Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

James Morley


In my dissertation, I study relationships between macroeconomics and financial markets. In particular, I empirically investigate the links between key macroeconomic indicators, such as output, inflation, and the business cycle, and the pricing of financial assets. The dissertation comprises three essays. The first essay investigates how the entire term structure of interest rates is influenced by regime-shifts in monetary policy. To do so, we develop and estimate an arbitrage-free dynamic term-structure model which accounts for regime shifts in monetary policy, volatility, and the price of risk. Our results for U.S. data from 1985-2008 indicate that: i) the Fed's reaction to inflation has changed over time, switching between "more active" and "less active" monetary policy regimes,: ii) the yield curve in the "more active" regime was considerably more volatile than in the "less active" regime, and: iii) on average, the slope of the yield curve in the "more active" regime was steeper than in the "less active" regime. The steeper yield curve in the "more active" regime reflects higher term premia that result from the risk associated with a more volatile future short-term rate given a more sensitive response to inflation. The second essay examines the predictive power of the entire yield curve for aggregate output. Many studies find that yields for government bonds predict real economic activity. Most of these studies use the yield spread, defined as the difference between two yields of specific maturities, to predict output. In this paper, I propose a different approach that makes use of information contained in the entire term structure of U.S. Treasury yields to predict U.S. real GDP growth. My proposed dynamic yield curve model produces better out-of-sample forecasts of real GDP than those produced by the traditional yield spread model. The main source of this improvement is in the dynamic approach to constructing forecasts versus the direct forecasting approach used in the traditional yield spread model. Although the predictive power of yield curve for output is concentrated in the yield spread, there is also a gain from using information in the curvature factor for the real GDP growth prediction. The third essay investigates time variation in CAPM betas for book-to-market and momentum portfolios across stock market volatility regimes. For our analysis, we jointly model market and portfolio returns using a two-state Markov-switching process, with beta and the market risk premium allowed to vary between "low" and "high" volatility regimes. Our empirical findings suggest strong time variation in betas across volatility regimes in most of the cases for which the unconditional CAPM can be rejected. Although the regime-switching conditional CAPM can still be rejected in many cases, the time-varying betas help explain portfolio returns much better than the unconditional CAPM, especially when market volatility is high.



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