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A defense of moderation in monetary policy

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  • John C. Williams

Abstract

This paper examines the implications of uncertainty about the effects of monetary policy for optimal monetary policy with an application to the current situation. Using a stylized macroeconomic model, I derive optimal policies under uncertainty for both conventional and unconventional monetary policies. According to an estimated version of this model, the U.S. economy is currently suffering from a large and persistent adverse demand shock. Optimal monetary policy absent uncertainty would quickly restore real GDP close to its potential level and allow the inflation rate to rise temporarily above the longer-run target. By contrast, the optimal policy under uncertainty is more muted in its response. As a result, output and inflation return to target levels only gradually. This analysis highlights three important insights for monetary policy under uncertainty. First, even in the presence of considerable uncertainty about the effects of monetary policy, the optimal policy nevertheless responds strongly to shocks: uncertainty does not imply inaction. Second, one cannot simply look at point forecasts and judge whether policy is optimal. Indeed, once one recognizes uncertainty, some moderation in monetary policy may well be optimal. Third, in the context of multiple policy instruments, the optimal strategy is to rely on the instrument associated with the least uncertainty and use alternative, more uncertain instruments only when the least uncertain instrument is employed to its fullest extent possible.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in its series Working Paper Series with number 2013-15.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedfwp:2013-15

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Keywords: Monetary policy;

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  1. Soderstrom, Ulf, 2002. " Monetary Policy with Uncertain Parameters," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(1), pages 125-45.
  2. Svensson, Lars E. O., 1997. "Inflation forecast targeting: Implementing and monitoring inflation targets," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1111-1146, June.
  3. Craine, Roger, 1979. "Optimal monetary policy with uncertainty," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 59-83, February.
  4. Vasco Curdia & Andrea Ferrero & Han Chen, 2012. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Large-Scale Asset Purchase Programs," 2012 Meeting Papers 372, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. John C. Williams, 2012. "The Federal Reserve's unconventional policies," Speech 113, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  6. 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.
  7. Rochelle M. Edge & Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2010. "Welfare-maximizing monetary policy under parameter uncertainty," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 129-143.
  8. Wieland, Volker, 2000. "Monetary policy, parameter uncertainty and optimal learning," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 199-228, August.
  9. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2005. "Monetary policy with imperfect knowledge," Working Paper Series 2005-17, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  10. John C. Williams, 2011. "Unconventional monetary policy: lessons from the past three years," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue oct3.
  11. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2000. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low-inflation era," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 936-978.
  12. Woodford, Michael, 2013. "Forward Guidance by Inflation-Targeting Central Banks," CEPR Discussion Papers 9722, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Rudebusch, Glenn D & Svensson, Lars E O, 1998. "Policy Rules for Inflation Targeting," CEPR Discussion Papers 1999, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Baumeister, Christiane & Benati, Luca, 2010. "Unconventional monetary policy and the great recession - Estimating the impact of a compression in the yield spread at the zero lower bound," Working Paper Series 1258, European Central Bank.
  15. Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2003. "Measuring the Natural Rate of Interest," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 1063-1070, November.
  16. Sack, Brian, 2000. "Does the fed act gradually? A VAR analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 229-256, August.
  17. 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.).
  18. Michael T. Kiley, 2012. "The aggregate demand effects of short- and long-term interest rates," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-54, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2001. "Is The Fed Too Timid? Monetary Policy In An Uncertain World," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 203-217, May.
  20. J. Tetlow, Robert & von zur Muehlen, Peter, 2001. "Robust monetary policy with misspecified models: Does model uncertainty always call for attenuated policy?," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(6-7), pages 911-949, June.
  21. Canlin Li & Min Wei, 2013. "Term Structure Modeling with Supply Factors and the Federal Reserve's Large-Scale Asset Purchase Progarms," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 9(1), pages 3-39, March.
  22. Giannoni, Marc P., 2002. "Does Model Uncertainty Justify Caution? Robust Optimal Monetary Policy In A Forward-Looking Model," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(01), pages 111-144, February.
  23. Charles Goodhart, 1998. "Central Bankers and Uncertainty," FMG Special Papers sp106, Financial Markets Group.
  24. John C. Williams & Andrew T. Levin, 2003. "Parameter Uncertainty and the Central Bank's Objective Function," Computing in Economics and Finance 2003 215, Society for Computational Economics.
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