Understanding the term structure of swap spreads

Quarterly Bulletin 2006 Q1
Published on 13 March 2006

By Fabio Cortes of the Bank's Foreign Exchange Division.

Market expectations about the future path of interest rates can be derived from both government bond and swap yield curves. But at times these curves may provide imprecise signals about interest rate expectations. Understanding what factors can affect the term structure of swap spreads - the difference between government bond rates and swap rates at different maturities - may therefore be helpful to policymakers when interpreting market views of future interest rate developments.

This article reviews past developments in dollar, euro, sterling and yen government bond and swap markets and considers the potential influences on the term structure of swap spreads. Using statistical analysis, it finds that some influences seem to be common across international markets, but others, such as liquidity or preferred habitat issues, tend to be specific to certain markets.

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