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Why are real interest rates so low? Secular stagnation and the relative price of investment goods

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  • Thwaites, Gregory

Abstract

Across the industrialised world, real interest rates and nominal investment rates have fallen, while house prices and household debt ratios have risen. I present an OLG model which explains these four trends with a fifth - the widespread fall in the relative price of investment goods. When capital goods are cheaper, a given quantity of saving buys more of them, but the resulting capital deepening lowers the marginal product of each one. Interest rates fall, reducing the user cost of housing, raise house prices and household debt. Preventing the accumulation of debt leads to a bigger fall in interest rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Thwaites, Gregory, 2014. "Why are real interest rates so low? Secular stagnation and the relative price of investment goods," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 86328, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:86328
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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/86328/
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Neil R. Mehrotra, 2014. "A Model of Secular Stagnation," NBER Working Papers 20574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brent Neiman, 2014. "The Global Decline of the Labor Share," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(1), pages 61-103.
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    4. Robert S. Chirinko, 2008. "รณ: The Long And Short Of It," CESifo Working Paper Series 2234, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi, 2013. "A Model of the Safe Asset Mechanism (SAM): Safety Traps and Economic Policy," Working Paper 70936, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    6. Robert Z. Lawrence, 2015. "Recent Declines in Labor's Share in US Income: A Preliminary Neoclassical Account," Working Paper Series WP15-10, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    7. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-393, March.
    8. Barry Eichengreen, 2015. "Secular Stagnation: The Long View," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 66-70, May.
    9. Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2003. "Measuring the Natural Rate of Interest," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 1063-1070, November.
    10. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Krusell, Per, 1997. "Long-Run Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 342-362, June.
    11. Giglio, Stefano & Severo, Tiago, 2012. "Intangible capital, relative asset shortages and bubbles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 303-317.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexius, Annika, 2017. "Why are real interest rates so low? Evidence from a structural VAR with sign restrictions," Research Papers in Economics 2017:6, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    2. Spahn, Peter, 2016. "Population growth, saving, interest rates and stagnation: Discussing the Eggertsson-Mehrotra model," Hohenheim Discussion Papers in Business, Economics and Social Sciences 04-2016, University of Hohenheim, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General

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