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Measuring the effect of the zero lower bound on yields and exchange rates

  • Eric T. Swanson
  • John C. Williams

The zero lower bound on nominal interest rates began to constrain many central banks’ setting of short-term interest rates in late 2008 or early 2009. According to standard macroeconomic models, this should have greatly reduced the effectiveness of monetary policy and increased the efficacy of fiscal policy. However, these models also imply that asset prices and private-sector decisions depend on the entire path of expected future short-term interest rates, not just the current level of the monetary policy rate. Thus, interest rates with a year or more to maturity are arguably more relevant for asset prices and the economy, and it is unclear to what extent those yields have been affected by the zero lower bound. In this paper, we apply the methods of Swanson and Williams (2013) to medium- and longer-term yields and exchange rates in the U.K. and Germany. In particular, we compare the sensitivity of these rates to macroeconomic news during periods when short-term interest rates were very low to that during normal times. We find that: 1) USD/GBP and USD/EUR exchange rates have been essentially unaffected by the zero lower bound, 2) yields on German bunds were essentially unconstrained by the zero bound until late 2012, and 3) yields on U.K. gilts were substantially constrained by the zero lower bound in 2009 and 2012, but were surprisingly responsive to news in 2010–11. We compare these findings to the U.S. and discuss their broader implications.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2013-21.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2013-21
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  1. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 2010. "When is the government spending multiplier large?," CQER Working Paper 2010-01, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  2. John Williams & Eric Swanson, 2012. "Measuring the Effect of the Zero Lower Bound on Medium- and Longer-Term Interest Rates," 2012 Meeting Papers 462, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Arvind Krishnamurthy & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2012. "The Aggregate Demand for Treasury Debt," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 120(2), pages 233 - 267.
  4. Refet S Gürkaynak & Andrew Levin & Eric Swanson, 2010. "Does Inflation Targeting Anchor Long-Run Inflation Expectations? Evidence from the U.S., UK, and Sweden," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1208-1242, December.
  5. Refet Gurkaynak & Brian Sack & Eric Swanson, 2005. "Do Actions Speak Louder than Words? The Response of Asset Prices to Monetary Policy Actions and Statements," Macroeconomics 0504013, EconWPA.
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  7. Faust, Jon & Rogers, John H. & Wang, Shing-Yi B. & Wright, Jonathan H., 2007. "The high-frequency response of exchange rates and interest rates to macroeconomic announcements," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 1051-1068, May.
  8. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 1999. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low inflation era," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  9. Michael Ehrmann & Marcel Fratzscher & Refet S Güürkaynak & Eric T Swanson, 2011. "Convergence and Anchoring of Yield Curves in the Euro Area," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(1), pages 350-364, February.
  10. Swanson, Eric T., 2006. "Have Increases in Federal Reserve Transparency Improved Private Sector Interest Rate Forecasts?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(3), pages 791-819, April.
  11. James D. Hamilton & Jing Cynthia Wu, 2012. "The Effectiveness of Alternative Monetary Policy Tools in a Zero Lower Bound Environment," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44, pages 3-46, 02.
  12. Reifschneider, David & Willams, John C, 2000. "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 936-66, November.
  13. Brian Sack & Volker Wieland, 1999. "Interest-rate smoothing and optimal monetary policy: a review of recent empirical evidence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-39, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Anderson, Torben G. & Bollerslev, Tim & Diebold, Francis X. & Vega, Clara, 2002. "Micro Effects of Macro Announcements: Real-Time Price Discovery in Foreign Exchange," Working Papers 02-1, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
  15. Gürkaynak, Refet S. & Levin, Andrew & Swanson, Eric T, 2006. "Does Inflation Targeting Anchor Long-Run Inflation Expectations? Evidence from Long-Term Bond Yields in the US, UK and Sweden," CEPR Discussion Papers 5808, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  16. Magnus Andersson & Lars Jul Overby & Szabolcs Sebestyén, 2009. "Which News Moves the Euro Area Bond Market?," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 10, pages 1-31, 02.
  17. Kenneth N. Kuttner, 2000. "Monetary policy surprises and interest rates: evidence from the Fed funds futures markets," Staff Reports 99, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  18. Eric T. Swanson, 2011. "Let's Twist Again: A High-Frequency Event-study Analysis of Operation Twist and Its Implications for QE2," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 42(1 (Spring), pages 151-207.
  19. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Paul Krugman, 2012. "Debt, Deleveraging, and the Liquidity Trap: A Fisher-Minsky-Koo Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(3), pages 1469-1513.
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