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Government debt, learning and the term structure

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  • Sinha, Arunima

Abstract

Does a change in the public׳s holdings of government debt affect the term structure of interest rates? Empirical analysis using a VAR model indicates that a rise in these holdings of the real debt-to-GDP ratio increases both the three-month and ten-year U.S. nominal yields in a statistically significant manner. The maturity composition of debt is also found to matter: innovations in holdings of long-term debt affect the term structure, while increases in short-term debt affect inflation expectations. These effects of changes in holdings of debt on the yield curve can be derived in a general equilibrium model in which the government issues exponentially-maturing riskless debt, financed by lump-sum taxes, and the optimizing agents are adaptive learners. On calibrating the average maturity of debt in the model to match that of U.S. Treasury debt since the 1980s, I find that positive innovations in government debt lead to increases in asset yields. This is because agents do not learn the principle of Ricardian equivalence exactly, and perceive increases in holdings of government bonds as a rise in their net wealth. Imposing rational expectations on the agents eliminates this channel, and changes in holdings of government debt have no effect on yields. The learning model also implies that as the real debt-to-GDP ratio increases, and the average maturity of debt becomes longer, the agents become less likely to learn that Ricardian equivalence holds.

Suggested Citation

  • Sinha, Arunima, 2015. "Government debt, learning and the term structure," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 268-289.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:53:y:2015:i:c:p:268-289
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jedc.2015.02.006
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    3. Carlos David Ardila-Dueñas & Hernán Rincón-Castro, 2019. "¿Cómo y qué tanto impacta la deuda pública a las tasas de interés de mercado?," Borradores de Economia 1077, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
    4. Nada Azmy Elberry & Frank Naert & Stijn Goeminne, 2023. "Optimal public debt composition during debt crises: A review of theoretical literature," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(2), pages 351-376, April.
    5. Aguilar, Pablo & Vázquez, Jesús, 2021. "An Estimated Dsge Model With Learning Based On Term Structure Information," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(7), pages 1635-1665, October.
    6. Vázquez, Jesús & Aguilar, Pablo, 2021. "Adaptive learning with term structure information," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    7. Pablo Aguilar & Jesús Vázquez, 2018. "Term structure and real-time learning," Working Papers 1803, Banco de España.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ricardian equivalence; Term structure; Adaptive learning;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations

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