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Working Paper No. 863 | March 2016

The Empirics of Long-Term US Interest Rates

US government indebtedness and fiscal deficits increased notably following the global financial crisis. Yet long-term interest rates and US Treasury yields have remained remarkably low. Why have long-term interest rates stayed low despite the elevated government indebtedness? What are the drivers of long-term interest rates in the United States? John Maynard Keynes holds that the central bank’s actions are the main determinants of long-term interest rates. A simple model is presented where the central bank’s actions are the key drivers of long-term interest rates through short-term interest rates and various monetary policy measures. The empirical findings reveal that short-term interest rates, after controlling for other crucial variables such as the rate of inflation, the rate of economic activity, fiscal deficits, government debts, and so forth, are the most important determinants of long-term interest rates in the United States. Public finance variables, such as government fiscal balances or government indebtedness, as a share of nominal GDP appear not to have any discernable effect on long-term interest rates.

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