If you think the short end of the curve is controlled primarily by the Federal Reserve, the long end is traditionally controlled by expectations about growth and inflation. If you assume modest GDP growth of, say, 2.5 percent, and inflation remaining below the 2 percent Fed target, does that conform with this recent rise in bond yields, with the 10-year at 2.31 percent?
If you believe the market is moving on fundamentals, then the sudden rise seems to imply that the market is pricing in either stronger growth or stronger inflation.
The problem is, it's not clear that the rise is due to fundamental issues in the United States.
There's clearly some influence from European bonds. The yield spread has been decreasing between U.S. and German bonds, creating a relative value spread. Simply put, when the spread narrows there is less value in owning the higher-yielding U.S. debt, so you sell U.S. debt.
There's also liquidity issues: We don't know what the influence is from less inventory available for trade, which may be creating gaps.
There's also some interesting issues for insurers and pension companies. Remember, they need to match their assets with their liabilities.
The higher the yield gets, the more their liability increases, and they need access to assets that can offset those liabilities. If they're unable to access those assets, their pensions become underfunded. So a rise in yields without a corresponding rise in assets creates a problem.
At any rate, the focus will shift to the roughly $64 billion of Treasury debt this week in the form of 3-, 10- and 30-year auctions.