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The unusual behavior of the federal funds and 10-year Treasury rates: a conundrum or Goodhart’s Law?

  • Daniel L. Thornton

In February 2005, former Chairman Alan Greenspan referred to the decline in long-term rates in the wake of the Fed increasing the target for the federal funds rate by 150 basis points as a “conundrum.” Greenspan’s remarks generated considerable interest and research. I show that the relationship between the 10 year Treasury yield and the federal funds rate changed dramatically in the late 1980s, well in advance of Greenspan’s observation. I argue that the marked change in the relationship between the federal funds rate and long-term yields is a natural consequence of Goodhart’s Law.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2007-039.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2007-039
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  1. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Eric T. Swanson & Tao Wu, 2006. "The Bond Yield "Conundrum" from a Macro-Finance Perspective," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 24(S1), pages 83-109, December.
  2. Rudebusch, Glenn D., 1995. "Federal Reserve interest rate targeting, rational expectations, and the term structure," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 245-274, April.
  3. Don H. Kim & Athanasios Orphanides, 2005. "Term structure estimation with survey data on interest rate forecasts," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-48, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Troy Davig & Eric M. Leeper, 2005. "Generalizing the Taylor principle," Research Working Paper RWP 05-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  5. Ben S. Bernanke & Vincent R. Reinhart & Brian P. Sack, 2004. "Monetary policy alternatives at the zero bound: an empirical assessment," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-48, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Tao Wu, 2007. "Accounting for a Shift in Term Structure Behavior with No-Arbitrage and Macro-Finance Models," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(2-3), pages 395-422, 03.
  7. William Poole & Robert H & Rasche & Daniel L. Thornton, 2002. "Market anticipations of monetary policy actions," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 65-94.
  8. Thornton, Daniel L., 2004. "The Fed and short-term rates: Is it open market operations, open mouth operations or interest rate smoothing?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 475-498, March.
  9. Francis X. Diebold & Celia Chen, 1993. "Testing structural stability with endogenous break point: a size comparison of analytic and bootstrap procedures," Working Papers 93-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  10. Edward Nelson, 2004. "The Great Inflation of the seventies: what really happened?," Working Papers 2004-001, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  11. William Poole, 2007. "Milton and money stock control," Speech 118, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  12. 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.).
  13. Daniel L. Thornton, 2007. "The lower and upper bounds of the Federal Open Market Committee's long-run inflation objective," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 183-194.
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