Are 3% yields the new 4%?

bonds, treasuries, treasurys, yieldsClick the chart for more on bonds. By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The yield on the benchmark 10-year note has had a rough 12 months. It started 2010 with a bang, opening at 3.85% in January and topping 4% in April.

A mere year later, the 10-year yield is struggling to stay above 3%. And experts say it's lucky to even be there.

"Bond buyers are not happy buyers right now," said Michael Cheah, bond fund manager at SunAmerica. "They're forced into it. Stocks and commodities are overweighted, and bonds are underweighted."

That division has widened sharply in the four months of 2011, Cheah said, as investors have split into two schools of thought: Buy commodities because massive inflation is coming, or snatch up bonds because inflation isn't a concern.

"The past few weeks' moves in the markets have been all about positioning one way or the other," Cheah said. "We haven't seen a flight to quality in bonds yet, though that might come if the stock market sells off into next week."

Meanwhile, the 10-year yield is slipping. It fell to 3.17% Thursday from 3.22%. But it would take a lot to break the 3% threshold, Cheah said, though that could turn out to be a positive move if it does happen.

"To break below 3%, we'd have to see strong evidence of a double dip," Cheah said. "But under 3% can be a good thing in and of itself."

The 10-year yield is tied to mortgage rates, so a dip could make housing more affordable. And hastening recovery in the housing market would greatly help the overall economy, Cheah noted.

Still, sub-3% yields don't offer investors much return on their money. But investors are prepared for that.

"Economics 101 would tell you the savers are being punished at that level," Cheah said. "But they'll do it, because it's not surprising to them. They're already punished by the Fed's easing measured. Overall, below 3% yields would create more benefit than harm."

What yields are doing: Also on Thursday, The 30-year yield ticked down to 4.28% from 4.33% the previous session. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The 2-year yield fell to 0.34%, and the 5-year yield slipped to 1.89%.  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.25%4.27%
15 yr fixed3.23%3.21%
5/1 ARM3.37%3.37%
30 yr refi4.19%4.36%
15 yr refi3.18%3.17%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 16,979.13 59.54 0.35%
Nasdaq 4,526.48 -1.03 -0.02%
S&P 500 1,986.51 4.91 0.25%
Treasuries 2.43 0.02 0.87%
Data as of 1:03am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.52 0.07 0.45%
Apple Inc 100.57 0.04 0.04%
General Electric Co 26.36 0.31 1.19%
Intel Corp 34.50 0.16 0.47%
Staples Inc 11.32 -0.30 -2.58%
Data as of Aug 20

Sections

This month, Delaware became the first state to pass a law giving heirs the right to access the online accounts and assets of someone who has passed away. More

Median income is up 3.8% since 2011, though it's still down since the economic recovery began in 2009. More

Small business owners say the economy is still their biggest challenge, which keeps them from expanding and hiring, according to a CNNMoney-Manta survey. More

This month, Delaware became the first state to pass a law giving heirs the right to access the online accounts and assets of someone who has passed away. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.