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The yield curve and predicting recessions

  • Jonathan H. Wright

The slope of the Treasury yield curve has often been cited as a leading economic indicator, with inversion of the curve being thought of as a harbinger of a recession. In this paper, I consider a number of probit models using the yield curve to forecast recessions. Models that use both the level of the federal funds rate and the term spread give better in-sample fit, and better out-of-sample predictive performance, than models with the term spread alone. There is some evidence that controlling for a term premium proxy as well may also help. I discuss the implications of the current shape of the yield curve in the light of these results, and report results of some tests for structural stability and an evaluation of out-of-sample predictive performance.

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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 2006-07.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2006-07
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  1. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1993. "A Procedure for Predicting Recessions with Leading Indicators: Econometric Issues and Recent Experience," NBER Chapters, in: Business Cycles, Indicators and Forecasting, pages 95-156 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dale J. Poirier and Paul A. Ruud., 1987. "Probit with Dependent Observations," Economics Working Papers 8734, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. John H. Cochrane & Monika Piazzesi, 2002. "Bond Risk Premia," NBER Working Papers 9178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James D. Hamilton & Dong Heon Kim, 2000. "A Re-examination of the Predictability of Economic Activity Using the Yield Spread," NBER Working Papers 7954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rossi, Barbara & Giacomini, Raffaella, 2005. "How Stable is the Forecasting Performance of the Yield Curve for Outpot Growth?," Working Papers 05-08, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  6. Andrews, Donald W K, 1993. "Tests for Parameter Instability and Structural Change with Unknown Change Point," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(4), pages 821-56, July.
  7. Arturo Estrella & Gikas A. Hardouvelis, 1989. "The term structure as a predictor of real economic activity," Research Paper 8907, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  8. Arturo Estrella & Anthony P. Rodrigues & Sebastian Schich, 2000. "How stable is the predictive power of the yield curve? evidence from Germany and the United States," Staff Reports 113, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  9. Shiller, Robert & Campbell, John, 1991. "Yield Spreads and Interest Rate Movements: A Bird's Eye View," Scholarly Articles 3221490, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Andrew Ang & Monika Piazzesi & Min Wei, 2003. "What does the yield curve tell us about GDP growth?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Mar.
  11. Don H. Kim & Jonathan H. Wright, 2005. "An arbitrage-free three-factor term structure model and the recent behavior of long-term yields and distant-horizon forward rates," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-33, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Arturo Estrella & Anthony P. Rodrigues, 1998. "Consistent covariance matrix estimation in probit models with autocorrelated errors," Staff Reports 39, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  13. Arturo Estrella & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1998. "Predicting U.S. Recessions: Financial Variables As Leading Indicators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 45-61, February.
  14. Gourieroux Christian & Monfort Alain & Trognon A, 1982. "Estimation and test in probit models with serial correlation," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 8220, CEPREMAP.
  15. Fama, Eugene F & Bliss, Robert R, 1987. "The Information in Long-Maturity Forward Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 680-92, September.
  16. Stock, J.H. & Watson, M.W., 1989. "New Indexes Of Coincident And Leading Economic Indicators," Papers 178d, Harvard - J.F. Kennedy School of Government.
  17. Arturo Estrella & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1996. "The yield curve as a predictor of U.S. recessions," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 2(Jun).
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