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Indicator Properties Of The Paper-Bill Spread: Lessons From Recent Experience

  • Benjamin M. Friedman
  • Kenneth N. Kuttner

A feature of U.S. postwar business cycle experience that is by now widely documented is the tendency of the spread between the respective interest rates on commercial paper and Treasury bills to widen shortly before the onset of recessions. By contrast, the paper-bill spread did not anticipate the 1990-1991 recession. Empirical work presented in this paper supports two (not mutually exclusive) explanations for this departure from past experience. First, at least part of the paper-bill spread's predictive content with respect to business cycle fluctuations stems from its role as an indicator of monetary policy, but the 1990-1991 recession was unusual in postwar U.S. experience in not being immediately precipitated by tight monetary policy. Second, movements of the spread during the few years just prior to the 1990-1991 recession were strongly influenced by changes in the relative quantities of commercial paper, bank CDs, and Treasury bills that occurred for reasons unrelated to the business cycle. This latter finding in particular sheds light on the important role of imperfect substitutability of different short-term debt instruments in investors' portfolios, and highlights the burdens associated with using relative interest rate relationships as business cycle indicators. © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/003465398557311
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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 80 (1998)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 34-44

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:80:y:1998:i:1:p:34-44
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  1. Anil K Kashyap & Jeremy C. Stein & David W. Wilcox, 1992. "Monetary Policy and Credit Conditions: Evidence From the Composition of External Finance," NBER Working Papers 4015, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Christina D. Romer and David H. Romer., 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," Economics Working Papers 89-107, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Leland E. Crabbe, 1993. "Anatomy of the medium-term note market," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Aug, pages 751-768.
  4. Friedman, Benjamin M & Kuttner, Kenneth N, 1992. "Money, Income, Prices, and Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 472-92, June.
  5. Ben S. Bernanke, 1990. "On the predictive power of interest rates and interest rate spreads," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 51-68.
  6. Stock, J.H. & Watson, M.W., 1989. "New Indexes Of Coincident And Leading Economic Indicators," Papers 178d, Harvard - J.F. Kennedy School of Government.
  7. Ben S. Bernanke & Alan S. Blinder, 1989. "The federal funds rate and the channels of monetary transmission," Working Papers 89-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  8. Calomiris, Charles W. & Himmelberg, Charles P. & Wachtel, Paul, 1995. "Commercial paper, corporate finance, and the business cycle: a microeconomic perspective," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 203-250, June.
  9. Benjamin M. Friedman & Kenneth Kuttner, 1993. "Why Does the Paper-Bill Spread Predict Real Economic Activity?," NBER Chapters, in: Business Cycles, Indicators and Forecasting, pages 213-254 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Christopher A. Sims, 1992. "Interpreting the Macroeconomic Time Series Facts: The Effects of Monetary Policy," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1011, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  11. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Staff Report 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. George L. Perry & Charles L. Schultze, 1993. "Was This Recession Different? Are They All Different?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 24(1), pages 145-212.
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