Treasury Yields: What It Is, Types, and Real-World Impacts


Treasury yields, the interest rates the U.S. government pays to borrow money for various periods, are a crucial financial indicator. This article explores what Treasury yield is, how it’s determined, and the factors influencing it. Discover why Treasury yields matter to both investors and the broader economy. Learn about the relationship between Treasury prices and yields, the Treasury yield curve, and more.

Treasury yields: What it is and why it matters

When it comes to financial indicators, Treasury yields are among the most critical. Understanding what they are and how they work is essential for both investors and those interested in the broader economic landscape. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into Treasury yields, their significance, how they’re determined, and the factors that affect them.

What is the Treasury yield?

Treasury yield is essentially the annual interest rate paid by the U.S. government on its debt obligations, expressed as a percentage. To put it simply, it’s the annual return investors can expect when holding a U.S. government security with a specific maturity date.

However, Treasury yields aren’t just numbers on a chart. They have a profound impact on how much the government pays to borrow and how much investors earn from buying government bonds. Moreover, they influence the interest rates that consumers and businesses pay for loans to finance real estate, vehicles, and equipment.

Treasury yield and the economy

Notably, Treasury yields also serve as a barometer for how investors assess the country’s economic prospects. When yields on long-term U.S. Treasuries are higher, it signals that investors have more confidence in the economic outlook. On the flip side, high long-term yields can indicate rising inflation expectations, which can have broader economic implications.

Understanding the Treasury yield

When the U.S. government needs to borrow funds, it issues various debt instruments through the U.S. Treasury. These instruments come in different forms:

  • Treasury bonds (T-bonds): These are U.S. government bonds with maturities of 20 to 30 years.
  • Treasury notes: These are government obligations with maturities above a year and up to 10 years.
  • Treasury bills (T-bills): These are Treasury obligations maturing within a year.

Each Treasury debt maturity trades at its own yield, which is an expression of price. The U.S. Treasury publishes the yields of all Treasury maturities daily on its website.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Pay back less than what you owe
  • Become debt-free in less time
  • Avoid bankruptcy
  • Negative impact on credit score
  • Additional fee accrual
  • Remains on your credit history for 7 years

How Treasury yields are determined

Treasury securities are considered the lowest-risk investments since they are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Investors who purchase Treasuries essentially lend money to the government, and the government pays interest to these bondholders. These interest payments, often referred to as coupons, represent the cost of borrowing for the government.

The rate of return, or yield, that investors receive for lending money to the government is determined by supply and demand. Treasury bonds and notes are issued at face value, which is the principal that the Treasury will repay on the maturity date. They are auctioned off to primary dealers based on bids specifying a minimum yield. If the price of these securities rises in secondary trading, the yield falls accordingly, and vice versa.

For example, if a 10-year Treasury note with a face value of $1,000 is auctioned off at a yield of 3%, a subsequent drop in its market value to $974.80 will cause the yield to rise to 3.3%. Conversely, if the same T-note’s market value were to rise to $1,026, the effective yield for a buyer at that price would have declined to 2.7%.

Treasury yield curve and the Fed

Treasury yields can go up, sending bond prices lower, if the Federal Reserve increases its target for the federal funds rate, or even if investors expect the fed funds rate to rise. However, the yields on different Treasury maturities don’t all rise at the same pace in such instances.

Typically, longer-term Treasury securities have higher yields than shorter-term ones. This is because the longer duration of these securities exposes them to more risk if interest rates rise over time. In advance of recessions, the rate structure of Treasury yields can invert. An inverted yield curve occurs when the yields on longer-term Treasuries fall below those on short-term ones, indicating investor expectations of an economic slowdown.

An inverted yield curve, where the yield on the 10-year Treasury note has declined below that of the 2-year Treasury note, has often preceded recessions. However, it has also provided a few false alarms.

Yield on Treasury bills

While Treasury notes and bonds offer coupon payments to bondholders, T-bills are similar to zero-coupon bonds with no interest payments. They are issued at a discount to par value. An investor purchases the bill at a weekly auction below face value and redeems it at maturity at face value. The difference between the face value and the purchase price represents interest earned, which can be used to calculate a Treasury bill’s yield.

The Treasury Department uses two methods to calculate the yield on T-bills: the discount method and the investment method. Under the discount method, the yield is calculated as a percent of the face value. Under the investment method, the yield is calculated as a percent of the purchase price.

Note that the two methods use different numbers for days in a year. The discount method is based on 360 days, while the investment method uses the number of days in a calendar year, typically 365 or 366.

Yield on Treasury notes and bonds

When it comes to Treasury notes and bonds, the rate of return for investors considers the coupon payments received semi-annually and the face value of the bond repaid at maturity. These securities can be purchased at par, at a discount, or at a premium, depending on the yield at the time of purchase compared to the yield when issued.

The formula for calculating the Treasury yield on notes and bonds held to maturity is:

Treasury yield = [C + ((FV – PP) / T)] ÷ [(FV + PP)/2]


C = coupon rate

FV = face value

PP = purchase price

T = years to maturity

For example, the yield on a 10-year note with a 3% coupon purchased at a premium for $10,300 and held to maturity is calculated as follows:

Treasury yield = [$300 + (($10,000 – $10,300) / 10)] ÷ [($10,000 + $10,300) / 2] = $270 / $10,150 = 2.66%

Factors affecting Treasury yields

Several factors influence Treasury yields. Let’s take a closer look at the key determinants:

Economic conditions

The state of the economy plays a significant role in influencing Treasury yields. In periods of economic growth and stability, investors may seek higher returns in riskier investments, leading to lower demand for Treasuries and, subsequently, higher yields.

Conversely, during economic downturns or uncertainty, investors often flock to the safety of Treasuries, driving up demand and causing yields to fall.

Inflation expectations

Inflation erodes the purchasing power of fixed-income investments. When investors anticipate rising inflation, they may demand higher yields to compensate for the diminishing real value of their future interest payments.

Conversely, if inflation expectations are low, investors may accept lower yields on Treasuries.

Monetary policy

The actions of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, can significantly impact Treasury yields. When the Fed raises interest rates (tightens monetary policy), it can lead to higher yields on Treasuries, particularly on short-term maturities.

On the other hand, when the Fed lowers interest rates (eases monetary policy), it can put downward pressure on Treasury yields.

Global economic events

Global events and economic conditions can also affect Treasury yields. A crisis or economic turmoil in another country may lead to increased demand for U.S. Treasuries, pushing yields lower.

Conversely, a stronger global economy or events that reduce the attractiveness of U.S. Treasuries can result in higher yields.

Supply and demand

The basic principles of supply and demand apply to Treasury yields. If there is an oversupply of Treasuries in the market, yields may rise as investors demand higher returns to hold them. Conversely, a shortage of Treasuries may push yields lower.

How Treasury yields affect investments

Treasury yields are a critical benchmark for various investment decisions. Investors often compare the yields on government bonds to those of other fixed-income investments to determine their relative attractiveness. Here’s how Treasury yields can affect investment choices:

Comparing Treasury yields with other bonds

Investors frequently evaluate Treasury yields in relation to other bonds, such as corporate bonds or municipal bonds. When Treasury yields are substantially higher, investors may opt for the perceived safety of government bonds. Conversely, if corporate bonds offer more attractive yields, investors may be inclined to take on more risk for potentially higher returns.

Impact on stock market

Treasury yields can influence stock market performance. When Treasury yields rise, fixed-income investments become more appealing in comparison to stocks. This can lead to a shift in investor sentiment, potentially impacting stock prices. Understanding the relationship between Treasury yields and stock market movements is vital for investors.

Real-world example: Treasury yield curve inversions

One of the most discussed phenomena related to Treasury yields is the yield curve inversion. This occurs when short-term yields are higher than long-term yields. An inverted yield curve can signal economic uncertainty and is closely watched by investors and economists.

For instance, in 2019, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note briefly fell below the yield on the 2-year Treasury note. This inversion sparked concerns of an impending economic recession. Investors reacted by shifting their investments towards safer assets, such as long-term Treasuries and gold, causing their prices to rise.

The Federal Reserve also took note and adjusted its monetary policy to counter potential economic challenges. The yield curve inversion highlighted the real-world impact of Treasury yields on financial markets and economic decisions.

Global influence on Treasury yields

Treasury yields aren’t solely shaped by domestic factors. Global events and conditions can significantly affect U.S. Treasury yields. Investors around the world consider U.S. Treasuries a safe haven during times of uncertainty. Here’s how global factors can influence Treasury yields:

Global economic crises

During global economic crises, investors often flock to U.S. Treasuries as a refuge. For example, the 2008 financial crisis prompted a surge in demand for U.S. government bonds. The increased demand drove up bond prices, causing yields to drop. It highlighted how U.S. Treasury yields can be influenced by global financial instability.

Foreign investment

Foreign investors play a substantial role in the U.S. Treasury market. When the U.S. offers attractive yields compared to other countries, foreign investors may increase their holdings of U.S. Treasuries. The resulting demand can impact yields and influence the broader financial landscape.

Conversely, if global conditions lead to a decrease in foreign investment, it can lead to higher yields on U.S. Treasuries as supply outstrips demand. This dynamic underscores the interconnectedness of the global economy and Treasury yields.

The role of Treasury yields in fiscal policy

Treasury yields also hold a critical role in the fiscal policy of the U.S. government. The government’s borrowing costs are closely tied to the prevailing Treasury yields. Here’s how it affects fiscal decisions:

Budget planning

Understanding the current and projected Treasury yields is vital for government budget planning. Lower yields can reduce the interest costs on government debt, potentially leading to lower deficits. On the other hand, rising yields can increase borrowing costs, affecting the federal budget.

Impact on debt issuance

The government adjusts the timing and size of debt issuance based on Treasury yields. When yields are low, it may be an opportune time to issue long-term bonds to lock in favorable rates. Conversely, when yields are high, the government might issue shorter-term debt to reduce interest rate risk.

The relationship between Treasury yields and fiscal policy showcases the intricate connection between financial markets and government decision-making.


Understanding Treasury yields is essential for anyone interested in finance, investments, or economics. These rates not only reflect the cost of government borrowing but also impact the broader financial landscape. As we’ve explored, Treasury yields are influenced by various factors, including economic conditions, inflation expectations, monetary policy, global events, and supply and demand.

Investors and policymakers closely monitor Treasury yields to gain insights into the state of the economy and make informed financial decisions. As an individual, staying informed about Treasury yields can help you make better investment choices and navigate the complex world of finance with greater confidence.

Frequently asked questions

What are the different types of Treasury securities?

Treasury securities come in various forms, including Treasury Bonds (T-bonds) with maturities of 20 to 30 years, Treasury Notes with maturities above one year and up to 10 years, and Treasury Bills (T-bills) maturing within a year. Each of these securities carries its own yield, which represents the interest rate they pay.

How is the Treasury yield determined?

The yield of a Treasury security is determined by supply and demand in the market. When the U.S. Treasury auctions off these securities, they specify a minimum yield based on the bids they receive from primary dealers. If the market price of the security changes, the yield adjusts accordingly. For example, if the price goes up, the yield falls, and vice versa.

Why do Treasury yields matter to the economy?

Treasury yields are an essential economic barometer. High long-term yields may indicate strong investor confidence in the economy. Conversely, they can signal rising inflation expectations, which could have a broader economic impact. Additionally, they influence the interest rates consumers and businesses pay for loans.

How do Treasury yields affect investment choices?

Treasury yields are a benchmark for various investment decisions. Investors often compare them to the yields of corporate or municipal bonds. When Treasury yields are substantially higher, investors may choose government bonds for their safety. If corporate bonds offer better returns, investors might take on more risk for potential higher gains.

What is the significance of a yield curve inversion?

An inverted yield curve, where short-term Treasury yields are higher than long-term ones, often precedes economic recessions. This phenomenon is closely watched by investors and economists. In 2019, an inversion raised concerns of an impending recession, impacting investment decisions and policy adjustments.

How do global events impact U.S. Treasury yields?

Global economic events and conditions can significantly affect Treasury yields. During global crises, investors tend to flock to U.S. Treasuries as a safe haven, lowering yields. Conversely, if the global economy is strong or U.S. Treasuries become less attractive, yields may rise due to changes in supply and demand influenced by foreign investors.

Key takeaways

  • Treasury yields represent the interest rates the U.S. government pays on its debt obligations and are expressed as percentages.
  • They are inversely related to Treasury prices, and each Treasury debt maturity trades at its yield.
  • Economic conditions, inflation expectations, monetary policy, global events, and supply and demand all influence Treasury yields.
  • Understanding Treasury yields is crucial for making informed investment decisions and monitoring economic trends.
View article sources
  1. Daily Treasury Par Yield Curve Rates – US Department of the Treasuary
  2. Interest Rates and Prices – TreasuryDirect
  3. Market Yield on U.S. Treasury Securities at 10-Year Constant … Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis