duty-free zones, streamlined business registration processes, and flexible regulatory frameworks to encourage entrepreneurship and foreign direct investment. As well, the top individual and corporate tax rates in the country are 0%.
Türkiye’s lowest scoring category relates to judiciary effectiveness and the rule of law. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has already been in power for two decades, recently won the country’s election, again cementing his authority over Turkish politics. This makes it unlikely that Türkiye’s economic freedom score will recover in the short to medium term.
Where Does This Data Come From?
Source: The Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage Foundation
Data notes: A number of countries were not ranked due to unavailable data or other factors, like ongoing war, that made it difficult to properly assess the economy. These countries include: Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Liechtenstein, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.
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