Crank up Ace of Base, because the recent spike in the 10-year Treasury yield is reminding some investors of another banner year for yields: 1994.
Early in that memorable year, the 10-year yield rose by nearly 2 percentage points in three months (climbing from 5.6 percent to 7.5 percent). In 2013, bond yields have already risen 123 basis points (or 1.23 percentage points) since May 1, so a complete replication of that 1994 180-basis-point move would bring the 10-year yield above 3.4 percent.
Why look back that far? Because the recent rise in yields is without recent precedent. Setting aside 1996, 1994 marks the last time that the 10-year yield rose as much in 79 trading sessions as it did this year.
Another parallel comes in what was behind the rise in yields. Then and now, all eyes were on the Federal Reserve. However, while this year's rise has largely been driven by concerns about what the Fed might do, 1994's yield rally was driven by what the Fed actually did.
Back in 1994, concerns about inflation led the Fed to raise short-term interest rates. But the Fed's 1994 move seemed to take the market by utter surprise. In the present day, even if the Fed does choose to taper down its quantitative easing program in September, the move will have been widely expected.
"I think the situation today is somewhat different, as communication between the Fed and the market is fairly robust," said Lawrence McDonald, senior director at Newedge. "The Fed isn't going to repeat that mistake again."
Michael Block of Rhino Trading Partners similarly views Ben Bernanke's Fed as much more cautious than Alan Greenspan's. "The question is, what has the Fed's learning curve been since then? I'd argue that it's been very large," Block said. This time around, "they're going to stem the bleeding."
The reason that Fed signaling makes such a big difference is that the signaling itself becomes a policy tool. "Back then, there was no communication," Block said. But as he appraises the current situation, "My theory is that the Fed started talking about tapering because they wanted to avoid an overdone situation in credit and housing, and I think the Fed succeeded in doing that."
(Read more: Will US yield spike derail tapering plans?)