Rates on the 10-year are back below 2% on a "flight to safety" today. That sounds kind of buzzy but what does it really mean? Let's take a look at what everyone's freaking out over today.
There's not much movement in the three month chart. In fact you can see in the middle of October the interest rate actually got as low as 1.86% for a moment last fall. As it happens, that's just about where we're bottoming this morning.
These sound like microscopic changes, and they are in an absolute sense but remember this is the rate of "risk free money" in the US. Arguably every other asset in the world from crude oil to Big Macs is priced relative to United State's borrowing cost. Little changes are a big deal.
Here's where it gets weird. If we look at a five year chart you can see about two years where the Interest rate on the 10-year was under 2%. That was the heart of Quantitative Easing. Ever since then the Fed has been talking about raising rates but the market has kinda begged to differ.
Finally the Big Daddy of charts: more than 50 years of data on the Interest rates of 10-year notes. It's basically a history of modern America. You can see the rise from JFK to early Ronald Reagan; rising interest rates and inflation for two decades followed by this ENORMOUS slide.
In the summer of 1981 the U.S. was begging people to borrow money. Nearly 20% interest rates for just ten years. Since then there have been fluctuations but for the most part it's been 30 years of rates falling. For people on the other side of this trade these declines are too much of a good thing.