Publications on Interest rates
Working Paper No. 881 | January 2017
This paper investigates the long-term determinants of Indian government bonds’ (IGB) nominal yields. It examines whether John Maynard Keynes’s supposition that short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields holds over the long-run horizon, after controlling for various key economic factors such as inflationary pressure and measures of economic activity. It also appraises whether the government finance variable—the ratio of government debt to nominal income—has an adverse effect on government bond yields over a long-run horizon. The models estimated here show that in India, short-term interest rates are the key driver of long-term government bond yields over the long run. However, the ratio of government debt and nominal income does not have any discernible adverse effect on yields over a long-run horizon. These findings will help policymakers in India (and elsewhere) to use information on the current trend in short-term interest rates, the federal fiscal balance, and other key macro variables to form their long-term outlook on IGB yields, and to understand the implications of the government’s fiscal stance on the government bond market.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
Working Paper No. 876 | October 2016
The Fed’s Unjustified Rationale
In December 2015, the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) initiated the process of “normalization,” with the objective of gradually raising the federal funds rate back to “normal”—i.e., levels that are “neither expansionary nor contrary” and are consistent with the established 2 percent longer-run goal for the annual Personal Consumption Expenditures index and the estimated natural rate of unemployment. This paper argues that the urgency and rationale behind the rate hikes are not theoretically sound or empirically justified. Despite policymakers’ celebration of “substantial” labor market progress, we are still short some 20 million jobs. Further, there is no reason to believe that the current exceptionally low inflation rates are transitory. Quite the contrary: without significant fiscal efforts to restore the bargaining power of labor, inflation rates are expected to remain below the Federal Open Market Committee’s long-term goal for years to come. Also, there is little empirical evidence or theoretical support for the FRB’s suggestion that higher interest rates are necessary to counter “excessive” risk-taking or provide a more stable financial environment.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Flavia Dantas
Working Paper No. 862 | March 2016
Japan has experienced stagnation, deflation, and low interest rates for decades. It is caught in a liquidity trap. This paper examines Japan’s liquidity trap in light of the structure and performance of the country’s economy since the onset of stagnation. It also analyzes the country’s liquidity trap in terms of the different strands in the theoretical literature. It is argued that insights from a Keynesian perspective are still quite relevant. The Keynesian perspective is useful not just for understanding Japan’s liquidity trap but also for formulating and implementing policies that can overcome the liquidity trap and foster renewed economic growth and prosperity. Paul Krugman (1998a, b) and Ben Bernanke (2000; 2002) identify low inflation and deflation risks as the cause of a liquidity trap. Hence, they advocate a credible commitment by the central bank to sustained monetary easing as the key to reigniting inflation, creating an exit from a liquidity trap through low interest rates and quantitative easing. In contrast, for John Maynard Keynes (2007 ) the possibility of a liquidity trap arises from a sharp rise in investors’ liquidity preference and the fear of capital losses due to uncertainty about the direction of interest rates. His analysis calls for an integrated strategy for overcoming a liquidity trap. This strategy consists of vigorous fiscal policy and employment creation to induce a higher expected marginal efficiency of capital, while the central bank stabilizes the yield curve and reduces interest rate volatility to mitigate investors’ expectations of capital loss. In light of Japan’s experience, Keynes’s analysis and proposal for generating effective demand might well be a more appropriate remedy for the country’s liquidity trap.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Tanweer Akram
Working Paper No. 813 | August 2014
For Economic Stimulus, or for Austerity and Volatility?
The implementation of economic reforms under new economic policies in India was associated with a paradigmatic shift in monetary and fiscal policy. While monetary policies were solely aimed at “price stability” in the neoliberal regime, fiscal policies were characterized by the objective of maintaining “sound finance” and “austerity.” Such monetarist principles and measures have also loomed over the global recession. This paper highlights the theoretical fallacies of monetarism and analyzes the consequences of such policy measures in India, particularly during the period of the global recession. Not only did such policies pose constraints on the recovery of output and employment, with adverse impacts on income distribution; but they also failed to achieve their stated goal in terms of price stability. By citing examples from southern Europe and India, this paper concludes that such monetarist policy measures have been responsible for stagnation, with a rise in price volatility and macroeconomic instability in the midst of the global recession.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Sunanda Sen Zico DasGupta
Working Paper No. 811 | July 2014
An Evaluation Using the Maximum Entropy Bootstrap Method
This paper challenges two clichés that have dominated the macroeconometric debates in India. One relates to the neoclassical view that deficits are detrimental to growth, as they increase the rate of interest, and in turn displace the interest-rate-sensitive components of private investment. The second relates to the assumption of “stationarity”—which has dominated the statistical inference in time-series econometrics for a long time—as well as the emphasis on unit root–type testing, which involves detrending, or differencing, of the series to achieve stationarity in time-series econometric models. The paper examines the determinants of rates of interest in India for the periods 1980–81 and 2011–12, using the maximum entropy bootstrap (Meboot) methodology proposed in Vinod 1985 and 2004 (and developed extensively in Vinod 2006, Vinod and Lopez-de-Lacalle 2009, and Vinod 2010 and 2013). The practical appeal of Meboot is that it does not necessitate all pretests, such as structural change and unit root–type testing, which involve detrending the series to achieve stationarity, which in turn is problematic for evolutionary short time series. It also solves problems related to situations where stationarity assumptions are difficult to verify—for instance, in mixtures of I(0) and nonstationary I(d) series, where the order of integration can be different for different series.
What makes Meboot compelling for Indian data on interest rates? Prior to interest rate deregulation in 1992, studies to analyze the determinants of interest rates were rare in India. Analytical and econometric limitations to dealing with the nonvarying administered rates for a meaningful time-series analysis have been the oft-cited reason. Using high-frequency data, the existing attempts have focused on the recent financially deregulated interest rate regime to establish possible links between interest rates and macroeconomic variables (Chakraborty 2002 and 2012, Dua and Pandit 2002, and Goyal 2004). The results from the Meboot analysis revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the fiscal deficit is not significant for interest rate determination in India. This is in alignment with the existing empirical findings, where it was established that the interest rate is affected by changes in the reserve currency, expected inflation, and volatility in capital flows, but not by the fiscal deficit. This result has significant policy implications for interest rate determination in India, especially since the central bank has cited the high fiscal deficit as one of the prime constraints for flexibility in fixing the rates.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Hrishikesh Vinod Lekha S. Chakraborty Honey Karun
Was Keynes’s Monetary Policy, à Outrance in the Treatise, a Forerunnner of ZIRP and QE? Did He Change His Mind in the General Theory?
Policy Note 2011/4 | May 2011
At the end of 1930, as the 1929 US stock market crash was starting to have an impact on the real economy in the form of falling commodity prices, falling output, and rising unemployment, John Maynard Keynes, in the concluding chapters of his Treatise on Money, launched a challenge to monetary authorities to take “deliberate and vigorous action” to reduce interest rates and reverse the crisis. He argues that until “extraordinary,” “unorthodox” monetary policy action “has been taken along such lines as these and has failed, need we, in the light of the argument of this treatise, admit that the banking system can not, on this occasion, control the rate of investment, and, therefore, the level of prices.”
The “unorthodox” policies that Keynes recommends are a near-perfect description of the Japanese central bank’s experiment with a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) in the 1990s and the Federal Reserve’s experiment with ZIRP, accompanied by quantitative easing (QE1 and QE2), during the recent crisis. These experiments may be considered a response to Keynes’s challenge, and to provide a clear test of his belief in the power of monetary policy to counter financial crisis. That response would appear to be an unequivocal No.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2011/2 | May 2011
By general agreement, the federal budget is on an “unsustainable path.” Try typing the phrase into Google News: 19 of the first 20 hits refer to the federal debt. But what does this actually mean? One suspects that some who use the phrase are guided by vague fears, or even that they don’t quite know what to be afraid of. Some people fear that there may come a moment when the government’s bond markets would close, forcing a default or “bankruptcy.” But the government controls the legal-tender currency in which its bonds are issued and can always pay its bills with cash. A more plausible worry is inflation—notably, the threat of rising energy prices in an oil-short world—alongside depreciation of the dollar, either of which would reduce the real return on government bonds. But neither oil-price inflation nor dollar devaluation constitutes default, and neither would be intrinsically “unsustainable.”
After a brief discussion of the major worries, Senior Scholar James Galbraith focuses on one, and only one, critical issue: the actual behavior of the public-debt-to-GDP ratio under differing economic assumptions through time. His conclusion? The CBO’s assumption that the United States must offer a real interest rate on the public debt higher than the real growth rate by itself creates an unsustainability that is not otherwise there. Changing that one assumption completely alters the long-term dynamic of the public debt. By the terms of the CBO’s own model, a low interest rate erases the notion that the US debt-to-GDP ratio is on an “unsustainable path.” The prudent policy conclusion? Keep the projected interest rate down. Otherwise, stay cool: don’t change the expected primary deficit abruptly, and allow the economy to recover through time.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 8 | February 2011
The economic crisis that has gripped the US economy since 2007 has highlighted Congress’s limited oversight of the Federal Reserve, and the limited transparency of the Fed’s actions. And since a Fed promise is ultimately a Treasury promise that carries the full faith and credit of the US government, the question is, Should the Fed be able to commit the public purse in times of national crisis?Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Scott Fullwiler L. Randall Wray
Working Paper No. 645 | December 2010
Beyond its original mission to “furnish an elastic currency” as lender of last resort and manager of the payments system, the Federal Reserve has always been responsible (along with the Treasury) for regulating and supervising member banks. After World War II, Congress directed the Fed to pursue a dual mandate, long interpreted to mean full employment with reasonable price stability. The Fed has been left to decide how to achieve these objectives, and it has over time come to view price stability as the more important of the two. In our view, the Fed’s focus on inflation fighting diverted its attention from its responsibility to regulate and supervise the financial sector, and its mandate to keep unemployment low. Its shift of priorities contributed to creation of the conditions that led to this crisis. Now in its third phase of responding to the crisis and the accompanying deep recession—so-called “quantitative easing 2,” or “QE2”—the Fed is currently in the process of purchasing $600 billion in Treasuries. Like its predecessor, QE1, QE2 is unlikely to seriously impact either of the Fed’s dual objectives, however, for the following reasons: (1) additional bank reserves do not enable greater bank lending; (2) the interest rate effects are likely to be small at best given the Fed’s tactical approach to QE2, while the private sector is attempting to deleverage at any rate, not borrow more; (3) purchases of Treasuries are simply an asset swap that reduce the maturity and liquidity of private sector assets but do not raise incomes of the private sector; and (4) given the reduced maturity of private sector Treasury portfolios, reduced net interest income could actually be mildly deflationary.
The most fundamental shortcoming of QE—or, in fact, of using monetary policy in general to combat the recession—is that it only “works” if it somehow induces the private sector to spend more out of current income. A much more direct approach, particularly given much-needed deleveraging by the private sector, is to target growth in after tax incomes and job creation through appropriate and sufficiently large fiscal actions. Unfortunately, stimulus efforts to date have not met these criteria, and so have mostly kept the recession from being far worse rather than enabling a significant economic recovery. Finally, while there is identical risk to the federal government whether a bailout, a loan, or an asset purchase is undertaken by the Fed or the Treasury, there have been enormous, fundamental differences in democratic accountability for the two institutions when such actions have been taken since the crisis began. Public debates surrounding the wisdom of bailouts for the auto industry, or even continuing to provide benefits to the unemployed, never took place when it came to the Fed committing trillions of dollars to the financial system—even though, again, the federal government is “on the hook” in every instance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Scott Fullwiler L. Randall Wray