Monetary Policy and the Behavior of Long-Term Real Interest Rates

by Eric S. Rosengren
September/October1995

A time-honored description of the "monetary transmission channel" suggests that the Fed controls the federal funds rate, which affects the rates on longer-term credit market instruments, which affect the expected real (inflation-adjusted) rates on longer-term instruments, which affect real spending on interest-sensitive goods, which affects unemployment and inflation. And yet one key link in the chain, the expected real long-term interest rate, is not observable.

This article explores the link between the behavior of monetary policy and inferences about the behavior of the expected long-term real rate of interest. Analysis of this link reveals a sound empirical basis for the standard transmission channel. It also provides an explanation of the Bernanke-Blinder observation that short-term nominal rates are highly correlated with real output, an explanation that is fully consistent with the standard transmission channel.

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