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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.
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 ...
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.