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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

  • Cecchetti, Stephen G

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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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 96 (1988)
Issue (Month): 6 (December)
Pages: 1111-41

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:96:y:1988:i:6:p:1111-41
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  1. 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 617-30, July.
  2. Shea, Gary S, 1985. " Interest Rate Term Structure Estimation with Exponential Splines: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(1), pages 319-25, March.
  3. 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 257-76, June.
  4. N. Gregory Mankiw & Jeffrey A. Miron, 1985. "The Changing Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," NBER Working Papers 1669, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
  7. Cox, John C & Ingersoll, Jonathan E, Jr & Ross, Stephen A, 1985. "A Theory of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(2), pages 385-407, March.
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