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On the Predictive Power of Interest Rates and Interest Rate Spreads


  • Ben Bernanke


A number of interest rates and interest rate spreads have been found to be useful in prediction the course of the economy. We compare the predictive power of some of these suggested interest rate variables for nine indicators of real activity and the inflation rate. Our results are consistent with those of Stock and Watson (1989) and Friedman and Kuttner (1989), who found that the spread between the commercial paper rate and the Treasury bill rate has been a particularly good predictor. We present evidence that this spread is informative not so much because it is a measure of default risk (which has been the usual presumption), but because it is an indicator of the stance of monetary policy; for example, during the "credit crunches" of the l960s aid the 1970s, the commercial paper -- Treasury bill spread typically rose significantly. We also show that, possibly because of charges in monetary policy operating procedures aid in financial markets, this spread appears r to be a less reliable predictor than it used to be.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Bernanke, 1990. "On the Predictive Power of Interest Rates and Interest Rate Spreads," NBER Working Papers 3486, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3486
    Note: EFG ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Litterman, Robert B & Weiss, Laurence M, 1985. "Money, Real Interest Rates, and Output: A Reinterpretation of Postwar U.S. Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 129-156, January.
    2. Van Horne, James C., 1979. "Behavior of default-risk premiums for corporate bonds and commercial paper," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 301-313, December.
    3. Benjamin M. Friedman & Kenneth N. Kuttner, 1989. "Money, Income and Prices After the 1980s," NBER Working Papers 2852, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Sims, Christopher A, 1972. "Money, Income, and Causality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 540-552, September.
    5. Cook, Timothy & Hahn, Thomas, 1989. "The effect of changes in the federal funds rate target on market interest rates in the 1970s," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 331-351, November.
    6. McCallum, Bennett T., 1983. "A reconsideration of Sims' evidence concerning monetarism," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 167-171.
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