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The Changing Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates

  • N. Gregory Mankiw
  • Jeffrey A. Miron

We reexamine the expectations theory of the term structure using data at the short end of the maturity spectrum. We find that prior to the founding ofthe Federal Reserve System in 1915, the spread between long rates and short rates has substantial predictive power for the path of interest rates; after 1915, however, the spread contains much less predictive power. We then show that the short rate is approximately a random walk after the founding of the Fed but not before. This latter fact, coupled with even slight variation inthe term premium, can explain the observed change in 1915 in the performance of the expectations theory. We suggest that the random walk character of the short rate may be attributable to the Federal Reserve's commitment to stabilizing interest rates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1669.

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Date of creation: Jul 1985
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Mankiw, N. Gregory and Jeffrey Miron. "The Changing Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates." Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. CI, No. 2 , (May 1986), pp. 211-228.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1669
Note: EFG ME
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  1. Reuben A. Kessel, 1965. "The Cyclical Behavior of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kess65-1, December.
  2. Jones, David S. & Vance Roley, V., 1983. "Rational expectations and the expectations model of the term structure : A test using weekly data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 453-465, September.
  3. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-87, December.
  4. Campbell, John Y & Shiller, Robert J, 1984. "A Simple Account of the Behavior of Long-Term Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 44-48, May.
  5. N. Gregory Mankiw & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "Do Long-Term Interest Rates Overreact to Short-Term Interest Rates?," NBER Working Papers 1345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Friedman, Benjamin Morton, 1977. "Financial Flow Variables and the Short-Run Determination of Long-Term Interest Rates," Scholarly Articles 4554309, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Dickey, David A & Fuller, Wayne A, 1981. "Likelihood Ratio Statistics for Autoregressive Time Series with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 1057-72, June.
  9. Robert J. Shiller & John Y. Campbell & Kermit L. Schoenholtz, 1983. "Forward Rates and Future Policy: Interpreting the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 667, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  10. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1983. "Excess Volatility in the Financial Markets: A Reassessment of the Empirical Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(6), pages 929-56, December.
  11. Fama, Eugene F., 1984. "The information in the term structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 509-528, December.
  12. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Financial Panics, the Seasonality of the Nominal Interest Rate, and theFounding of the Fed," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 125-40, March.
  13. Barsky, Robert B., 1987. "The Fisher hypothesis and the forecastability and persistence of inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-24, January.
  14. Zvi Bodie & Alex Kane & Robert L. McDonald, 1983. "Why Are Real Interest Rates So High?," NBER Working Papers 1141, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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