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Indicator properties of the paper-bill spread: lessons from recent experience

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  • Benjamin M. Friedman
  • Kenneth N. Kuttner

Abstract

A feature of U.S. post-war business cycle experience that is by now widely documented is the tendency of the spread between the respective interest rates on commercial paper and Treasury bills to widen shortly before the onset of recessions. By contrast, the paper- bill spread did not anticipate the 1990-91 recession. Empirical work presented in this paper supports two (not mutually exclusive) explanations for this departure from past experience. First, at least part of the paper-bill spread's predictive content with respect to business cycle fluctuations stems from its role as an indicator of monetary policy, but the 1990-91 recession was unusual in post-war U.S. experience in not being immediately precipitated by tight monetary policy. Second, movements of the spread during the few years just prior to the 1990-91 recession were strongly influenced by changes in the relative quantities of commercial paper, bank CDs and Treasury bills that occurred for reasons unrelated to the business cycle. This latter finding in particular sheds light on the important role of imperfect substitutability of different short-term debt instruments in investors portfolios, and highlights the burdens associated with using relative interest rate relationships as business cycle indicators.
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Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin M. Friedman & Kenneth N. Kuttner, 1994. "Indicator properties of the paper-bill spread: lessons from recent experience," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 94-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhma:94-24
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Theory ahead of business-cycle measurement," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 11-44, January.
    2. Ben S. Bernanke, 1990. "On the predictive power of interest rates and interest rate spreads," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 51-68.
    3. Calomiris, Charles W. & Himmelberg, Charles P. & Wachtel, Paul, 1995. "Commercial paper, corporate finance, and the business cycle: a microeconomic perspective," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 203-250, June.
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    5. Sims, Christopher A., 1992. "Interpreting the macroeconomic time series facts : The effects of monetary policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 975-1000, June.
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    7. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 121-184 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Benjamin M. Friedman & Kenneth Kuttner, 1993. "Why Does the Paper-Bill Spread Predict Real Economic Activity?," NBER Chapters,in: Business Cycles, Indicators and Forecasting, pages 213-254 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1989. "New Indexes of Coincident and Leading Economic Indicators," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 351-409 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    12. Leland Crabbe, 1993. "Anatomy of the medium-term note market," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Aug, pages 751-768.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Business cycles ; Commercial paper issues ; Treasury bills;

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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