Level-slope-curvature – fact or artefact?

The first three factors resulting from a principal components analysis of term structure data are in the literature typically interpreted as driving the level, slope and curvature of the term structure. Using slight generalisations of theorems from total positivity, we present sufficient conditions under which level, slope and curvature are present. These conditions have the nice interpretation of restricting the level, slope and curvature of the correlation surface. It is proven that the Schoenmakers-Coffey correlation matrix also brings along such factors. Finally, we formulate and corroborate our conjecture that the order present in correlation matrices causes slope.

Presentation of this paper given at the QMF 2005 conference in Sydney can be found here.