Real Return Bonds, Inflation Expectations, and the Break-Even Inflation Rate

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According to the Fisher hypothesis, the gap between Canadian nominal and Real Return Bond yields (or break-even inflation rate) should be a good measure of inflation expectations. The authors find that this measure was higher, on average, and more variable than survey measures of inflation expectations between 1992 and 2003. They examine whether risk premiums and distortions embedded in this interest rate gap can account for these facts. Their results indicate that distortions were likely an important reason for the high level and variation of this measure over much of the 1990s. There is little evidence that the distortions examined were as important between 2000 and 2003, but the high level of the break-even inflation rate in 2004 may be evidence of their return. Given the potential distortions, and the difficulty in identifying them, the authors conclude that it is premature to consider this measure a reliable gauge of monetary policy credibility. In addition, it is not as useful as competing tools for short- and medium-term inflation forecasting.