# Yield Curve

In finance, the yield curve is a curve showing several yields or interest rates across different contract lengths (2 month, 2 year, 20 year, etc...) for a similar debt contract. The curve shows the relation between the (level of) interest rate (or cost of borrowing) and the time to maturity, known as the "term", of the debt for a given borrower in a given currency. For example, the U.S. dollar interest rates paid on U.S. Treasury securities for various maturities are closely watched by many traders, and are commonly plotted on a graph such as the one on the right which is informally called "the yield curve." More formal mathematical descriptions of this relation are often called the term structure of interest rates.

The shape of the yield curve indicates the cumulative priorities of all lenders relative to a particular borrower (such as the US Treasury or the Treasury of Japan). Usually, lenders are concerned about a potential default (or rising rates of inflation), so they offer long-term loans for higher interest rates than they offer for shorter-term loans. Very rarely, when lenders are seeking long-term debt contracts more aggressively than short-term debt contracts, the yield curve "inverts," with interest rates (yields) being lower and lower for each longer periods of repayment so that lenders can attract long-term borrowing.

The yield of a debt instrument is the overall rate of return available on the investment. In general the percentage per year that can be earned is dependent on the length of time that the money is invested. For example, a bank may offer a "savings rate" higher than the normal checking account rate if the customer is prepared to leave money untouched for five years. Investing for a period of time t gives a yield Y(t).

This function Y is called the yield curve, and it is often, but not always, an increasing function of t. Yield curves are used by fixed income analysts, who analyze bonds and related securities, to understand conditions in financial markets and to seek trading opportunities. Economists use the curves to understand economic conditions.

The yield curve function Y is actually only known with certainty for a few specific maturity dates, while the other maturities are calculated by interpolation (see Construction of the full yield curve from market data below).

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