Econometrica: Mar 1972, Volume 40, Issue 2

Estimation of Term Premiums from Average Yield Differentials in the Term Structure of Interest Rates<277:EOTPFA>2.0.CO;2-4
p. 277-287

Charles R. Nelson

The fact that long term interest rates have been higher on average than short rates in the twentieth century has often been interpreted in the term structure literature as evidence of the existence of positive "liquidity" or term premiums. The purpose of this paper is to point out that an average differential between long and short rates does not necessarily represent a differential between returns realized by holders of long versus short term bonds. In particular, it is shown that if short term rates are positively autocorrelated, interest rate differentials overstate differentials in realized rates of return. We conclude that liquidity or term premiums properly estimated from the Durand yield curve data are not consistent with the liquidity preference theory.

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