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Monetary policy in a low inflation economy with learning

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  • John C. Williams

Abstract

In theory, monetary policies that target the price level, as opposed to the inflation rate, should be highly effective at stabilizing the economy and avoiding deflation in the presence of the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates. With such a policy, if the short-term interest rate is constrained at zero and the inflation rate declines below its trend, the public expects that policy will eventually engineer a period of above-trend inflation that restores the price level to its target level. Expectations of future monetary accommodation stimulate output and inflation today, mitigating the effects of the zero bound. The effectiveness of such a policy strategy depends crucially on the alignment of the public's and the central bank's expectations of future policy actions. In this paper, we consider an environment where private agents have imperfect knowledge of the economy and therefore continuously reestimate the forecasting model that they use to form expectations. We find that imperfect knowledge on the part of the public, especially regarding monetary policy, can undermine the effectiveness of price-level-targeting strategies that would work well if the public had complete knowledge. For low inflation targets, the zero lower bound can cause a dramatic deterioration in macroeconomic performance with severe recessions occurring with alarming frequency. However, effective communication of the policy strategy that reduces the public's confusion about the future course of monetary policy significantly reduces the stabilization costs associated with the zero bound. Finally, the combination of learning and the zero bound implies the need for a stronger policy response to movements in the price level than would otherwise be optimal and such a rule is effective at stabilizing both inflation and output in the presence of learning and the zero bound even with a low inflation target.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2006-30.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2006-30

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Keywords: Monetary policy ; Inflation (Finance);

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References

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  1. Athanasios Orphanides amd John Williams, 2001. "Monetary Policy with Imperfect Knowledge," Computing in Economics and Finance 2001 254, Society for Computational Economics.
  2. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2003. "Robust monetary policy rules with unknown natural rates," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2003-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2003. "Escaping from a Liquidity Trap and Deflation: The Foolproof Way and Others," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 145-166, Fall.
  4. Ann-Charlotte Eliasson & Peter Isard & Douglas Laxton, 1999. "Simple Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," IMF Working Papers 99/75, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Eggertsson, Gauti B., 2006. "The Deflation Bias and Committing to Being Irresponsible," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(2), pages 283-321, March.
  6. David L. Reifschneider & John M. Roberts, 2005. "Expectations formation and the effectiveness of strategies for limiting the consequences of the zero bound on interest rates," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-70, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 1999. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low inflation era," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-44, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2006. "Optimal Monetary and Fiscal Policy in a Liquidity Trap," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2004, pages 75-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Michael Woodford, 2003. "The Zero Bound on Interest Rates and Optimal Monetary Policy," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 139-235.
  10. Svensson, Lars, 2000. "The Zero Bound in an Open Economy: A Foolproof Way of Escaping from a Liquidity Trap," Seminar Papers 687, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  11. Reifschneider, David & Willams, John C, 2000. "Three Lessons for Monetary Policy in a Low-Inflation Era," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 936-66, November.
  12. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2003. "Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 9884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 1998. "Robustness of Simple Monetary Policy Rules under Model Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 6570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Bruce Preston, 2005. "Learning about Monetary Policy Rules when Long-Horizon Expectations Matter," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 1(2), September.
  15. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2008. "Great Expectations and the End of the Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1476-1516, September.
  16. Jan Filáèek, 2005. "Inflation Expectations and Monetary Policy," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 55(7-8), pages 380-394, July.
  17. Okina, Kunio & Shiratsuka, Shigenori, 2004. "Policy commitment and expectation formation: Japan's experience under zero interest rates," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 75-100, March.
  18. Norman Loayza & Raimundo Soto, 2002. "Inflation Targeting: An Overview," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Norman Loayza & Raimundo Soto & Norman Loayza (Series Editor) & Klaus Schmidt-Hebbel (Series Editor) (ed.), Inflation Targeting: Desing, Performance, Challenges, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 1, pages 001-022 Central Bank of Chile.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. John C. Williams, 2009. "Heeding Daedalus: Optimal inflation and the zero lower bound," Working Paper Series 2009-23, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  2. Glenn D. Rudebusch & John C. Williams, 2008. "Revealing the Secrets of the Temple: The Value of Publishing Central Bank Interest Rate Projections," NBER Chapters, in: Asset Prices and Monetary Policy, pages 247-289 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hess Chung & Jean-Philippe Laforte & David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2011. "Have we underestimated the likelihood and severity of zero lower bound events?," Working Paper Series 2011-01, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

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