Social discount rates (SDRs) are crucial for evaluating the costs of climate change. We show that the fundamental anchor for market-based SDRs is the equilibrium or steady-state real interest rate. Empirical interest rate models that allow for shifts in this equilibrium real rate find that it has declined notably since the 1990s, and this decline implies that the entire term structure of SDRs has shifted lower as well. Accounting for this new normal of persistently lower interest rates substantially boosts estimates of the social cost of carbon and supports a climate policy with stronger carbon mitigation strategies.
High-frequency changes in interest rates around FOMC announcements are a standard method of measuring monetary policy shocks. However, some recent studies have documented puzzling effects of these shocks on private-sector forecasts of GDP, unemployment, or inflation that are opposite in sign to what standard macroeconomic models would predict. This evidence has been viewed as supportive of a “Fed information effect” channel of monetary policy, whereby an FOMC tightening (easing) communicates that the economy is stronger (weaker) than the public had expected. We show that these empirical results are also consistent with a “Fed response to news” channel, in which incoming, publicly available economic news causes both the Fed to change monetary policy and the private sector to revise its forecasts. We provide substantial new evidence that distinguishes between these two channels and strongly favors the latter; for example, (i) high-frequency stock market responses to Fed announcements, (ii) a new survey that we conduct of individual Blue Chip forecasters, and (iii) regressions that include the previously omitted public macroeconomic data releases all indicate that the Fed and Blue Chip forecasters are simply responding to the same public news, and that there is little if any role for a “Fed information effect”.
Uncertainty about future policy rates plays a crucial role for the transmission of monetary policy to financial markets. We demonstrate this using event studies of FOMC announcements and a new model-free uncertainty measure based on derivatives. Over the “FOMC uncertainty cycle” announcements systematically resolve uncertainty, which then gradually ramps up again over the subsequent two weeks. Changes in monetary policy uncertainty around FOMC announcements-often due to new forward guidance-have pronounced effects on asset prices that are distinct from the effects of conventional policy surprises. Furthermore, the level of uncertainty determines the magnitude of the financial market reaction to surprises about the path of policy rates.
Published Articles (Refereed Journals and Volumes)
Macro-finance theory implies that trend inflation and the equilibrium real interest rate are fundamental determinants of the yield curve. However, empirical models of the terms structure of interest rates generally assume that these fundamentals are constant. We show that accounting for time variation in these underlying long-run trends is crucial for understanding the dynamics of Treasury yields and predicting excess bond returns. We introduce a new arbitrage-free model that captures the key role that long-run trends play for interest rates. The model also provides new, more plausible estimates of the term premium and accurate out-of-sample yield forecasts.
Restrictions on the risk-pricing in dynamic term structure models (DTSMs) tighten the link between cross-sectional and time-series variation of interest rates, and make absence of arbitrage useful for inference about expectations. This paper presents a new econometric framework for estimation of affine Gaussian DTSMs under restrictions on risk prices, which addresses the issues of a large model space and of model uncertainty using a Bayesian approach. A simulation study demonstrates the good performance of the proposed method. Data for U.S. Treasury yields calls for tight restrictions on risk pricing: only level risk is priced, and only changes in the slope affect term premia. Incorporating the restrictions changes the model-implied short-rate expectations and term premia. Interest rate persistence is higher than in a maximally-flexible model, hence expectations of future short rates are more variable–restrictions on risk prices help resolve the puzzle of implausibly stable short-rate expectations in this literature. Consistent with survey evidence and conventional macro wisdom, restricted models attribute a large share of the secular decline in long-term interest rates to expectations of future nominal short rates.
A consensus has recently emerged that variables beyond the level,
slope, and curvature of the yield curve can help predict bond
returns. This paper shows that the statistical tests underlying this
evidence are subject to serious small-sample distortions. We propose
more robust tests, including a novel bootstrap procedure
specifically designed to test the spanning hypothesis. We revisit the
analysis in six published studies and find that the evidence against
the spanning hypothesis is much weaker than it originally
appeared. Our results pose a serious challenge to the prevailing
Most existing macro-finance term structure models (MTSMs) appear incompatible with regression evidence of unspanned macro risk. This “spanning puzzle” appears to invalidate those models in favor of new unspanned MTSMs. However, our empirical analysis supports the previous spanned models. Using simulations to investigate the spanning implications of MTSMs, we show that a canonical spanned model is consistent with the regression evidence; thus, we resolve the spanning puzzle. In addition, direct likelihood-ratio tests find that the knife-edge restrictions of unspanned models are rejected with high statistical significance, though these restrictions have only small effects on cross-sectional fit and estimated term premia.
We show that conventional dynamic term structure models (DTSMs) estimated on recent U.S. data severely violate the zero lower bound (ZLB) on nominal interest rates and deliver poor forecasts of future short rates. In contrast, shadow-rate DTSMs account for the ZLB by construction, capture the resulting distributional asymmetry of future short rates, and achieve good forecast performance. These models provide more accurate estimates of the most likely path for future monetary policy—including the timing of policy liftoff from the ZLB and the pace of subsequent policy tightening. We also demonstrate the benefits of including macroeconomic factors in a shadow-rate DTSM when yields are constrained near the ZLB.
This paper provides new estimates of the impact of monetary policy actions and macroeconomic news on the term structure of nominal interest rates. The key novelty is to parsimoniously capture the impact of news on all interest rates using a simple no-arbitrage model. The different types of news are analyzed in a common framework by recognizing their heterogeneity, which allows for a systematic comparison of their effects. This approach leads to novel empirical findings: First, monetary policy causes a substantial amount of volatility in both short-term and long-term interest rates. Second, macroeconomic data surprises have small and mostly insignificant effects on the long end of the term structure. Third, the term-structure response to macroeconomic news is consistent with considerable interest-rate smoothing by the Federal Reserve. Fourth, monetary policy surprises are multidimensional while macroeconomic surprises are one-dimensional.
This paper provides new evidence on the importance of inflation expectations for variation in nominal interest rates, based on both market-based and survey-based measures of inflation expectations. Using the information in TIPS breakeven rates and inflation swap rates, I document that movements in inflation compensation are important for explaining variation in long-term nominal interest rates, both unconditionally as well as conditionally on macroeconomic data surprises. Daily changes in inflation compensation and changes in long-term nominal rates generally display a close statistical relationship. The sensitivity of inflation compensation to macroeconomic data surprises is substantial, and it explains a sizable share of the macro response of nominal rates. The paper also documents that survey expectations of inflation exhibit significant comovement with variation in nominal interest rates, as well as significant responses to macroeconomic news.
Previous research has emphasized the portfolio balance effects of Federal Reserve bond purchases, in which a reduced bond supply lowers term premia. In contrast, we find that such purchases have important signaling effects that lower expected future short-term interest rates. Our evidence comes from a model-free analysis and from dynamic term structure models
that decompose declines in yields following Federal Reserve announcements into changes in risk premia and expected short
rates. To overcome problems in measuring term premia, we consider bias-corrected model estimation and restricted risk price estimation. In comparison with other studies, our estimates of signaling effects are larger in magnitude and statistical significance.
Previous research has established that the Federal Reserve’s large scale asset purchases (LSAPs) significantly influenced international bond yields. We use dynamic term structure models to uncover to what extent signaling and portfolio balance channels caused these declines. For the U.S. and Canada, the evidence supports the view that LSAPs had substantial signaling effects. For Australian and German yields, signaling effects were present but likely more moderate, and portfolio balance effects appear to have played a relatively larger role than in the U.S. and Canada. Portfolio balance effects were small for Japanese yields and signaling effects basically nonexistent. These findings about LSAP channels are consistent with predictions based on interest rate dynamics during normal times: Signaling effects tend to be large for countries with strong yield responses to conventional U.S. monetary policy surprises, and portfolio balance effects are consistent with the degree of substitutability across international bonds, as measured by the covariance between foreign and U.S. bond returns.
Term premia implied by maximum likelihood estimates of affine term structure models are misleading because of small-sample bias. We show that accounting for this bias alters the conclusions about the trend, cycle, and macroeconomic determinants of the term premia estimated in Wright (2011). His term premium estimates are essentially acyclical, and often just parallel the secular trend in long-term interest rates. In contrast, bias-corrected term premia show pronounced countercyclical behavior, consistent with theoretical and empirical arguments about movements in risk premia.
The affine dynamic term structure model (DTSM) is the canonical empirical finance representation of the yield curve. However, the possibility that DTSM estimates may be distorted by small-sample bias has been largely ignored. We show that conventional estimates of DTSM coefficients are indeed severely biased, and this bias results in misleading estimates of expected future short-term interest rates and of long-maturity term premia. We provide a variety of bias-corrected estimates of affine DTSMs, both for maximally-flexible and over-identified specifications. Our estimates imply short rate expectations and term premia that are more plausible from a macro-finance perspective.
Models of endogenous growth have strong empirical predictions about the determinants of technological progress. This thesis details the implications of alternative R&D-based endogenous growth models, and then surveys the empirical literature that tests different aspects of this New Growth Theory. Numerous studies attempt to test the validity of endogenous growth models but come to very different conclusions, since varying hypotheses are considered. There are few rigorous and plausible empirical assessments of whether the determinants of technological progress conform to the predictions of the theory. I provide new evidence on the relevance of R&D intensity for economic growth, using dynamic panel data methods, thereby contributing to the empirical literature that finds support for R&D-based endogenous growth models.