Comparing our financial stability real interest rate, r** (“r-double-star”) with the prevailing real interest rate gives a measure of how vulnerable the economy is to financial instability. In this post, we first explain how r** can be measured, and then discuss its evolution over the last fifty years and how to interpret the recent banking turmoil within this framework.
In a recent research paper we argue that interest rates have very different consequences for current versus future financial stability. In the short run, lower real rates mean higher asset prices and hence higher net worth for financial institutions. In the long run, lower real rates lead intermediaries to shift their portfolios toward risky assets, making them more vulnerable over time. In this post, we use a model to highlight the challenging trade-offs faced by policymakers in setting interest rates.