Safety, liquidity, and the natural rate of interest
Why are interest rates so low in the Unites States? We find that they are low primarily because the premium for safety and liquidity has increased since the late 1990s, and to a lesser extent because economic growth has slowed. We reach this conclusion using two complementary perspectives: a flexible time-series model of trends in Treasury and corporate yields, inflation, and long-term survey expectations, and a medium-scale dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model. We discuss the implications of this finding for the natural rate of interest.
We study the conditional distribution of GDP growth as a function of economic and financial conditions. Deteriorating financial conditions are associated with an increase in the conditional volatility and a decline in the conditional mean of GDP growth, leading the lower quantiles of GDP growth to vary with financial conditions and the upper quantiles to be stable over time: Upside risks to GDP growth are low in most periods while downside risks increase as financial conditions become tighter. We argue that amplification mechanisms in the financial sector generate the observed growth ...
The effectiveness of nonstandard monetary policy measures: evidence from survey data
We assess the perception of professional forecasters regarding the effectiveness of unconventional monetary policy measures announced by the U.S. Federal Reserve after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Using survey data collected at the individual level, we analyze the change in forecasts of Treasury and corporate bond yields around the announcement dates of nonstandard monetary policy measures. We find that professional forecasters expect bond yields to drop significantly for at least one year after the announcement of accommodative policies.
Exploiting the monthly data flow in structural forecasting
This paper develops a framework that allows us to combine the tools provided by structural models for economic interpretation and policy analysis with those of reduced-form models designed for nowcasting. We show how to map a quarterly dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model into a higher frequency (monthly) version that maintains the same economic restrictions. Moreover, we show how to augment the monthly DSGE with auxiliary data that can enhance the analysis and the predictive accuracy in now-casting and forecasting. Our empirical results show that both the monthly version of ...
We study how the risks to future liquidity flow across corporate bond, Treasury, and stock markets. We document distribution ?flight-to-safety? effects: a deterioration in the liquidity of high-yield corporate bonds forecasts an increase in the average liquidity of Treasury securities and a decrease in uncertainty about the liquidity of investment-grade corporate bonds. While the liquidity of Treasury securities both affects and is affected by the liquidity in the other two markets, corporate bond and equity market liquidity appear to be largely divorced from each other. Finally, we show that ...
Global trends in interest rates
The trend in the world real interest rate for safe and liquid assets fluctuated close to 2 percent for more than a century, but has dropped significantly over the past three decades. This decline has been common among advanced economies, as trends in real interest rates across countries have converged over this period. It was driven by an increase in the convenience yield for safety and liquidity and by lower global economic growth.
A New Perspective on Low Interest Rates
Interest rates in the United States have remained at historically low levels for many years. This series of posts explores the forces behind the persistence of low rates. We briefly discuss some of the explanations advanced in the academic literature, and propose an alternative hypothesis that centers on the premium associated with safe and liquid assets. Our argument, outlined in a paper we presented at the Brookings Conference on Economic Activity last March, suggests that the increase in this premium since the late 1990s has been a key driver of the decline in the real return on U.S. ...
A Time-Series Perspective on Safety, Liquidity, and Low Interest Rates
The previous post in this series discussed several possible explanations for the trend decline in U.S. real interest rates since the late 1990s. We noted that while interest rates have generally come down over the past two decades, this decline has been more pronounced for Treasury securities. The conclusion that we draw from this evidence is that the convenience associated with the safety and liquidity embedded in Treasuries is an important driver of the secular (long-term) decline in Treasury yields. In this post and the next, we provide an overview of the two complementary empirical ...
A DSGE Perspective on Safety, Liquidity, and Low Interest Rates
The preceding two posts in this series documented that interest rates on safe and liquid assets, such as U.S. Treasury securities, have declined significantly in the past twenty years. Of course, short-term interest rates in the United States are under the control of the Federal Reserve, at least in nominal terms. So it is legitimate to ask, To what extent is this decline driven by the Federal Reserve?s interest rate policy? This post addresses this question by coupling the results presented in the previous post with those obtained from an estimated dynamic stochastic general equilibrium ...
Traditional GDP forecasts potentially present an overly optimistic (or pessimistic) view of the state of the economy: by focusing on the point estimate for the conditional mean of growth, such forecasts ignore risks around the central forecast. Yet, policymakers around the world increasingly focus on risks to the central forecast in policy debates. For example, in the United States the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) commonly discusses the balance of risks in the economy, with the relative prominence of this discussion fluctuating with the state of the economy. In a recent paper, we ...