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A world of low interest rates

Money Market Event, Zurich, 22.03.2012

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In Switzerland and in most other mature economies, we live in times of exceptionally low interest rates, be they nominal or real, long- or short-term. This state of affairs is nothing new. The downward trend dates back to the 1980s and has accelerated since then, driven, in part, by the cyclical circumstances associated with central banks' responses to the crisis. In the short-run, the determinants of the low interest rate environment are absolutely clear, but the roots of longer-term trends are disputed. Whatever the case may be, world interest rates cannot remain at such low levels indefinitely, not least because the secular and cyclical forces behind this trend are likely to lose their sway. For savers, who are currently suffering, this is good news. As for long-term borrowers, it is important for them to keep in mind that the current low rates do not reflect a 'new normal'.