Understanding Swiss real interest rates in a financially globalized world

macroeconomic dynamics
Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics

Philippe Bacchetta, Kenza Benhima, Jean-Paul Renne


August 3, 2022

This paper proposes long-run estimates of ex ante real interest rates in Switzerland and other developed economies, and it describes their relative evolution. Our results highlight the decline in—and convergence of—global real interest rates that has unfolded over the last three decades for all maturities. While Swiss yields stand out as being particularly low and stable from a historical perspective, we find that Swiss interest rates have fallen less than in many other countries during the last decade. We then examine whether the reduction in the interest differential is related to a lower attractiveness of the Swiss franc. Focusing on the difference of Swiss minus German real government bonds yields, we find a significant increase in expected real depreciation of the Swiss franc and a somewhat lower convenience yield for Swiss bonds—the convenience yield reflecting the non-pecuniary value that investors impute to the liquidity of a given bond. In contrast, the safety premium in favor of the Swiss franc increased and therefore cannot explain the smaller decline in real interest rates in Switzerland. The last part of the paper analyzes the negative convenience yield on Swiss government bonds and its recent decline. We show that both the purchase of government bonds by foreign central banks and foreign exchange interventions by the Swiss National Bank may have contributed to this decline by reducing the relative supply of foreign versus domestic government bonds.

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