The Fisher Effect and the Financial Crisis of 2008
29 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 2018
This paper uses the Fisher equation relating the nominal interest rate to the real interest rate and expected inflation to provide a deeper explanation of the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recovery than attributing it to the bursting of the housing-price bubble. The paper interprets the Fisher equation as an equilibrium condition in which expected returns from holding real assets and cash are equalized. When inflation expectations decline, the return to holding cash rises relative to holding real assets. If nominal interest rates are above the zero lower bound, equilibrium is easily restored by adjustments in nominal interest rates and asset prices. But at the zero lower bound, nominal interest rates cannot fall, forcing the entire adjustment onto falling asset prices, thereby raising the expected real return from holding assets. Such an adjustment seems to have triggered the financial crisis of 2008, when the Federal Reserve delayed reducing nominal interest rates out of a misplaced fear of inflation in the summer of 2008 when the economy was already contracting rapidly. Using stock market price data and inflation-adjusted US Treasury securities data, the paper finds that, unlike the 2003–2007 period, when stock prices were uncorrelated with expected inflation, from 2008 through at least 2016, stock prices have been consistently and positively correlated with expected inflation.
Keywords: inflation, expected inflation, deflation, expected deflation, Fisher effect, Fisher equation, real rate of interest, nominal rate of interest, liquidity premium, liquidity services
JEL Classification: E43, E44, G12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation