April 2010

Structural Shocks and the Comovements Between Output and Interest Rates

Elmar Mertens


Stylized facts on U.S. output and interest rates have so far proved hard to match with DSGE models. But model predictions hinge on the joint specification of economic structure and a set of driving processes. In a model, different shocks often induce different comovements, such that the overall pattern depends as much on the specified transmission mechanisms from shocks to outcomes, as well as on the composition of these driving processes. I estimate covariances between output, nominal and real interest rate conditional on several shocks, since such evidence has largely been lacking in previous discussions of the output-interest rate puzzle.

Conditional on shocks to neutral technology and monetary policy, the results square with simple models, like the standard RBC model or a textbook version of the New Keynesian model. In addition, news about future productivity help to explain the overall counter-cyclical behavior of the real rate.

A sub-sample analysis documents also interesting changes in these pattern. During the Great Inflation (1959-1979), permanent shocks to inflation accounted for the counter-cyclical behavior of the real rate and its inverted leading indicator property. Over the Great Moderation (1982-2006), neutral technology shocks were more dominant in explaining comovements between output and interest rates, and the real rate has been pro-cyclical.

Full paper (Screen Reader Version)

Keywords: Interest rates, business cycles, structural VAR, bandpass filter

PDF: Full Paper

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