Yield Curve Risk

DEFINITION of 'Yield Curve Risk'

The risk of experiencing an adverse shift in market interest rates associated with investing in a fixed income instrument. The risk is associated with either a flattening or steepening of the yield curve, which is a result of changing yields among comparable bonds with different maturities.

When market yields change, this will impact the price of a fixed-income instrument. When market interest rates, or yields, increase, the price of a bond will decrease and vice versa.

BREAKING DOWN 'Yield Curve Risk'

When the yield curve shifts, the price of the bond, which was initially priced based on the initial yield curve, will change in price. If the yield curve flattens, then the yield spread between long- and short-term interest rates narrows, and the price of the bond will change accordingly. If the bond is a short-term bond maturing in three years and the three-year yield decreases, the price of this bond will increase.

If the yield curve steepens, this means that the spread between long- and short-term interest rates increases. Therefore, long-term bond prices will decrease relative to short-term bonds. Changes in the yield curve are based on bond risk premiums and expectations of future interest rates.

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