Policy brief

Low long-term rates: bond bubble or symptom of secular stagnation?

Yields on European sovereign bonds have reached historically low levels in 2016. This secular decline in long-term sovereign yields is not limited to

Publishing date
26 September 2016
Grégory Claeys

Yields on European sovereign bonds have reached historically low levels in 2016. The goals of this paper are to understand why interest rates are currently so low and to determine if this level is justified by fundamental factors, or if rates are artificially low because of unconventional monetary policies.

The decline in yields over the last 30 years is the result of various factors: the fall in inflation, lower risk premia in European countries, and most importantly the fall in the real interest rate driven by a secular decline in the 'neutral' rate.

Consequently, central banks are not fully responsible for the actual level of long-term real rates, because they adopt, to fulfil their price stability mandates, the necessary policies to influence market rates in order to make them consistent with neutral rates, over which they have little influence.

Low rates are the symptoms of our diseases, not their cause. It is therefore crucial to tackle the structural causes behind the fall in long-term rates, but also to find solutions for the harmful consequences that lower equilibrium rates could have for the conduct of monetary policy.

About the authors

  • Grégory Claeys

    Grégory Claeys, a French and Spanish citizen, joined Bruegel as a research fellow in February 2014, before being appointed senior fellow in April 2020.

    Grégory Claeys is currently on leave for public service, serving as Director of the Economics Department of France Stratégie, the think tank and policy planning institution of the French government, since November 2023.

    Grégory’s research interests include international macroeconomics and finance, central banking and European governance. From 2006 to 2009 Grégory worked as a macroeconomist in the Economic Research Department of the French bank Crédit Agricole. Prior to joining Bruegel he also conducted research in several capacities, including as a visiting researcher in the Financial Research Department of the Central Bank of Chile in Santiago, and in the Economic Department of the French Embassy in Chicago. Grégory is also an Associate Professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris where he is teaching macroeconomics in the Master of Finance. He previously taught undergraduate macroeconomics at Sciences Po in Paris.

    He holds a PhD in Economics from the European University Institute (Florence), an MSc in economics from Paris X University and an MSc in management from HEC (Paris).

    Grégory is fluent in English, French and Spanish.


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