An Indicator of Future Inflation Extracted From the Steepness of the Interest Rate Yield Curve Along Its Entire Length
Jeffrey A. Frankel, Cara S. Lown
NBER Working Paper No. 3751
It is often suggested that the slope of the term structure of interest rates contains information about the expected future path of inflation. Mishkin (1990) has recently shown that the spread between the 12-month and 3-month interest rates helps to predict the difference between the 12-month and 3-month inflation rates. His approach however, lacks a theoretical foundation, other than the (rejected) hypothesis that the real interest rate is constant. This paper applies a simple existing theoretical framework, which allows the real interest rate to vary in the short run but converge to a constant in the long run, to the problem of predicting the inflation spread. It is shown that the appropriate indicator of expected inflation can make use of the entire length of the yield curve, in particular by estimating the steepness of a specific nonlinear transformation of the curve, rather than being restricted to a spread between two points. The resulting indicator, besides having a firmer theoretical foundation does a relatively good job of predicting the inflation rate over the period 1960 to 1988.
Published: Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1994, pp. 517-530