Economic Policy Review

Signal or Noise? Implications of the Term Premium for Recession Forecasting

July 2008Volume 14, Number 1
JEL classification: C53, E37, E43, E52

Authors: Joshua V. Rosenberg and Samuel Maurer

Since the 1970s, an inverted yield curve has been a reliable signal of an imminent recession. One interpretation of this signal is that markets expect monetary policy to ease as the Federal Reserve responds to an upcoming deterioration in economic conditions. Some have argued that the yield curve inversion in August 2006 did not signal an imminent recession, but instead was triggered by an unusually low level of the term premium. This article examines whether changes in the term premium can distort the recession signal given by an inverted yield curve. The authors use the Kim and Wright (2005) decomposition of the term spread into an expectations component and a term premium component to compare recession forecasting models with and without the term premium. They find that the expectations component of the term spread is a leading indicator of recession, while the term premium component is not. Their analysis of recession forecasting performance provides some evidence that a model based on the expectations component is more accurate than the standard model that uses the term spread.

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