Wall Street's Jim Paulsen: The 10-year yield could go as high as 3.5% if worker pay continues to rise

Key Points
  • The 10-year Treasury yield could reach as high as 3.5 percent if Friday's jobs data shows another hot wage number, says Jim Paulsen.
  • The 10-year yield reached its highest level since May 2011 on Thursday, breaking above 3.2 percent, building on gains that started the prior day.
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The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note could reach as high as 3.5 percent if Friday's September jobs data shows that workers' wages continue to rise, according to Wall Street's Jim Paulsen.

"We probably put wages over 3 percent, then you're probably looking somewhere between three-and-a-quarter and three-and-a-half" percent on the 10-year yield, said Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month that average hourly earnings rose by an annualized rate of 2.9 percent in August, the highest wage advance since mid-2009.

"We haven't had a back-to-back hot wage number in I don't know how long," Paulsen said Thursday in a "Squawk on the Street" interview. "If we do that [again], you wonder how high yields could go."

Signs of higher wages are good for Main Street and Americans' pocketbooks. But investors often view strong pay gains as inflationary, which could put the Federal Reserve on a path for more interest rate hikes to tamp down inflation.

The 10-year yield reached its highest levels since May 2011 on Thursday, breaking above 3.2 percent. Selling bonds sends yields higher due to the inverse relationship between bond prices and bond yields.

The yield began surging Wednesday after new data showed private payrolls rose by 230,000 in September, which surpassed the 168,000 jobs in August. The market has also been stoked by recent hawkish comments from the Fed.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.