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 ...
Opening the Toolbox: The Nowcasting Code on GitHub
In April 2016, we unveiled--and began publishing weekly--the New York Fed Staff Nowcast, an estimate of GDP growth using an automated platform for tracking economic conditions in real time. Today we go a step further by publishing the MATLAB code for the nowcasting model, available here on GitHub, a public repository hosting service. We hope that sharing our code will make it easier for people interested in monitoring the macroeconomy to understand the details underlying the nowcast and to replicate our results.
Global Trends in Interest Rates
Long-term government bond yields are at their lowest levels of the past 150 years in advanced economies. In this blog post, we argue that this low-interest-rate environment reflects secular global forces that have lowered real interest rates by about two percentage points over the past forty years. The magnitude of this decline has been nearly the same in all advanced economies, since their real interest rates have converged over this period. The key factors behind this development are an increase in demand for safety and liquidity among investors and a slowdown in global economic growth.
The Effects of the saving and banking glut on the U.S. economy
We use a quantitative equilibrium model with houses, collateralized debt, and foreign borrowing to study the impact of global imbalances on the U.S. economy in the 2000s. Our results suggest that the dynamics of foreign capital flows account for between one-fourth and one-third of the increase in U.S. house prices and household debt that preceded the financial crisis. The key to these findings is that the model generates the sustained low level of interest rates observed over that period.
Evaluating interest rate rules in an estimated DSGE model
The empirical DSGE (dynamic stochastic general equilibrium) literature pays surprisingly little attention to the behavior of the monetary authority. Alternative policy rule specifications abound, but their relative merit is rarely discussed. We contribute to filling this gap by comparing the fit of a large set of interest rate rules (fifty-five in total), which we estimate within a simple New Keynesian model. We find that specifications in which monetary policy responds to inflation and to deviations of output from its efficient level?the one that would prevail in the absence of ...
Household leveraging and deleveraging
U.S. households' debt skyrocketed between 2000 and 2007, but has since been falling. This leveraging and deleveraging cycle cannot be accounted for by the liberalization and subsequent tightening of mortgage credit standards that occurred during the period. We base this conclusion on a quantitative dynamic general equilibrium model calibrated using macroeconomic aggregates and microeconomic data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. From the perspective of the model, the credit cycle is more likely due to factors that impacted house prices more directly, thus affecting the availability of ...
An investigation of the gains from commitment in monetary policy
This paper proposes a simple framework for analyzing a continuum of monetary policy rules characterized by differing degrees of credibility, in which commitment and discretion become special cases of what we call quasi commitment. The monetary policy authority is assumed to formulate optimal commitment plans, to be tempted to renege on them, and to succumb to this temptation with a constant exogenous probability known to the private sector. By interpreting this probability as a continuous measure of the (lack of) credibility of the monetary policy authority, we investigate the welfare effect ...
Macroeconomic nowcasting and forecasting with big data
Data, data, data . . . Economists know it well, especially when it comes to monitoring macroeconomic conditions?the basis for making informed economic and policy decisions. Handling large and complex data sets was a challenge that macroeconomists engaged in real-time analysis faced long before ?big data? became pervasive in other disciplines. We review how methods for tracking economic conditions using big data have evolved over time and explain how econometric techniques have advanced to mimic and automate the best practices of forecasters on trading desks, at central banks, and in other ...