What is the Expectations Theory?
Expectations theory attempts to forecast short term interest rates based on the current long-term rates by assuming no arbitrage opportunity and therefore implying that two investment strategies spread in a similar time horizon should yield an equal amount of returns. For example, Investment in bonds for two consecutive one-year bonds yields the same interest as investing in a two-year bond today.
- It assists the investors to foresee the future interest rates and also assist in the investment decision making; depending on the outcome from the expectations theory, the investors will figure out if the future rates are favorable or not for investment.
- Long-term rates used in theory are typically government bond rates, which helps the analyzers to predict the short-term rates and also to forecast where these short-term rates will trade in the future.
Types of Expectations Theory
#1 – Pure Expectations Theory
The assumption of this theory is that forward rates represent the upcoming future rates. In a way, the term structure represents the market expectation on short-term interest rates.
#2 – Liquidity Preference Theory
In this theory, liquidity is given preference, and investors demand a premium or higher interest rate on the securities with long maturity since more time means more risk associated with the investment.
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#3 – Preferred Habitat Theory
Different bond investors prefer one maturity length over others and also that they are willing to buy these bonds if enough calculate risk premium is yielded on such bonds. In this theory, everything else equal, the basic assumption is that investor preferred bonds are short term bonds over long term bonds, indicating that long term bonds yield more than short term bonds.
- An investor is looking at the current bond market and is confused about his investment options, where he has the below information available:
- The one-year interest rate for a bond maturing in one year = 3.5%
- A bond maturing in 2 years having an interest rate of 4%
- The rate for one-year maturity bond one year from now will be assumed as F1
- So, there are two choices in front of the investor either he chooses to invest in a 2-year bond or invest in consecutive one-year bonds, but which investment will yield him good returns.
- Let us calculate using the expectations theory assumption: (1+0.035)*(1+F1) = (1+0.04) ^2
- Now we calculate for F1 = 4.5%, so in both the scenarios, investors will earn an average of 4% annually.
Difference Between Expectations Theory and Preferred Habitat Theory
- In the preferred habitat theory, the investor prefers short term duration bonds as compared to long term duration bonds, in only the case where long-term bonds pay a risk premium, an investor will be willing to invest in the same.
- As opposed to expectation theory, where it assumes that short term bonds and long term bonds yield the same returns, preferred habitat theory explains that why single long term bonds pay a higher interest rate as compared to the interest rates of two short term bonds added together with the same maturity.
- The major difference between the two would be wherein preferred habitat theory, and an investor is concerned with the duration and yield while the expectations theory only gives preference to yield.
- It gives a fair understanding of the interest rates to the investors willing to invest in any type of bonds, short term or long term.
- The theory assumes that long term rates can be predicted by using short term rates, so this excludes the scope of arbitrage in the market.
- Since there is an assumption in this theory as an investor, we should know that the theory is not completely reliable and can give faulty calculations.
- The numbers and the formula are theory-based, and using it sometimes may give over or underestimation of the future rates, so if an investor decides to make an investment based on this calculation, the financial planning can spin if the theory doesn’t work.
- Also, the theory does not account for the external factor, which affects the short-term interest rates making it more complicated to forecast. If the interest rates change or there is a slight change in the monetary policy of the country, then the bond market, prices, and yield will definitely take a hit and change accordingly.
This is a tool used by investors to analyze short-term and long-term investment options. The theory is purely based on assumption and formula. However, the investment decision should not have only relied upon this theory. People should just use it as a tool to analyze the health of the market and combine the analysis with other strategies to get reliable investment choice.
This has been a guide to What is Expectations Theory & its Definition. Here we discuss the formula to calculate expectations theory and examples along with types, advantages, and disadvantages. You can learn more about from the following articles –