December 9, 1994 The spread between long-term and short-term interest rates has proven to be an excellent predictor of changes of economic activity in Canada. As a general rule, when long-term interest rates have been much above short-term rates, strong increases in output have followed within about a year; however, whenever the yield curve has been inverted for any extended period of time, a recession has followed. Similar findings exist for other countries, including the United States. But although Canadian and U.S. interest rates generally move quite closely together, the Canadian yield curve has been distinctly better at predicting future Canadian output. The explanation given for this result is that the term spread has reflected both current monetary conditions, which affect short-term interest rates, and expected real returns on investment and expectations of inflation, which are the main determinants of long-term rates. This article is mainly a summary of econometric work done at the Bank. It also touches on some of the extensive recent literature in this area.
This paper examines the predictive content of the term structure of interest rates for economic activity in Canada. Recent papers for the United States and other countries find that the slope of the term structure is a very good predictor of output growth.