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The excess sensitivity of long-term interest rates: evidence and implications for macroeconomic models

  • Refet S. Gürkaynak
  • Brian Sack
  • Eric Swanson

This paper demonstrates that long-term forward interest rates in the U.S. often react considerably to surprises in macroeconomic data releases and monetary policy announcements. This behavior is inconsistent with the assumption of many macroeconomic models that the long-run properties of the economy are time-invariant and perfectly known by all economic agents. Under those conditions, the shocks we consider would have only transitory effects on short-term interest rates, and hence would not generate large responses in forward rates. Our empirical findings suggest that private agents adjust their expectations of the long-run inflation rate in response to macroeconomic and monetary policy surprises. Consistent with our hypothesis, forward rates derived from inflation-indexed Treasury debt show little sensitivity to these shocks, indicating that the response of nominal forward rates is mostly driven by inflation compensation. In addition, we find that in the U.K., where the long-run inflation target is known by the private sector, long-term forward rates have not demonstrated excess sensitivity since the Bank of England achieved independence in mid-1997. We present an alternative model in which agents' perceptions of long-run inflation are not completely anchored, which fits all of our empirical results.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2003-50.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Publication status: Published in American Economic Review, v. 95, no. 1 (March 2005) pp. 425-436
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2003-50
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  1. Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2001. "Is The Fed Too Timid? Monetary Policy In An Uncertain World," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 203-217, May.
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  4. Rudebusch, Glenn D, 1998. "Do Measures of Monetary Policy in a VAR Make Sense?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(4), pages 907-31, November.
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  7. Michael J. Fleming & Eli M. Remolona, 1997. "What moves the bond market?," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Dec, pages 31-50.
  8. Kozicki, Sharon & Tinsley, P.A., 2005. "What do you expect? Imperfect policy credibility and tests of the expectations hypothesis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 421-447, March.
  9. Ellingsen, Tore & Söderström, Ulf, 1998. "Monetary Policy and Market Interest Rates," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 242, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 08 Mar 1999.
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  11. Gurkaynak, Refet S. & Sack, Brian T. & Swanson, Eric P., 2007. "Market-Based Measures of Monetary Policy Expectations," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 201-212, April.
  12. Ang, Andrew & Bekaert, Geert, 2004. "The Term Structure of Real Rates and Expected Inflation," CEPR Discussion Papers 4518, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  15. Brunner, Allan D, 2000. "On the Derivation of Monetary Policy Shocks: Should We Throw the VAR Out with the Bath Water?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(2), pages 254-79, May.
  16. Arturo Estrella & Jeffrey C. Fuhrer, 2002. "Dynamic Inconsistencies: Counterfactual Implications of a Class of Rational-Expectations Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1013-1028, September.
  17. David H. Romer & Christina D. Romer, 2000. "Federal Reserve Information and the Behavior of Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 429-457, June.
  18. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 1997. "The science of monetary policy: A new Keynesian perspective," Economics Working Papers 356, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 1999.
  19. Roberts, John M., 1997. "Is inflation sticky?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 173-196, July.
  20. Kuttner, Kenneth N., 2001. "Monetary policy surprises and interest rates: Evidence from the Fed funds futures market," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 523-544, June.
  21. Knez, Peter J & Litterman, Robert & Scheinkman, Jose Alexandre, 1994. " Explorations into Factors Explaining Money Market Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(5), pages 1861-82, December.
  22. Shiller, Robert J, 1979. "The Volatility of Long-Term Interest Rates and Expectations Models of the Term Structure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1190-1219, December.
  23. Mark Fisher & Douglas Nychka & David Zervos, 1995. "Fitting the term structure of interest rates with smoothing splines," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 95-1, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  24. Brian Sack, 2000. "Using Treasury STRIPS to measure the yield curve," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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