When economist talk about the “yield curve” they are really just referring to a plot of yield versus varying bond maturities. An inverted curve is when the difference between the yields of long term bonds (usually 10 year) rates to short (usually 2 year) is negative (short term yields are higher than long). This is a very closely watched benchmark by knowledgeable investors because we know every recession that has occurred in the US over the past 60 years has been preceded by an inverted yield curve, according to research from the San Francisco Fed. Curve inversions have correctly signaled all nine recessions since 1955 and had only one false positive, in the mid-1960s, when an inversion was followed by an economic slowdown but not an official recession, according to the Fed’s data.
While the US yield curve is still positive (NOT inverted) the global curve just recently inverted for the first time since 2007 where its inversion lasted briefly (less than 6 months). I have not seen any studies that show if global yield curve inversion has the same strong correlation to economic slowdowns (recessions) as it has in the US, so the implications of the crossover may or may not be of significance.
As a minimum though, it raises a warning flag for investors to take the portfolio off autopilot and have a plan. There is no question, a recession, if it were to ensue around the world would likely drag the US along. Economic slowdowns are rarely ever good for stock prices and when combined with us being in the latter stages of the 2009 economic recovery cycle while stock prices are at very extended valuations, next year looks like it could be shaping up to present challenges investors have not had to face in many years.