Here's the number everyone in the financial markets is obsessing about and why

  • The 10-year note's yield is perhaps the most widely tracked rate across the financial universe.
  • Its yield is used as a benchmark for other types of debt, including corporate and agency bonds, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • The rate is also a barometer for 30-year fixed mortgage rates, auto loans, student loans and credit card annual percentage rates.
A trader uses his phone outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
A trader uses his phone outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York.

Last week, Wall Street was abuzz over a surge in the yield for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which has repeatedly topped levels not seen since 2011.

These days, when rates rise, stocks fall. That's because rising rates ripple throughout the economy, raising costs for companies that want to issue debt, raising mortgage rates for homeowners and buoying credit card bills for the typical consumer.

The yield rose to as high as 3.24 percent on Friday. Bond traders are also impressed by the pace of the increase. The yield on the 10-year note has climbed about 15 basis points this week alone after trading in an innocuous range around 2.8 percent for much of summer 2018.

But why should investors care?

While short-term interest rates are most sensitive to the activity of the Federal Reserve — which hiked the federal funds rate a third time for the year in September — the market dictates long-term rates.

It is used as a benchmark for many other types of debt, including corporate and agency bonds, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Movements in the 10-year government rate can also have a direct impact on consumers.

The rate is a barometer for 30-year fixed mortgage rates, auto loans, student loans and credit card annual percentage rates.

The long-term chart of these rates shows how they all move in tandem with the 10-year yield.

10-year Treasury rate vs. mortgages, auto loans and corporate debt (click to enlarge)

Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, Freddie Mac. Retrieved from FRED.

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate decreased 1 basis point to 4.71 percent last week, just off the highest level in seven years, according to Freddie Mac.

Here is a list of the financial instruments the 10-year Treasury yield impacts:

  • Corporate bond rates
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates
  • Credit card annual percentage rates
  • Auto loans
  • Student loan rates
  • Personal loan rates
  • Savings interest rates

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