U.S. Monetary Policy Normalization and Global Interest Rates
  • 1 https://isni.org/isni/0000000404811396, International Monetary Fund
  • | 2 https://isni.org/isni/0000000404811396, International Monetary Fund

Contributor Notes

As the Federal Reserve continues to normalize its monetary policy, this paper studies the impact of U.S. interest rates on rates in other countries. We find a modest but nontrivial pass-through from U.S. to domestic short-term interest rates on average. We show that, to a large extent, this comovement reflects synchronized business cycles. However, there is important heterogeneity across countries, and we find evidence of limited monetary autonomy in some cases. The co-movement of longer term interest rates is larger and more pervasive. We distinguish between U.S. interest rate movements that surprise markets versus those that are anticipated, and find that most countries receive greater spillovers from the former. We also distinguish between movements in the U.S. term premium and the expected path of risk-free rates, concluding that countries respond differently to these shocks. Finally, we explore the determinants of monetary autonomy and find strong evidence for the role of exchange rate flexibility, capital account openness, but also for other factors, such as dollarization of financial system liabilities, and the credibility of fiscal and monetary policy.

Abstract

As the Federal Reserve continues to normalize its monetary policy, this paper studies the impact of U.S. interest rates on rates in other countries. We find a modest but nontrivial pass-through from U.S. to domestic short-term interest rates on average. We show that, to a large extent, this comovement reflects synchronized business cycles. However, there is important heterogeneity across countries, and we find evidence of limited monetary autonomy in some cases. The co-movement of longer term interest rates is larger and more pervasive. We distinguish between U.S. interest rate movements that surprise markets versus those that are anticipated, and find that most countries receive greater spillovers from the former. We also distinguish between movements in the U.S. term premium and the expected path of risk-free rates, concluding that countries respond differently to these shocks. Finally, we explore the determinants of monetary autonomy and find strong evidence for the role of exchange rate flexibility, capital account openness, but also for other factors, such as dollarization of financial system liabilities, and the credibility of fiscal and monetary policy.

I. Introduction

As the U.S. economic outlook strengthens, the Federal Reserve will continue to gradually normalize its monetary stance. After several years of policy rates at the zero lower bound, the deployment of unconventional asset purchase policies, and long-term rates and term premiums at historically low levels, many market analysts and policymakers were anxious about the global implications of the first Fed hike in more than 9 years. In the event, the first decision to increase the federal funds rate on December 16th, 2015, turned out to be relatively benign. Central banks with pegs to the U.S. dollar followed the Fed’s increase in lock-step, and several central banks in Latin America have also raised their policy rates substantially in the following months. However, there is little evidence of generalized policy rate adjustments elsewhere (Figure 1, panel A). Meanwhile, longer-term interest rates have remained low, with the U.S. term premium compressing further from already low levels (Figure 1, panel B).

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Recent interest rate developments

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Sources: Haver Analytics; Bloomberg. For Saudi Arabia (SAU), the reverse repo rate is shown, provided by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency. Estimates of the term premium are provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York using the methodology in Adrian, Crump, and Moench (2013).

The full cycle of U.S. monetary policy tightening will take place over an extended period, progressing from the gradual increase of policy rates to the eventual unwinding of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. While it is expected to accompany an ongoing economic recovery, the process risks triggering disruptions in global financial markets. First, Federal Reserve rate decisions at the early stages of the tightening cycle may lead agents to revise their expectations about the future path of U.S. short-term rates—which currently anticipate a very gradual pace of adjustment—leading to spikes in longer-term yields. Second, the unprecedented nature of the process could generate uncertainty about the future rate path of interest rates and increased risk aversion, both drivers of global term premiums and capital flows.

What may be the consequences for interest rates around the world as U.S. monetary policy continues to normalize? Does monetary tightening in the United States have a smaller impact on interest rates in other countries when it reflects good news about the U.S. economy? What are the global effects of shifts in the U.S. term premium? How do the implications from changes in U.S. rates compare with those originating in other major economies, such as the euro area? What policies can grant small open economies control over their monetary stance in the face of tightening global financial conditions?

This paper attempts to address these questions by exploring international financial linkages in a broad sample of 43 emerging and advanced economies since the early 2000s.1 We begin by analyzing the pass-through of international interest rates for short and long-dated bonds. On average, we find a modest response of short term domestic rates to a change in the federal funds rate—with a 100-basis-point increase in U.S. rates leading to a response of about 20 basis points abroad—but with substantial heterogeneity across countries. The degree of interest rate interdependence is much higher and more homogenous across countries in the case of long-term rates. When 10-year U.S. bond yields rise by 100 basis points, domestic long-term rates increase by between 50 and 80 basis points in two-thirds of the countries in our sample.

We then investigate whether the underlying drivers of interest rate movements in major economies determine their impact on interest rates in other countries. To do so, we use a decomposition of movements in U.S. and euro area 10-year bond yields that distinguishes the components that respond to economic news, those that don’t, and those movements that are due to changes in risk aversion, and analyze how each are transmitted across borders. We find that monetary policy shocks in large economies that do not reflect a change in their economic outlook have historically played a key role among external drivers of domestic long-term interest rates in small open economies.

A distinctive feature at the current juncture is that the U.S. term premium has been at historically low levels for some time (see Figure 1, panel B). To shed light on the possible consequences of a sudden decompression, we consider a decomposition of movements in 10-year U.S. bond yields into shifts in the expected path of future short-term policy rates and in the term premium, and explore the differential impact these have on long-term interest rates elsewhere. We find that shocks to the U.S. term premium explain the bulk of the variability in long-term interest rates in small open economies that is attributable to changes in U.S. interest rates.

The normalization of U.S. monetary policy finds many economies operating below potential amid a persistent deceleration in economic activity. In many cases, central banks should in principle be able to attenuate the domestic impact of tightening global financial conditions by maintaining short-term interest rates accommodative. Whether they can do so in practice is subject to significant disagreement in policy circles and in the literature.2 There is a widespread perception that the normalization of the U.S. monetary stance will be followed by interest rate increases in many countries, irrespective of their cyclical position. Indeed, international interest rates co-move strongly with external financial conditions, and with U.S. policy rates in particular.

In a highly integrated global financial system, will monetary authorities around the world be able to avoid a tightening of financial conditions that is not warranted by their domestic cycle? Or will tightening alongside the Federal Reserve become a necessity? What policies can help monetary authorities regain more autonomy vis-à-vis global financial shocks?

Caceres, Carrière-Swallow, and Gruss (2016) argue that inference about monetary autonomy based on estimates of interest rate spillovers can lead us to overstate the limits to monetary autonomy when business cycles are correlated across countries. The starting point of their analysis is the idea that countries facing similar shocks should be expected to respond with similar monetary policies, even if these are completely inward-looking. They propose a two-stage procedure to estimate autonomy-impairing spillovers from global financial conditions, which are defined as the subset of responses of domestic rates to foreign shocks that are above and beyond what can be explained by the central bank’s pursuit of domestic monetary objectives.

We follow this approach to infer limits to monetary autonomy in a sample of more than 40 advanced and emerging economies since the early 2000s. In order to partial out the policy response to changes in domestic macroeconomic conditions, we start by modeling inward-looking policy reaction functions for each country. In a second stage, we estimate whether the changes in domestic interest rates that are not endogenous reactions to changes in local macroeconomic conditions may have been driven by U.S. interest rates. We find that a majority of countries in our sample have managed to tailor their monetary stance to domestic conditions. However, in some cases, monetary conditions did tend to deviate from domestic objectives following movements in U.S. interest rates.

We then analyze the determinants of autonomy-impairing spillover estimates across countries, focusing on the policies that can be used to enhance monetary autonomy. In line with the classical monetary trilemma, we find that exchange rate flexibility plays a key role in ensuring that central banks in open economies can gear monetary policy towards stabilizing the domestic economy. But other policies can also affect monetary autonomy. We find that stronger monetary and fiscal credibility, an active use of reserve requirements, and lower financial dollarization, are also associated with increased monetary autonomy.

Throughout our analysis, we focus on the effects of U.S. monetary policy normalization on global interest rates. Of course, many other dimensions of its potential repercussions are worth exploring. Recent studies have argued that a global financial cycle—largely but not exclusively driven by U.S. monetary policy—affects asset prices, capital flows, and credit growth across countries (e.g., Rey, 2015). Where monetary transmission is incomplete, this could well be the case even where central banks have full autonomy to influence short-term rates. For instance, overall credit growth may be significantly influenced by global financial conditions if domestic firms finance their activities by issuing bonds abroad. These are all interesting dimensions of monetary policy transmission in open economies, but they go beyond the scope of this paper.

The structure of the paper is as follows: Section II presents the data used in the analysis. Section III describes the empirical methodology and presents estimates of pass-through from U.S. to domestic interest rates. Section IV digs deeper into what can be expected from the normalization of U.S. monetary policy by exploring how the pass-through depends on the nature of the factors driving U.S. interest rate movements. Section V moves from interest rate pass-through to spillovers, and discusses the monetary autonomy that countries enjoy to decouple their policies from rising U.S. rates. Section VI explores which factors may improve the degree of monetary policy autonomy in small open economies, and Section VII concludes.

II. Data

Financial conditions are determined by the price and quantities of a broad set of financial instruments, including debt and equity. We limit our analysis to interest rates on nominal public debt instruments denominated in local currency that are traded on secondary markets. At the short end of the yield curve, we focus on instruments with remaining maturity between three and six months, and at the long end of the curve, with remaining maturity of 10 years. When government bond yields are not available, quasi-sovereign bonds issued by the central bank for monetary policy operations are used.

Our choice of bond yields rather than monetary policy or money market rates is motivated by two considerations. First, long time series of policy rates are often discontinuous, as the choice of policy instrument changes over time.3 Second, while money market rates are widely available and are typically more comparable across countries, they are subject to time-varying volatility that is unrelated to monetary policy, which is particularly pronounced among emerging economies with less developed financial systems. For instance, sudden liquidity shortages can lead to very large spikes in nominal rates despite monetary policy having remained unchanged.

One limitation of using yields on public debt is that the data are often subject to gaps. To overcome this limitation and in the hope of using a panel that is as balanced as possible, we interpolate the series using the variability in yields for instruments of similar maturities. For short-term rates, we use instruments with remaining maturities between one month and two years, and for long-term rates, we use remaining maturities between five and 20 years. Our primary data sources are generic bond estimates provided by Bloomberg and the series for treasury bills and government bond yields provided by the IMF’s International Financial Statistics. While sources vary by country, instrument and time period, we supplement these primary sources with data from the IMF’s monetary surveys, Haver Analytics, Global Financial Data, and national authorities.4 The result is a comprehensive database of interest rates for a set of 43 emerging and advanced countries, at monthly frequency from January 2000 through October 2015.

III. Pass-through From U.S. to Domestic Interest Rates

How are changes in global or U.S. financial conditions transmitted to interest rates in other economies? We estimate a set of country-specific vector autoregression (VAR) models using monthly data since the early 2000s to quantify the reaction of domestic interest rates to changes in U.S. interest rates. These estimates should be interpreted as correlations between interest rates, or pass-through, and are intended to provide a sense of how rates have moved together in the past without implying causality or limits to monetary policy autonomy.

Our analysis is largely focused on the effects of changes in U.S. interest rates, as these are a key driver of global financial conditions (see, for instance, Rey, 2015 and Ricci and Shi, 2016). In section IV, we consider alternative model specifications that include financial conditions in the euro area.

Our workhorse model is a VAR that includes a small open economy block exogeneity assumption, such that lags of domestic conditions do not affect the external variables. The model can be written as:

[Z*Δi]t=B0+Σj=12Bj[Z*Δi]tj+[ν*ν]t,(1)

where i denotes domestic interest rates in the small open economy (short or long-term rates, depending on the question) and the vector z* includes changes in U.S. interest rates (Δi*, either the federal funds rate or the 10-year Treasury bond yield, depending on the question) as well as global risk sentiment proxied by the VIX index.5 The reduced-form error terms ν and ν* are assumed to be independent and identically distributed with bounded second moments. The matrices Bj are restricted to ensure the block exogeneity of Zt* such that global variables are not affected by lags of domestic variables.

We focus our analysis on the cumulative Cholesky-orthogonalized impulse response of domestic interest rates (Δi) to a shock in U.S. rates (Δi*).6 This timing restriction assigns exogeneity to movements in U.S. monetary policy—an assumption that is likely invalid in a context of common global shocks that may have been driving both U.S. and domestic rates simultaneously.

Short-term interest rates

Table 1 (first column) reports pass-through estimates for our full sample of 43 countries. It shows the cumulative response of the domestic short-term rate 12 months after a shock that raises the Federal Funds rate by 100-basis-points over the same period. The median response for the set of emerging markets is 14 basis points, while the median response for advanced economies is 23 basis points. These statistics mask a good deal of heterogeneity: domestic short-term rates react quite differently across countries to movements in the federal funds rate.

Table 1.

Cumulative impulse response of domestic rates after 12 months

article image
Note: The table reports the cumulative impulse response of domestic rates after one year to a shock to the federal funds rate that leaves it 100 basis points higher. * denotes statistical significance at the 10 percent level.

Only 11 countries in our sample—just over one quarter—exhibit a cumulative response that is statistically significant after 12 months at the 10 percent confidence level. Interestingly, these countries are also rather heterogeneous, including both developing and advanced economies, as well as countries with both fixed and flexible exchange rates with respect to the dollar. The magnitude of their responses also varies greatly across economies. For instance, a 100-basis-point hike in the federal funds rate is met by a relatively large increase in short-term interest rates in Mexico and Hong Kong SAR (89 basis points and 65 basis points, respectively). The response to the same shock in Switzerland and Thailand is about 30 basis points, and only five basis points in the case of Japan.

Long-term interest rates

Movements in short-term rates are only part of the story, since many economic decisions are driven by longer-term rates. Moreover, since the policy rate in the United States hit the zero lower bound during the global financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has conducted monetary policy by influencing the longer end of the yield curve through quantitative easing and forward guidance. Furthermore, the degree of control that central banks exert over short-term interest rates in their respective countries may be substantially greater than their control over longer-term rates.

Overall, we find that movements in 10-year U.S. bond yields typically have a greater impact on corresponding domestic rates compared to changes in the federal funds rate (Table 1, third column). Indeed, the response of domestic long-term interest rates appears to be statistically significant at the 10 percent confidence level for 29 out of 38 countries in our sample—roughly three quarters. The responses are also more similar across countries than in the case of short-term rates: following a 100-basis-point increase in the U.S. Treasury yield, roughly two-thirds of these countries exhibit a cumulative response in the range of 50 to 80 basis points. Notable exceptions where pass-through exceeds one-to-one include Turkey, with a response of 176 basis points, followed by Brazil and Colombia with roughly 128 basis points. Overall, the median pass-through to long-term rates for advanced economies is 67 basis points, and 65 basis points for emerging economies.

IV. What Can Be Expected from U.S. Monetary Policy Normalization?

The analysis presented so far reflects overall historical responses of domestic interest rates to movements in U.S. interest rates. Some of these movements in U.S. interest rates reflected the Federal Reserve’s usual response to changes in economic conditions. For instance, rates tend to be increased when aggregate demand is seen to be putting upward pressure on prices. In contrast, others might not reflect a change in the economic outlook, or could deviate from the central bank’s historical reaction function. These movements are more likely to surprise financial markets, and may also trigger a change in uncertainty regarding the future path of monetary policy or price inflation.

The effects on domestic interest rates are likely to depend on the underlying reason for the change in U.S. rates. Noting that the normalization of U.S. monetary policy reflects the ongoing recovery of the U.S. economy following the global financial crisis, some observers have predicted that its impacts will be small. As alluded to previously, other aspects of the current environment raise important questions. For instance, will normalization be attenuated by accommodative monetary policy in other major advanced economies? Will the term premium remain compressed? In this section, we attempt to shed light on these issues.

Do the nature and source of global financial shocks matter?

As Romer and Romer (2004) demonstrate, the impact of U.S. interest rate movements on the real economy depends on the underlying developments behind these decisions. Bluedorn and Bowdler (2010) show that the degree to which FOMC announcements are anticipated by markets has a bearing on the transmission of U.S. monetary policy to asset prices in other countries. The impact of a Federal Reserve policy decision will likely differ if it responds to a better economic outlook or reflects tighter monetary conditions alone. One reason is that decisions responding to an improved economic outlook are easier to anticipate, and may already be priced in by financial markets before they occur. An unanticipated rate hike, in turn, is likely to generate sharper adjustments of asset prices than one that has been fully anticipated. Another channel is that the better U.S. outlook will itself have implications for many global variables, including demand for exports and commodity prices, which will affect countries differently.

To better understand the impact of anticipated versus unanticipated shocks to interest rates, we consider the decomposition of movements in U.S. and euro area 10-year bond yields constructed by Osorio-Buitron and Vesperoni (2015). Their identification strategy distinguishes between movements in rates that respond to global risk aversion, unexpected monetary tightening, or an improved economic outlook in the two economies. The identification of shocks is based on the sign restriction approach proposed by Matheson and Stavrev (2014) for U.S.-based shocks, and has been further extended by Osorio-Buitron and Vesperoni (2015) in two important ways. First, they orthogonalize their identified shocks to shifts in global risk aversion, proxied by the VIX index. Second, they expand the model and sign restrictions to include euro area yields—constructed as PPP-GDP weighted-average of 10 year bonds issued by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain—and stock returns. The sign restrictions are used to identify “real” shocks, which raise bond yields and depress stock prices, and “money” shocks, which depress both yields and stock prices. Additional sign restrictions distinguish the money and real shocks generated in the United States from those generated in the euro area, by assuming that contemporaneous shocks from the United States can affect euro area variables but not the other way around. The shocks attributable to these different drivers of long-term yields are orthogonal by construction.7 This decomposition will enable us to characterize the response of domestic interest rates to four sets of shocks that are in line with economic developments or that deviate from them, and that originate in the United States or in the euro area.

The identification of these shocks is distinct from the strategy employed by the high-frequency event window approach used by Karadi and Gertler (2015) and Gilchrist, López-Salido and Zakrajsek (2015), which measures the surprise element of FOMC decisions using intraday market data surrounding policy meetings. Still, “money” shocks are likely to be less anticipated by markets than their “real” counterparts, to the extent that the central bank and private agents likely share common information about the economic determinants that drive monetary policy decisions.

We conduct the same exercise described in the previous section, but replace the foreign interest rate Δi* in the vector z* with the five identified drivers of global long-term rates, and include domestic long-term government bond yields in the domestic block. We focus on the 29 countries that showed a significant pass-through to domestic long-term interest rates at the 10 percent confidence level (as reported in Table 1, column 3). Figure 2, Panel A, reports the share of variation in domestic long-term interest rates that can be attributed to each of these drivers; Panel B distinguishes between “money” and “real” shocks; whereas Panel C distinguishes between shocks originating in the United States and the euro area.

Figure 2:
Figure 2:
Figure 2:

Drivers of long-term interest rates, 2000-15: Expected and unexpected shocks to 10-year bond yields in the U.S. and the euro area

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The bars denote the variance decomposition (in percent) of domestic long-term interest rates attributable to expected (“Real”) and unexpected (“Money”) changes in 10-year U.S. bond yields (“US”) and in euro area 10-year bond yields (“EA”); and global risk sentiment, as proxied by the VIX index. The shock decomposition and identification are based on Osorio-Buitron and Vesperoni (2015).Note: The bars denote the variance decomposition (in percent) of domestic long-term interest rates attributable to changes in 10-year U.S. bond yields (“US”) and in euro area 10-year bond yields (“EA”); and global risk sentiment, as proxied by the VIX index. The shock decomposition and identification are based on Osorio-Buitron and Vesperoni (2015).

The first result that stands out is that money shocks significantly affect bond yields around the world (Panel B). Indeed, movements in global long-term rates that are driven by an unexpected monetary tightening (“money” shocks) explain a larger fraction of the variability in domestic rates than those driven by an improved economic outlook (“real” shocks). The contribution from monetary surprises among the external factors excluding the VIX is over 70 percent in advanced economies and 60 percent in emerging economies, and is larger than the contribution from “real” shocks in 80 percent of the countries.

Another important feature at the current juncture is that the United States is set to continue normalizing its monetary policy while other major economies, such as the euro area and Japan, maintain a highly accommodative stance. An interesting question in this context is how much of an attenuating effect this asynchronicity of monetary policies will provide for other economies.

The results shown in Panel C suggest that the relief most countries may receive from further monetary easing by the ECB will be limited, as movements in U.S. rates are the main source of global financial shocks. Indeed, the share of total variation in domestic bond yields attributable to U.S. shocks is larger than the share corresponding to euro area shocks in most of the countries in our sample, and is particularly large for countries such as Australia, Canada, and South Korea. The few cases where shocks originating in both economies represent roughly the same contribution comprise the Czech Republic, India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa. The share of the variance explained by U.S.-originated shocks exceeds the share corresponding to euro area shocks in 93 percent of the countries. On average, they account for around 70 percent or the variability attributable to external factors (excluding the VIX) in advanced economies, and just over 60 percent in emerging economies.

It is worth noting that idiosyncratic factors still explain a large fraction of interest rate movements in emerging economies. For instance, in Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom the five external factors included in our model explain over two thirds of the overall variance in domestic long-term rates, but these factors explain less than 25 percent of the variance in the case of Chile, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey.

This analysis of the relative importance of each underlying shock to foreign long-term rates is based on a variance decomposition exercise. The advantage of such an approach is that it takes into account not only the estimated impact of each shock when it occurs, but also how often and large those shocks have been in the past. A complementary exercise is to estimate the impact of an identified shock of a given magnitude, irrespective of how likely it is to occur: the impulse responses of domestic long-term interest rates to each shock are reported in Figure 3. A few interesting observations can be gleaned from this exercise. The responses of domestic interest rates to unanticipated U.S. monetary shocks tend to be large and positive for most countries, and tend to outweigh those that accompany good economic news. These are particularly large for Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey. In the case of the response to euro area shocks, Pakistan and Poland tend to exhibit the largest responses.

Figure 3:
Figure 3:

Impact on long-term interest rates: Expected and unexpected shocks to 10-year bond yields in the U.S. and the euro area

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Notes: The chart shows the cumulative response of domestic long-term interest rates after 12 months to an identified shock attributable to expected (“Real”) and unexpected (“Money”) changes in 10-year U.S. bond yields (“US”) and in euro area 10-year bond yields (“EA”). The responses to the “Money US” and “Real EA” in the case of Turkey (TUR), Indonesia (IDN), and Pakistan (PAK) are shown on the right scale; all other responses are plotted against the left scale. The model also includes a shock to global risk sentiment, proxied by the VIX index; the corresponding cumulative response is not shown here owing to space considerations.

Assessing the effects of shocks to the term premium

Another potential source of risk surrounding the normalization of U.S. monetary policy is a sudden decompression of the term premium—that is, the difference between the 10-year yield and the average of expected future short-term rates over the same horizon—which is currently at historically low levels.8

To assess the potential impact of a rise in the term premium, we include the decomposition of the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield into the expected path of short-term interest rates and the term premium as exogenous variables in our workhorse country-specific VAR models. The estimates of the U.S. term premium and the expected path of short-term interest rates are produced by Adrian, Crump, and Moench (2013) and maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and have been reported in Figure 1, panel B. Results from this exercise are presented in Figures 4 and 5.

Our results confirm that movements in the term premium are a major source of spillovers from U.S. long-term interest rates. On average, we find that shocks to the U.S. term premium account for about three-quarters of the variance in domestic long-term rates attributable to shocks to U.S. rates (Figure 4), both in advanced and emerging economies. This share is as high as 90 percent for Chile, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, and Peru (although the contribution to the overall variance stemming from idiosyncratic factors tends to be large in these countries). In Canada, the same share is about 77 percent, but the U.S. term premium alone explains almost 60 percent of the entire variance of long-term Canadian bond yields. Finally, although these external factors explain a relatively small share of the variance in domestic interest rates in Turkey, the cumulative response of domestic interest rates to a shock to the U.S. term premium tends to be fairly large in that country (Figure 5).

Figure 4:
Figure 4:

Drivers of long-term interest rates, 2000-15: U.S. term premium, the expected path of U.S. monetary policy, and global risk sentiment

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The bars denote the variance decomposition (in percent) of domestic long-term interest rates attributable to changes in the expected path of U.S. short-term interest rates (“Expected Path”), term premium, and global risk sentiment, as proxied by the VIX index. The Term Premium estimates are produced by Adrian, Crump and Moench (2013), and maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Figure 5:
Figure 5:

Impact on long-term interest rates: U.S. term premium, the expected path of U.S. monetary policy, and global risk sentiment

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The chart shows the cumulative response of domestic long-term interest rates after 12 months to an identified shock attributable to changes in the expected path of U.S. short-term interest rates (“Expected Path”), and in the term premium. The model also includes a shock to global risk sentiment, proxied by the VIX index; the corresponding cumulative response is not shown here owing to space considerations. The term premium estimates are produced by Adrian, Crump and Moench (2013), and maintained by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

V. The Fed’s Normalization and Monetary Autonomy Elsewhere

While global financial conditions are expected to tighten as the Federal Reserve continues normalizing its monetary stance, many economies around the world are facing a deceleration in economic activity. Where weak demand is generating negative output gaps and inflation expectations remain well-anchored, supportive monetary conditions are likely to be appropriate. How much monetary leeway do these countries have to avoid an unwanted tightening of financial conditions? While interest rate pass-through at the long end of the yield curve appears widespread, can central banks tailor their short-term policy rates to domestic conditions? Or do they need to follow the interest rate path set by the Federal Reserve, even if that implies implementing pro-cyclical policy? Section III showed that there is a substantial pass-through of U.S. to domestic short-term interest rates in many countries. But is this co-movement of interest rates reflecting a lack of monetary autonomy? Or is it simply a natural consequence of central banks reacting to highly synchronized macroeconomic conditions?

From interest rate pass-through to autonomy-impairing spillovers

To explore how the degree of synchronicity of interest rates across countries compares with that of macroeconomic conditions, we use a principal component analysis of output growth, price inflation, and interest rates for a large set of countries. For each of these series, we explore the correlation of individual country series with the global factor. The global factor (or component) of short-term and long-term interest rates, real output growth and CPI inflation corresponds to the principal component of the time-series of each variable across countries.9

Short-term interest rates from both advanced and emerging market economies exhibit a positive correlation with the global component in most countries (Figure 6). The co-movement over the past decade has been particularly strong among advanced economies, with an average correlation of about 0.9. Yet, a relatively high degree of co-movement with the global component is also observed for interest rates in emerging markets, with an average correlation of 0.7 for the financially integrated economies in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Figure 6:
Figure 6:

Synchronicity of global output and interest rate cycles across countries.

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Sources: IMF staff calculations based on data from International Financial Statistics.Note: Advanced economies include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland., Taiwan POC, U.K., and U.S., Emerging market economies include Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Egypt, El Salvador, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, and Vietnam. For each variable, the “global component”, derived from principal component analysis, is computed as the first principal component for all the economies in our sample.

This synchronicity of interest rates may simply reflect a high degree of co-movement in business cycles across countries. Indeed, all countries in our sample exhibit a positive correlation of real GDP growth with the corresponding global component (Figure 6). On average, countries that exhibit a high degree of synchronicity with the global factor in terms of interest rates also tend to show a high degree of co-movement in terms of output growth and price inflation.

It is often argued that the degree of co-movement in asset prices is increasing over time, driven by deeper integration of financial markets.10 Indeed, the degree of co-movement of interest rates with respect to the corresponding global factor varies over time, and reached particularly high levels over recent years (Figure 7). However, these fluctuations tend to mimic the variations in synchronization of business cycles across countries.

Figure 7:
Figure 7:

Evolution of correlation with global component

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Sources: IMF staff calculations based on data from International Financial Statistics.Note: “LAC” includes: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. “Asia” includes: Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan POC, Thailand, and Vietnam. “Africa”: Kenya and South Africa. “Other advanced” includes Australia, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States. For each variable, the global component is computed as the first principal component for all the economies in our sample.

There may be nothing inherently undesirable about domestic financial conditions being synchronized with those of international financial markets. For instance, countries with strong trade and financial linkages to the United States—such as Canada and Mexico—will tend to have an economic cycle that is highly synchronized with the U.S. cycle. In such cases, changes in domestic financial conditions may be broadly aligned with U.S. financial conditions, without posing challenges to achieving price and output stabilization objectives. A tension could emerge, however, in a case where domestic financial conditions are driven by foreign conditions that are out of sync with the domestic business cycle.

To distinguish between these cases, we follow the procedure proposed in Caceres, Carrière-Swallow, and Gruss (2016) for a sample of 43 countries since the early 2000s. Autonomy-impairing spillovers from U.S. interest rates are those movements in domestic short-term interest rates that are triggered by movements in U.S. rates but are unaligned with domestic monetary objectives. A significant spillover estimate can thus be interpreted as evidence that monetary policy in that country is constrained to some extent by foreign developments, and monetary autonomy limited.

In order to partial out the systematic policy response to changes in domestic macroeconomic conditions, a two-stage estimation of VAR models is used (see Annex A for more details). In the first stage, the procedure imposes the benchmark null hypothesis that the central bank exclusively pursues the objectives of stabilizing domestic output and prices. More precisely, a Taylor-type rule for the dynamic relationship between domestic interest rates and domestic macro conditions is estimated for each country. Each country-specific VAR model includes changes in the nominal domestic short-term interest rate and a vector of variables capturing changes in domestic macroeconomic conditions.11

We include forward-looking variables rather than actual outcomes of output and inflation in the vector of domestic macroeconomic conditions. Many studies have used current and lagged values of consumer price inflation and output growth to control for domestic conditions (e.g. Edwards, 2015; Klein and Shambaugh, 2015; and Obstfeld, 2015). While these are natural choices to control for the domestic business cycle, monetary authorities operating under inflation targeting usually justify their monetary policy decisions based on changes in the economic outlook.12,13

Ideally, we would use the internal forecasts used by the central bank to inform the policy decision. However, these are only publicly available for a handful of countries and with a significant delay. Instead, we use changes in professional forecasts of economic activity and price inflation as reported by Consensus Economics (12-months-ahead forecasts of inflation and output growth).14

The residuals or unexplained components from this estimation can be interpreted as deviations from the historical policy reaction function that characterizes the central bank’s efforts to achieve its domestic output and inflation stabilization objectives. These unexplained interest rate movements could reflect other central bank objectives beyond preserving price stability, including financial stability concerns, and thus could well be welfare-enhancing.15 Nonetheless, they entail changes in domestic monetary conditions beyond what can be attributed to the central bank’s usual response to inflation and output developments.

In a second stage, we quantify to what extent these residual movements in domestic interest rates can be explained by movements in U.S. interest rates. We estimate another country-specific VAR that includes the residual domestic interest rate movements obtained from the first stage, a vector of global variables including changes in the U.S. federal funds rate, and the VIX index to capture global risk sentiment.

We focus our analysis on the Cholesky-orthogonalized impulse response of the (residual) domestic interest rates to a shock from the U.S. federal funds rate. We interpret these estimates as autonomy-impairing spillovers from U.S. rates, and expect them to be low where monetary autonomy is high. It should be noted that we are not attempting to fully characterize why interest rates deviated from the inward-looking policy rule in the first stage. While a host of factors could be driving these deviations from the policy rule, we focus only on how much of these residuals can be associated with movements in U.S. rates. In general, the autonomy-impairing spillover response of domestic short-term rates following a 100-basis-point increase in the federal funds rate (depicted with bars in Figure 8) is smaller than the overall response reported earlier (20 basis points lower on average). That is to say, an important portion of the co-movement in interest rates is simply a reflection of synchronized business cycles, and thus cannot be construed as inconsistent with full monetary autonomy.

Figure 8:
Figure 8:

Response of short-term rates to an increase in the federal funds rate

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The chart shows the cumulative response of domestic short-term interest rates (green dots) after 12 months to a shock that increases the federal funds rate by 100 basis points after 12 months. “Spillover” (bars) denotes the estimates of autonomy-impairing spillovers. The dark bars and circles denote the responses that are statistically significant at the 10 percent confidence level.

Nonetheless, estimated spillovers to domestic short-term rates are statistically significant at the 10 percent confidence level in 11 out of the 43 advanced and emerging market economies included in our sample, where they average a non-trivial 38 basis points. Interestingly, these economies include countries with fully flexible exchange rates and well-established central banks, such as Canada and Israel. In economies such as Hong Kong SAR and Mexico, autonomy-impairing spillovers from U.S. to domestic short-term interest rates are large, exceeding two-for-three. This is not surprising given their highly open financial systems, compounded with a hard peg to the U.S. dollar in the former and tight financial linkages with the United States in the latter.

For completeness, we also apply the two-stage estimation procedure to long-term rates. We find that the difference with respect to simple pass-through estimates is much less relevant at the longer-end of the yield curve. Indeed, the response of long-term interest rates from the two-stage procedure (bars in Figure 9) is essentially the same as the overall pass-through response (dots).

Figure 9:
Figure 9:

Response of long-term rates to an increase in the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The chart shows the cumulative response of domestic long-term interest rates (green dots) after 12 months to a shock that increases the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield by 100 basis points after 12 months. “Spillover” (bars) denotes the estimates of autonomy-impairing spillovers. The chart only shows the responses that are statistically significant at the 10 percent confidence level.

In sum, we find that a large portion of the pass-through to short-term interest rates from movements in U.S. rates can be attributed to the synchronicity of business cycles across countries. However, we also find that movements in U.S. rates generate significant spillovers to domestic short-term rates in several countries—including both advanced and emerging economies—above and beyond what can be explained by business cycle co-movement. Based on historical evidence, these countries seem to have limited monetary autonomy to cope with rising policy rates in the United States.

Robustness exercise

Our approach is subject to common empirical limitations. To estimate the policy response function, we should employ the internal forecasts used by the central bank to inform the policy decision, but these are only publicly available for a handful of countries and with a significant delay. The market forecasts that we use instead are subject to two limitations. First, there is a timing problem because they are not collected on the day as monetary policy decisions.16 This could potentially bias our autonomy-impairing spillover estimates. For instance, an event that occurs between the forecast date and the policy decision and which affects rates in both countries could be (wrongly) considered a spillover response. However, we find that using alternative timings (that is, forecasts from the same month as the decision or from the following month) does not significantly alter our results. For instance, in the case of Mexico the estimated spillover remains significant and in the order of 60 basis points in all cases. Second, even if timing were not an issue, market forecasts may incorporate expected policy responses.17 In practice, however, monetary policy only affects economic conditions with a significant delay. Accordingly, movements in 12-months-ahead market forecasts should be highly correlated with movements in the central bank’s internal forecasts.

Another potential problem with our estimates is that U.S. policy rates have remained unchanged at the zero lower bound since end-2008, which is a substantial part of our sample period. However, most other economies exhibited positive interest rates during this period, which enabled their central banks to increase or decrease their domestic policy rates while the federal funds rate remained constant. To assess whether this is affecting our spillover estimates, we repeat our procedure using a sample ending in June 2009. The results are broadly unchanged (Table B1 in Annex B), with the main difference being that the number of countries exhibiting a statistically significant spillover (at the 10 percent level) falls from 11 in our baseline estimations to only seven.

Finally, the multi-stage procedure used to quantify spillovers in a way that can be meaningful to infer limits to monetary autonomy relies on an estimate of the historical policy reaction function characterizing the central bank’s pursuit of price and output stabilization. Of course, that function could vary over time as monetary policy frameworks change, thus affecting the spillover estimates. As a robustness exercise, we re-estimate dynamic policy rules using a 48-month rolling window in the first stage of our procedure. The results are reported in Table B1 in Annex B. Although the results remain broadly unchanged for the vast majority of countries, the estimated autonomy-impairing spillovers differ substantially in a few cases. For instance, countries such as Bolivia, Malaysia, and Romania now exhibit much larger (and statistically significant) spillover responses to a shock in the federal funds rate compared to our baseline estimations. Conversely, the spillovers in the case of Mexico appear to be much lower (and no longer statistically significant) when the parameters of its Taylor rule are allowed to vary over time. In the case of Canada, the spillover estimate drops by almost half but remains significant at the 10 percent confidence level.

VI. Exploring the Determinants of Monetary Autonomy

What determines the differences in autonomy-impairing spillovers across countries? The traditional trilemma framework points to the degree of exchange rate flexibility and capital account openness as the main determinants of monetary policy autonomy. More recently, Rey (2015) has questioned the dimensions of the trade-off, arguing that autonomy can only be achieved by restricting the capital account—although the arguments and evidence refer to the effect of global financial conditions on longer-term interest rates or credit aggregates, rather than on the central bank’s ability to affect short-term rates.

Caceres, Carrière-Swallow, and Gruss (2016) argue that inference about monetary autonomy based on spillover estimates can be biased when economic cycles are synchronized, possibly affecting conclusions about the role of exchange rate flexibility and other factors as determinants of autonomy. They estimate spillovers while modeling the domestic monetary policy reaction function for a panel of advanced and emerging economies, splitting the sample into countries with flexible exchange rates and countries with pegs or soft pegs. They find that spillovers are significantly larger for the latter. Moreover, in the case of countries with flexible exchange rates the response of domestic rates that cannot be accounted for by domestic developments is indistinguishable from zero.

In this section we explore the drivers of monetary autonomy beyond the role played by exchange rate flexibility. We start by assessing the role played by the pillars of the traditional trilemma, including the exchange rate regime and the degree of capital account openness. We then move beyond the trilemma to explore whether, for a given combination of exchange rate flexibility and financial openness, other country-specific factors also matter.

We propose a monthly panel-data approach similar to Hausman and Wongswan (2011) and Bowman, Londono, and Sapriza (2015). Differently from those studies, we interact country characteristics with realized changes in U.S. rates, rather than monetary surprises.

As in Caceres, Carrière-Swallow, and Gruss (2016), we employ the dynamic multi-stage approach described in section V and Annex A. In a first stage, we estimate country-specific policy rules for the dynamic relationship between domestic interest rates and domestic macro conditions, obtaining residual interest rate movements (u^i). In the second stage, we estimate a recursive Interacted-Panel VAR (IPVAR) model as described in Towbin and Weber (2013) to assess to what extent these residuals are driven by U.S. interest rates. The framework can be considered as a generalized panel VAR regression in which each right hand side variable can vary deterministically with country-specific characteristics. The model is given by:

[100b02110α0,ct31α0,ct321][VIXΔi*u^i]c,t=γXc,t+Σj=12[bj11bj120bj21bj220αj,ct31αj,ct32αj,ct33][VIXΔi*u^i]c,tj+εc,t,(2)

where c = 1, …, N denotes countries; Xc,t is a vector of controls that includes country-specific intercepts; u^i are the residuals from the first-stage estimation; and ϵc,t is a vector of uncorrelated iid shocks. We identify external shocks with a small open economy assumption: the external variables do not depend on domestic variables (bj13=bj23=0 for all j), implying exogeneity.

In order to analyze how monetary spillovers vary with country characteristics, we allow for interactions terms. More precisely, the coefficients αj,ctpq in (2) are given by:

αj,ctpq=bjpq+δjpqFc,t,(3)

where Fc,t is a vector of country-specific fundamentals at time t.18,19 This implies that domestic interest rates are modeled not only as a function of their own lags and the contemporaneous and lagged U.S. rate and VIX, but also of interactions between these terms and country fundamentals.

We use monthly data from January 2000 to October 2015 for a sample of 30 advanced and emerging market economies. See Table 2 for a list of the countries included in the IPVAR model. We then estimate model (2) and evaluate the coefficients in equation (3) at different values for the country characteristics to compute the corresponding impulse response functions.

Table 2.

Country sample for the interacted-panel VAR estimation

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The trilemma’s pillars: exchange rate flexibility and financial openness

Before looking beyond the trilemma, we first assess the role played by its two pillars in our sample. More precisely, we first estimate the model with only two fundamentals in Fc,t capturing the exchange rate regime and the degree of financial openness—the two pillars of the traditional monetary trilemma. The exchange rate regime corresponds to the coarse classification in Reinhart and Rogoff (2004) that has been updated by Ilzetzki, Reinhart, and Rogoff (2009). The financial openness index is from Chinn and Ito (2006) and Aizenman, Chinn, and Ito (2010).

We find evidence that supports the predictions of the trilemma. Figure 10, panel A, shows monetary policy spillovers under different degrees of exchange rate flexibility, while conditioning on high financial openness. For open economies, maintaining a flexible exchange rate sharply reduces the degree of autonomy-impairing spillovers from U.S. to domestic interest rates.20 The cumulative response after one year declines from almost 40 basis points under a fixed exchange rate to about 13 basis points under a floating exchange rate and disappears under a fully flexible regime (the median response is three basis points but is indistinguishable from zero at the 10 percent confidence level).

Figure 10.
Figure 10.

Determinants of spillovers – Testing the trilemma’s hypothesis

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: The charts show the cumulative autonomy-impairing spillover (as defined in the text) to a 100-basis cumulative increase in the U.S. federal funds rate. Panel A shows the response under a fixed exchange rate (1st decile of the distribution in our sample, corresponding to an index value of 1 in the Reinhart and Rogoff, 2004, course exchange rate classification), floating exchange rate (median in our sample, or index value 3) and fully flexible exchange rate (corresponding to the 9th decile in our sample and an index value of 4), while conditioning on high financial openness (the 9th decile of Aizenman, Chinn, Ito, 2010, index of financial openness in our sample). Panel B shows the response under a closed, mid-open, and open financial openness, corresponding to the 1st decile, the median, and the 9th decile of the Aizenman, Chinn, Ito (2010) index in our sample. The solid line reports the median response, conditional on the fundamental values. The dotted lines show a 90 percent confidence interval, calculated based on bootstrap techniques as described in Towbin and Weber (2013).

In turn, opening the capital account increases the degree of autonomy-impairing spillovers. Figure 10, panel B, shows the results for different degrees of financial openness while conditioning on having a floating exchange rate regime.21 The cumulative response declines from 13 to 8 basis points when the degree of financial openness moves from the ninth decile in our sample (corresponding to fully open) to the median, and to -3 (but indistinguishable from zero) when it moves to the first decile.

Given that policy rates in the United States have been at the zero lower bound since end-2008, we conducted the same robustness exercise than in section V and re-estimated the model with data up to June 2009. The results in terms of the role played by the exchange rate and the degree of financial openness remain broadly unchanged (see Figure B1).

Looking beyond the trilemma: do other factors matter?

We then extend the model to account for a third fundamentals in Fc,t and explore how the response varies when we condition the third fundamental at different values, corresponding to the third and seventh decile of their empirical distribution in our sample, while conditioning on a floating exchange rate regime and high financial openness.22

We first explore how the strength of the monetary and fiscal frameworks may affect the extent of autonomy-impairing spillovers. Following a rise in U.S. rates, a less credible central bank may need to deliver a larger interest rate movement to convince agents that the exchange rate depreciation following an opening interest rate differential will not lead to significant second round effects in inflation. Meanwhile, countries with perceived fiscal vulnerabilities may be more susceptible to capital outflows after an increase in U.S. rates, prompting a larger increase in domestic rates.

To explore this, we construct an index of anchored inflation expectations based on the degree of disagreement among professional forecasters of inflation at a 12-month fixed horizon. While disagreement is a function of the variability of supply and demand shocks affecting the economy, Capistrán & Ramos-Francia (2010) argue that it also reflects the predictability and credibility of monetary policy—the more predictable a central bank’s reaction function, the less likely are forecasters to disagree about the future path of inflation. Relatedly, inflation forecast disagreement has been shown to be related to de jure measures of central bank independence in G7 economies (Dovern, Fritsche, and Slacalek, 2012) and to the monetary policy regime in developing economies (Capistrán and Ramos-Francia, 2010).

The index of anchored inflation expectations AIEi,t for country i at time t is constructed as an ordinal ranking of the inverse disagreement among forecasters (measured as the 4-year moving average of the standard deviation across inflation forecasts reported by Consensus Economics, MA48(σi,t)):

AIEi,t=1NRank[1MA48(σi,t)].

We use sovereign CDS spreads to capture perceived fiscal risks. We find that, conditional on the exchange rate regime and the degree of financial openness, moving the proxies for the strength of the monetary and fiscal frameworks from the third to the seventh decile of their distribution in our sample leads, in each case, to a decrease in autonomy-impairing spillovers of close to five basis points (see Figure 11).23

Figure 11.
Figure 11.

Determinants of spillovers – Looking beyond the trilemma

Citation: IMF Working Papers 2016, 195; 10.5089/9781475543056.001.A001

Source: IMF staff calculations.Note: Each bar denotes the difference in monetary policy spillovers from an IPVAR model with three fundamentals when that fundamental moves from the 3rd to the 7th decile of its empirical distribution within our sample, conditioning on the exchange rate regime being floating (an index value of three in the Reinhart and Rogoff, 2004, course exchange rate classification) and the capital account fully open (the highest value in Aizenman, Chinn, Ito, 2010, index of financial openness). See the list of countries included in Table 2.

The use of macroprudential policies has been often posited as an alternative tool that the central bank may use in contexts where adjusting policy rates to offset the effect of global financial conditions on capital flows is at odds with the output and price stability objectives. An interesting question then is whether the active use of macroprudential policies has helped countries attain increased monetary autonomy. One empirical challenge lies in finding measures of macroprudential policies that capture not only their usage, but also the intensity with which they are deployed. Here we use the index constructed by Cordella and others (2014) that is based on the frequency with which reserve requirements are adjusted. We find that, indeed, moving from the third to the seventh decile in terms of the intensity with which reserve requirements are used is associated with a reduction in autonomy-impairing spillovers of about five basis points.

Based on financial stability concerns related to currency mismatches in balance sheets, central banks in countries with a higher degree of financial dollarization may be more concerned about letting the exchange rate react to rising U.S. rates. We explore this by using an updated version of the financial dollarization index proposed in Levy-Yeyati (2006), which is based on the share of bank deposits denominated in foreign currency. We find that, conditional on the exchange rate regime and the degree of financial openness, increasing financial dollarization from the third to the seventh decile of its distribution in our sample is associated with an increase of about three basis points in spillovers associated with limited autonomy.24

The structure of the domestic financial system and, in particular, the presence of global banks may affect the way monetary policy responds to changes in global financial conditions. Goldberg (2013) finds some evidence that the presence of global banks may affect monetary autonomy, although the effects are heterogeneous—probably reflecting different business models of global banks—and relatively minor compared to those of the exchange rate regime. Here we use an analogous metric that captures the role of global banks in the provision of domestic credit, and find that a stronger presence of global banks (that is, moving from the third to the seventh decile of its distribution in our sample) is associated with a slightly larger spillover of about two basis points.

The share of sovereign debt in domestic currency that is held by foreigners has been increasing substantially over the last few years, especially in emerging market economies. In this context, portfolio rebalancing by international investors following a rise in U.S. rates can potentially have a larger impact on the capital account. Central banks may then need to raise policy rates in an attempt to attenuate outflow pressures, irrespective of domestic macro conditions. With this in mind, we assess whether the degree of autonomy-impairing spillovers varies depending on the share of sovereign debt held by foreigners, using the data constructed by Ebeke and Kyobe (2015). Surprisingly, we find the opposite effect in this sample: increasing foreigners’ participation from the 3rd to the 7th deciles is associated with a reduction of autonomy-impairing spillovers of almost seven basis points.

Of course, many of these fundamentals are slow-moving variables, and changing them would require persistent policy action, along with a broader assessment of their welfare implications. All in all, the results from this section confirm that exchange rate flexibility plays the key role in allowing the central bank to gear monetary policy towards stabilizing the domestic economy. But the results suggest that the strength of policy frameworks is also important to attain larger monetary autonomy, although its gains are more modest compared to the exchange rate regime.

VII. Conclusion and Policy Implications

Asset prices, and interest rates in particular, exhibit a large degree of co-movement across countries, and these are closely linked to changes in U.S. interest rates. On the basis of this observation, domestic interest rates around the world might be expected to rise as expansionary U.S. monetary policy is normalized. But our analysis suggests that this response will depend on several factors.

First, the nature of the factors driving U.S. interest rates during monetary policy normalization will determine the extent of its implications elsewhere. In general terms, global spillovers are expected to be larger if the pace of interest rate hikes is not commensurate with the recovery of economic indicators. Longer-term interest rates are expected to rise more sharply in other countries if the U.S. term premium were to decompress to more normal levels. Supportive monetary conditions in the euro area will provide some alleviation for certain countries, but interest rates around the world are typically more affected by U.S. rates.

Second, the response of global interest rates will depend on how much autonomy monetary authorities in other countries have to decouple their policies from U.S. monetary policy normalization. Based on historical evidence, we conclude that most countries have been able to tailor their monetary stance to domestic conditions, regardless of the path of U.S. policy rates. But this is not a generalized finding. In the past, spillovers from U.S. monetary policy have been large in a handful of countries.

Finally, our analysis suggests that the extent of monetary autonomy in small open economies vis-à-vis U.S. monetary policy depends crucially on the economic policy framework that is in place. Our results confirm that exchange rate flexibility plays a key role in ensuring greater monetary autonomy when the capital account is unrestricted. This suggests that countries with more flexible exchange rates will be better prepared to cope with the challenges posed by the Fed’s normalization going forward.

Our results also suggest that other policies can also help preserve monetary autonomy from global financial conditions. For a given policy choice along the capital account openness and exchange rate flexibility dimensions, improving the credibility of policy frameworks, reducing the extent of financial dollarization, and using macroprudential reserve requirements may help achieve a higher degree of monetary autonomy. However, while some of these other factors are highly relevant for certain countries, they seem to deliver more modest returns compared to the exchange rate regime.

U.S. Monetary Policy Normalization and Global Interest Rates
Author: Carlos Caceres, Mr. Yan Carriere-Swallow, Ishak Demir, and Bertrand Gruss
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    Recent interest rate developments

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    Drivers of long-term interest rates, 2000-15: Expected and unexpected shocks to 10-year bond yields in the U.S. and the euro area

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    Impact on long-term interest rates: Expected and unexpected shocks to 10-year bond yields in the U.S. and the euro area

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    Drivers of long-term interest rates, 2000-15: U.S. term premium, the expected path of U.S. monetary policy, and global risk sentiment

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    Impact on long-term interest rates: U.S. term premium, the expected path of U.S. monetary policy, and global risk sentiment

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    Synchronicity of global output and interest rate cycles across countries.

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    Evolution of correlation with global component

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    Response of short-term rates to an increase in the federal funds rate

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    Response of long-term rates to an increase in the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield

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    Determinants of spillovers – Testing the trilemma’s hypothesis

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    Determinants of spillovers – Looking beyond the trilemma