What Is the Treasury Yield?

What Is the Treasury Yield?

6 Min.

Treasury yields refer to the interest rates paid by the U.S. Government to borrow money for varying periods. These yields are inversely related to Treasury prices and are used to price and trade fixed-income securities such as Treasuries. Treasury securities with different maturities have varying yields, with longer-term securities typically having higher yields than shorter-term ones. The yields on Treasury securities reflect investors' assessments of the economy's prospects. Higher yields on long-term instruments indicate a more optimistic outlook and higher inflation expectations.


The Treasury yield signifies the annual interest rate the U.S. government disburses for one of its debt obligations, articulated as a percentage. In essence, it delineates the yearly return investors anticipate from retaining a U.S. government security with a specified maturity.

Beyond impacting government borrowing costs and investor returns from bonds, Treasury yields wield influence over the interest rates applicable to consumer and business loans for real estate, automobiles, and equipment acquisitions. Additionally, Treasury yields serve as a barometer for investors evaluating the economic trajectory. Elevated yields on extended-term U.S. Treasuries reflect heightened investor confidence in the economic outlook. Conversely, heightened long-term yields may also indicate burgeoning expectations of inflation.

What Are Treasury Yields?

When necessitating financial resources, the U.S. government employs the U.S. Treasury to release debt instruments. While the general term for debt securities is bonds, Treasury bonds, or T-bonds, distinctly denote U.S. government bonds with a maturity range of 20 to 30 years. Treasury notes represent U.S. government obligations with maturities surpassing a year but not exceeding 10 years. Treasury bills, or T-bills, are Treasury obligations maturing within a year.

Treasury yields exhibit an inverse correlation with Treasury prices. Each maturity of Treasury debt trades with its corresponding yield, reflecting its price. The U.S. Treasury provides daily updates on the yields for all Treasury maturities on its official website.

Determining Treasury Yields

Treasuries, regarded as the least risky investments due to U.S. government backing, involve investors lending money to the government. The government reciprocates by paying interest, known as coupons, which signifies its borrowing cost. The yield, or investor's return, for lending to the government is dictated by the interplay of supply and demand.

Treasury bonds and notes, issued at face value representing the principal repaid on maturity, are auctioned to primary dealers. Bids from these dealers specify a minimum yield. In secondary trading, a rise in security price leads to a corresponding drop in yield and vice versa.

Illustratively, a $1,000 face value 10-year T-note auctioned at a 3% yield, falling in market value to $974.80, prompts the yield to climb to 3.3%. The Treasury continues annual $30 ($1,000 x .03) coupon payments alongside the $1,000 principal repayment. Conversely, if the T-note's market value ascends to $1,026, the effective yield for the buyer drops to 2.7%.

Treasury Yield Dynamics and Federal Influence

Alterations in the Federal Reserve's target for the federal funds rate, signaling a potential tightening of monetary policy, can lead to an ascent in Treasury yields, subsequently diminishing bond prices. This shift may transpire even if there's mere anticipation among investors of an impending rise in the fed funds rate.

In such circumstances, the pace of increase in yields across various Treasury maturities diverges. The direct impact is observed on the shortest-term Treasury maturities influenced by the fed funds rate, representing the rate at which banks lend to each other overnight. Conversely, the prices and yields of longer-term maturities tend to mirror investors' extended economic outlook. Historical instances of Fed rate hikes reveal a pattern where short-term yields outpace longer-term ones, reflecting investor expectations of a slowdown in economic growth due to the Fed's policy.

While conventional wisdom dictates that longer-term Treasury securities should offer higher yields due to increased risk exposure to rising interest rates, economic uncertainties can lead to an inverted yield curve before recessions. This inversion occurs when yields on longer-term Treasuries dip below those on short-term counterparts, signaling investor anticipation of an economic deceleration. An inverted yield curve, notably when the yield on the 10-year Treasury note falls below that on the 2-year Treasury note, often precedes economic downturns, though it has also triggered some false alarms.

Treasury Bill Yields

Distinct from Treasury notes and bonds with regular coupon payments, Treasury bills (T-bills) function akin to zero-coupon bonds. Issued at a discount to par, T-bills lack interest payments but are redeemed at face value upon maturity. The interest earned, representing the discrepancy between face value and purchase price, determines the T-bill's yield, calculated through two Treasury Department methods: discount and investment.

In the discount method, the yield is computed as a percentage of the face value, not the purchase value. For instance, acquiring 90-day T-bills with a $10,000 face value for $9,950 results in a 2% yield:

Discount Yield = [(10,000 - 9,950) / 10,000] x (360/90) = 0.02, or 2%

Conversely, the investment yield method calculates the Treasury yield as a percentage of the purchase price, not the face value. Using the same example:

Investment Yield = [(10,000 - $9,950) / $9,950] x (365/90) = 0.0204 rounded, or 2.04%

Notably, the two methods employ different year-day counts. The discount method relies on 360 days, aligning with banking conventions for short-term interest rates and how T-bill rates are quoted in secondary markets. In contrast, the investment yield method adopts 365 or 366 calendar days, offering a more accurate representation of buyer returns and facilitating comparisons with coupon securities maturing on the same date.

Treasury Notes and Bonds: Unraveling Yield Dynamics

The return rate for investors holding Treasury notes and bonds is intricately tied to semi-annual coupon payments and the face value repaid at maturity. Whether purchased at par, discount, or premium hinges on the yield at acquisition compared to the initial yield.

If acquired at par, the yield equals the coupon rate. Purchasing at a discount yields a rate higher than the coupon, while a premium purchase results in a lower rate.

The formula for computing the Treasury yield on held-to-maturity notes and bonds is expressed as:

Treasury Yield = [C + ((FV - PP) / T)] ÷ [(FV + PP)/2]


  • C =  coupon rate
  • FV = face value
  • PP = purchase price
  • T = years to maturity  

The yield on a 10-year note with 3% coupon purchased at a premium for $10,300 and held to maturity is:

Treasury Yield = [$300 + (($10,000 - $10,300) / 10)] ÷ [($10,000 + $10,300) / 2] = $270 / $10,150 = .0266 rounded, or 2.66%


The price of a Treasury security finds expression through its yield, as Treasuries are valued, cited, and exchanged using yield as a pricing indicator. Treasuries, deemed relatively low-risk when held until maturity, present a subdued rate of return compared to many alternative investments. Rates on other fixed-income assets are occasionally articulated as differentials above the Treasury yield for the same maturity. This differential compensates investors for the elevated credit risk of lending to entities beyond the U.S. government.

Longer-term Treasury securities typically yield higher returns than short-term securities to offset duration risk from rising interest rates. Instances of short-term rates surpassing longer-term ones signal an inverted yield curve, potentially indicating an economic deceleration.

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