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Long Term Chart: Fed Funds Minus 90 Day T-Bill Rate at Trader’s Narrative

Since I’ve been harping on about the gap between the Fed Funds rate and the 3 month Treasury Bill rate for almost a year now, I thought that it would be fun take a really long term look at their relationship.

Here is a chart of the difference between them going back more than 18 years:

fed rate minus 90 tbill rate long term chart

There are several things that jump out from this cursory analysis:

  • what we just went through was extraordinary
  • spikes tend to correspond to stock market turmoil or bottoms but not always
  • over the time covered, the average gap is 29 basis points
  • under Bernanke, the gap has been larger & more protracted than Greenspan
  • rarely does the 3 month T-Bill rate go lower than the Fed rate
  • Fed responded very quickly to financial shock of 9/11

Since I’m lazy I used the historical data readily available from Yahoo! Finance but I’d appreciate someone with access to cleaner data from Bloomberg or Thompson to corroborate the results.

The most important thing to take away from this is that there definitely is a relationship between these two financial instruments. Their long term average difference is so small: 28.9 basis points. And they tend to follow each other around most of the time. This isn’t surprising though since just a glance at the two charts side by side going back to the 1940’s shows their relationship.

This indicator may be useful as a tool to gauge financial shocks, and by corollary, buying opportunities. But since the attitude and responsiveness of the Federal Reserve chairman in power can influence how fast they respond to the market rate, it isn’t that objective.

At best it is just a starting point for further study. If you play around with it and find something interesting, drop me a comment to update me.

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