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Learning, expectations formation and the pitfalls of optimal control monetary policy

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  • Athanasios Orphanides
  • John C. Williams

Abstract

This paper examines the robustness characteristics of optimal control policies derived under the assumption of rational expectations to alternative models of expectations. We assume that agents have imperfect knowledge about the precise structure of the economy and form expectations using a forecasting model that they continuously update based on incoming data. We find that the optimal control policy derived under the assumption of rational expectations can perform poorly when expectations deviate modestly from rational expectations. We then show that the optimal control policy can be made more robust by deemphasizing the stabilization of real economic activity and interest rates relative to inflation in the central bank loss function. That is, robustness to learning provides an incentive to employ a "conservative" central banker. We then examine two types of simple monetary policy rules from the literature that have been found to be robust to model misspecification in other contexts. We find that these policies are robust to empirically plausible parameterizations of the learning models and perform about as well or better than optimal control policies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2008-05.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2008-05

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Keywords: Rational expectations (Economic theory) ; Econometric models;

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References

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  1. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2007. "Robust monetary policy with imperfect knowledge," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-33, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Reis, Ricardo & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Disagreement about Inflation Expectations," Research Papers 1807, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  3. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 2001. "The performance of forecast-based monetary policy rules under model uncertainty," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-39, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Kosuke Aoki & Kalin Nikolov, 2004. "Rule-based monetary policy under central bank learning," Bank of England working papers 235, Bank of England.
  5. Vitor Gaspar & Frank Smets & David Vestin, 2006. "Adaptive Learning, Persistence, and Optimal Monetary Policy," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 376-385, 04-05.
  6. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf & Kenneth D. West, 2004. "Model Uncertainty and Policy Evaluation: Some Theory and Empirics," NBER Working Papers 10916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Croushore, Dean & Stark, Tom, 2001. "A real-time data set for macroeconomists," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 111-130, November.
  8. Athanasios Orphanides & John Williams, 2004. "Imperfect Knowledge, Inflation Expectations, and Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 201-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Milani, Fabio, 2007. "Expectations, learning and macroeconomic persistence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(7), pages 2065-2082, October.
  10. Lars O. Svensson & Robert J. Tetlow, 2005. "Optimal Policy Projections," NBER Working Papers 11392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Smets, Frank, 2003. "Maintaining price stability: how long is the medium term?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 1293-1309, September.
  12. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2006. "Inflation targeting under imperfect knowledge," Working Paper Series 2006-14, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  13. Peter Isard & Douglas Laxton & Ann-Charlotte Eliasson, 1999. "Simple Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 841, Society for Computational Economics.
  14. Dean Croushore, 1993. "Introducing: the survey of professional forecasters," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Nov, pages 3-15.
  15. John C. Williams & Andrew T. Levin, 2003. "Robust Monetary Policy with Competing Reference Models," Computing in Economics and Finance 2003 291, Society for Computational Economics.
  16. Wiliam Branch & George W. Evans, 2005. "A Simple Recursive Forecasting Model," University of Oregon Economics Department Working Papers 2005-3, University of Oregon Economics Department, revised 01 Feb 2005.
  17. Svensson, Lars E. O. & Williams, Noah, 2005. "Monetary policy with model uncertainty: distribution forecast targeting," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2005,35, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  18. John C. Williams, 1999. "Simple rules for monetary policy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-12, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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  20. Marc Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2004. "Optimal Inflation-Targeting Rules," NBER Chapters, in: The Inflation-Targeting Debate, pages 93-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Thomas J Sargent, 2007. "Evolution and Intelligent Design," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001821, UCLA Department of Economics.
  22. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 1998. "Robustness of simple monetary policy rules under model uncertainty," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-45, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  23. Taylor, John B, 1975. "Monetary Policy during a Transition to Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(5), pages 1009-21, October.
  24. Taylor, John B., 1998. "The Robustness and Efficiency of Monetary Policy Rules as Guidelines for Interest Rate Setting by the European Central Bank," Seminar Papers 649, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  25. Marcet, Albert & Sargent, Thomas J., 1989. "Convergence of least squares learning mechanisms in self-referential linear stochastic models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 337-368, August.
  26. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2002. "Robust monetary policy rules with unknown natural rates," Working Paper Series 2003-01, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  27. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2002. "Inflation Targeting: Should It Be Modeled as an Instrument Rule or a Targeting Rule?," NBER Working Papers 8925, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. Mccallum, Bennet T., 1988. "Robustness properties of a rule for monetary policy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 173-203, January.
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  34. Robert J. Tetlow, 2010. "Real-time model uncertainty in the United States: 'Robust' policies put to the test," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-15, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Athanasios Orphanides, 2010. "Monetary Policy Lessons from the Crisis," Working Papers 2010-1, Central Bank of Cyprus.
  2. Luisa Lambertini & Caterina Mendicino & Maria Teresa Punzi, 2011. "Leaning Against Boom-Bust Cycles in Credit and Housing Prices," Working Papers CELEG 1104, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza, LUISS Guido Carli.
  3. Paul Hubert, 2013. "ECB projections as a tool for understanding policy decisions," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2013-04, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  4. Paul Hubert, 2013. "ECB projections as a tool for understanding policy decisions," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2013-04, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  5. Piotr Banbula & Witold Kozinski & Michal Rubaszek, 2011. "The role of the exchange rate in monetary policy in Poland," BIS Papers chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Capital flows, commodity price movements and foreign exchange intervention, volume 57, pages 285-295 Bank for International Settlements.
  6. Eric Mayer & Johann Scharler, 2010. "Noisy Information, Interest Rate Shocks and the Great Moderation," Economics working papers 2010-07, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.

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