The inverted yield curve as a harbinger
of higher gold prices
(Grey vertical bars indicate recessions.)
During the course of the past several weeks, we have heard much about the inverted yield curve in three-month and ten-year Treasuries as a harbinger of recessions. Missed in the press reports is the fact that it has also been a harbinger of higher gold prices. In the chart above, please note the upward surges in the price of gold in the five-year periods following the two most recent yield inversions in 2000 and 2006. The first occurred with gold trading in the $300 range. It subsequently rose to the $600-650 level in 2006. The second occurred with gold priced in the $600-650 range. It subsequently rose to over $1900 per ounce in 2011 – its all-time high.
“Ominously,” writes Robin Wigglesworth and Joe Rennison in a recent Financial Times editorial, “the US yield curve has now inverted once again, with the 10-year Treasury yield on March 22 dipping below the three-month T-bill yield for the first time since 2007. Combined with the length of the post-crisis expansion — this summer it will become the longest growth spurt in US history — and deteriorating economic data, the inverted yield curve has stirred fears that the countdown to the next downturn has already begun.”
Peter Fisher, formerly head of fixed income at BlackRock and currently a professor at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, puts it succinctly in that same Financial Times editorial. “The mistake,” he says, “is to think it [an inverted yield curve] is a predictor of recessions. I think it causes recessions.” The rise in the price of gold following the two prior instances of yield inversion, it is now well understood, came in response to aggressive central bank monetary easing and the sudden emergence of credit-related systemic risks.