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Understanding the real rate conundrum: an application of no-arbitrage finance models to the UK real yield curve


  • Joyce, Michael

    () (Bank of England)

  • Kaminska, Iryna

    () (Bank of England)

  • Lildholdt, Peter



Long-horizon interest rates in the major international bond markets fell sharply during 2004 and 2005, at the same time as US policy rates were rising; a phenomenon famously described as a 'conundrum' by Alan Greenspan the Federal Reserve Chairman. But it was arguably the decline in international long real rates over this period which was more unusual and, by the end of 2007, long real rates in the United Kingdom remained at recent historical lows. In this paper, we try to shed light on the recent behaviour of long real rates, by estimating several empirical models of the term structure of real interest rates, derived from UK index-linked bonds. We adopt a standard 'finance' approach to modelling the real term structure, using an essentially affine framework. While being empirically tractable, these models impose the important theoretical restriction of no arbitrage, which enables us to decompose forward real rates into expectations of future short (ie risk-free) real rates and forward real term premia. One general finding that emerges across all the models estimated is that time-varying term premia appear to be extremely important in explaining movements in long real forward rates. Although there is some evidence that long-horizon expected short real rates declined over the conundrum period, our results suggest lower term premia played the dominant role in accounting for the fall in long real rates. This evidence could be consistent with the so-called 'search for yield' and excess liquidity explanations for the conundrum, but it might also partly reflect strong demand for index-linked bonds by institutional investors and foreign central banks.

Suggested Citation

  • Joyce, Michael & Kaminska, Iryna & Lildholdt, Peter, 2008. "Understanding the real rate conundrum: an application of no-arbitrage finance models to the UK real yield curve," Bank of England working papers 358, Bank of England.
  • Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:0358

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Francis E. Warnock & Veronica C. Warnock, 2005. "International Capital Flows and U.S. Interest Rates," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp103, IIIS.
    2. Nicola Anderson & John Sleath, 2001. "New estimates of the UK real and nominal yield curves," Bank of England working papers 126, Bank of England.
    3. David K. Backus & Silverio Foresi & Chris Telmer, "undated". "Discrete time models of bond pricing," GSIA Working Papers 251, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    4. Gregory R. Duffee, 2002. "Term Premia and Interest Rate Forecasts in Affine Models," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(1), pages 405-443, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Iryna Kaminska & Dimitri Vayanos & Gabriele Zinna, 2011. "Preferred-Habitat Investors and the US Term Structure of Real Rates," FMG Discussion Papers dp674, Financial Markets Group.
    2. Joyce, Michael A.S. & Lildholdt, Peter & Sorensen, Steffen, 2010. "Extracting inflation expectations and inflation risk premia from the term structure: A joint model of the UK nominal and real yield curves," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 281-294, February.
    3. Meldrum, Andrew & Roberts-Sklar, Matt, 2015. "Long-run priors for term structure models," Bank of England working papers 575, Bank of England.
    4. Bianchi, Francesco & Mumtaz, Haroon & Surico, Paolo, 2009. "Dynamics of the term structure of UK interest rates," Bank of England working papers 363, Bank of England.
    5. Dungey, Mardi & Tugrul Vehbi, M, 2011. "A SVECM Model of the UK Economy and The Term Premium," Working Papers 11610, University of Tasmania, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics.
    6. Iryna Kaminska & Andrew Meldrum & James Smith, 2013. "A Global Model Of International Yield Curves: No‚ÄźArbitrage Term Structure Approach," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(4), pages 352-374, October.
    7. Gabriele Zinna, 2014. "Price pressures in the UK index-linked market: an empirical investigation," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 968, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.

    More about this item


    Yield curve; term premia; conundrum;

    JEL classification:

    • C32 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Time-Series Models; Dynamic Quantile Regressions; Dynamic Treatment Effect Models; Diffusion Processes; State Space Models
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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