By Fabio Cortes of the Bank's Foreign Exchange Division.
Interest rate swap agreements were developed for the transfer of interest rate risk. Volumes have grown rapidly in recent years and now the swap market not only fulfils this purpose, but is also used to extract information about market expectations and to provide benchmark rates against which to compare returns on fixed-income securities such as corporate and government bonds. This article explains what swaps are; what information might be extracted from them; and what appear to have been the main drivers of swap spreads in recent years. Some quantitative relationships are explored using ten-year swap spreads in the United States and the United Kingdom as examples.