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The Changing Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates

  • Mankiw, N Gregory
  • Miron, Jeffrey A

We reexamine the expectations theory of the term structure using data at the short end of the maturity spectrum. We find that prior to the founding ofthe Federal Reserve System in 1915, the spread between long rates and short rates has substantial predictive power for the path of interest rates; after 1915, however, the spread contains much less predictive power. We then show that the short rate is approximately a random walk after the founding of the Fed but not before. This latter fact, coupled with even slight variation inthe term premium, can explain the observed change in 1915 in the performance of the expectations theory. We suggest that the random walk character of the short rate may be attributable to the Federal Reserve's commitment to stabilizing interest rates.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 101 (1986)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 211-28

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:101:y:1986:i:2:p:211-28
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  1. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-87, December.
  2. Barsky, Robert B., 1987. "The Fisher hypothesis and the forecastability and persistence of inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-24, January.
  3. Fama, Eugene F., 1984. "The information in the term structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 509-528, December.
  4. Campbell, John Y & Shiller, Robert J, 1984. "A Simple Account of the Behavior of Long-Term Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 44-48, May.
  5. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-72, June.
  6. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Financial Panics, the Seasonality of the Nominal Interest Rate, and theFounding of the Fed," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 125-40, March.
  7. Robert J. Shiller & John Y. Campbell & Kermit L. Schoenholtz, 1983. "Forward Rates and Future Policy: Interpreting the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 14(1), pages 173-224.
  8. N. Gregory Mankiw & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "Do Long-Term Interest Rates Overreact to Short-Term Interest Rates?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 15(1), pages 223-248.
  9. Friedman, Benjamin Morton, 1977. "Financial Flow Variables and the Short-Run Determination of Long-Term Interest Rates," Scholarly Articles 4554309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1983. "Excess Volatility in the Financial Markets: A Reassessment of the Empirical Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(6), pages 929-56, December.
  11. Zvi Bodie & Alex Kane & Robert L. McDonald, 1983. "Why Are Real Interest Rates So High?," NBER Working Papers 1141, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Reuben A. Kessel, 1965. "The Cyclical Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kess65-1, December.
  13. Jones, David S. & Vance Roley, V., 1983. "Rational expectations and the expectations model of the term structure : A test using weekly data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 453-465, September.
  14. Shiller, Robert J, 1979. "The Volatility of Long-Term Interest Rates and Expectations Models of the Term Structure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1190-1219, December.
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