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The Case of the Negative Nominal Interest Rates: New Estimates of the Term Structure of Interest Rates during the Great Depression

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  • Cecchetti, Stephen G

Abstract

Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, U.S. Treasury bonds and notes appeared to have negative nominal yields as they approached maturity. But negative nominal interest rates are impossible in a world in which one can always hold cash. The resolution to this puzzle is that Treasury securities, in addition to making coupon payments, gave the owner the right to buy a new security on a future date. This paper describes the institutional environment that led to the apparent negative nominal interest rates; develops a method for valuing the "exchange privilege"; and computes accurate measures of the yield to the coupon-bearing component of these composite bond/options. Copyright 1988 by University of Chicago Press.

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  • Cecchetti, Stephen G, 1988. "The Case of the Negative Nominal Interest Rates: New Estimates of the Term Structure of Interest Rates during the Great Depression," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(6), pages 1111-1141, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:96:y:1988:i:6:p:1111-41
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Shea, Gary S, 1985. " Interest Rate Term Structure Estimation with Exponential Splines: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(1), pages 319-325, March.
    2. McCulloch, J Huston, 1971. "Measuring the Term Structure of Interest Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 19-31, January.
    3. John C. Cox & Jonathan E. Ingersoll Jr. & Stephen A. Ross, 2005. "A Theory Of The Term Structure Of Interest Rates," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 5, pages 129-164 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    4. N. Gregory Mankiw & Jeffrey A. Miron, 1986. "The Changing Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 211-228.
    5. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-276, June.
    6. Brown, Stephen J & Dybvig, Philip H, 1986. " The Empirical Implications of the Cox, Ingersoll, Ross Theory of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 41(3), pages 617-630, July.
    7. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
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