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Central Bank Policy Rules: Conceptual Issues and Practical Considerations

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  • Stephen G. Cecchetti

Abstract

The design of rules for central bank policy has been a subject of increasing interest to many monetary economists. The purpose of this essay is first to present an analytical structure in which a policymaker is presumed to formulate a rule based on the solution to an optimal control problem, and then to examine a number of issues that are germane to the current debate on the nature of such rules. These issues include the implication for policymaking of the slope of the output-inflation variability frontier, the importance of various types of uncertainty, the consequences of a zero nominal interest rate floor, and the possible reasons for interest rate smoothing. Although this essay is intended to raise, rather than resolve, key questions concerning policy rules, it does offer fairly compelling evidence on one point. This concerns the potential consequences of the move by many central banks toward some form of price-level or inflation targeting. In adopting this approach, central banks are implicitly changing the relative importance of output and inflation variability in their objective function. The robustness of the policy rule, however, may depend on the shape of the output-inflation variability trade-off. The data indicate that this trade-off is extremely steep: small decreases in inflation variability are associated with very large increases in output variability. This finding suggests that pure inflation targeting may have very undesirable side effects.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6306.

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Date of creation: Dec 1997
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6306

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  1. Erica L. Groshen & Mark E. Schweitzer, 1997. "Identifying inflation's grease and sand effects in the labor market," Staff Reports 31, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Frederic S. Mishkin & Adam S. Posen, 1998. "Inflation Targeting: Lessons from Four Countries," NBER Working Papers 6126, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Lars E. O. Svensson, 1996. "Price Level Targeting vs. Inflation Targeting: A Free Lunch?," NBER Working Papers 5719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stephen G. Cecchetti, 1996. "Inflation Indicators and Inflation Policy," NBER Working Papers 5161, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ben S. Bernanke & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1997. "Inflation Targeting: A New Framework for Monetary Policy?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 97-116, Spring.
  6. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin & Evans, Charles, 1996. "The Effects of Monetary Policy Shocks: Evidence from the Flow of Funds," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 16-34, February.
  7. Matthew D. Shapiro & David W. Wilcox, 1997. "Mismeasurement in the Consumer Price Index: An Evaluation," NBER Working Papers 5590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Martin Feldstein & James H. Stock, 1994. "The Use of a Monetary Aggregate to Target Nominal GDP," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 7-69 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. McCallum, Bennett T., 1999. "Issues in the design of monetary policy rules," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 23, pages 1483-1530 Elsevier.
  10. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
  11. George A. Akerlof & William R. Dickens & George L. Perry, 1996. "The Macroeconomics of Low Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 1-76.
  12. Cukierman, Alex & Kalaitzidakis, Pantelis & Summers, Lawrence H. & Webb, Steven B., 1993. "Central bank independence, growth, investment, and real rates," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 95-140, December.
  13. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
  14. Alesina, Alberto & Summers, Lawrence H, 1993. "Central Bank Independence and Macroeconomic Performance: Some Comparative Evidence," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 25(2), pages 151-62, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2002. "What Is Wrong with Taylor Rules? Using Judgment in Monetary Policy through Targeting Rules," Working Papers 118, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  2. Svensson, Lars E. O., 2002. "Inflation targeting: Should it be modeled as an instrument rule or a targeting rule?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 771-780, May.
  3. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2004. "Targeting Rules vs. Instrument Rules for Monetary Policy: What is Wrong with McCallum and Nelson?," NBER Working Papers 10747, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Svensson, L.E.O., 1998. "Inflation Targeting as a Monetary Policy Rule," Papers 646, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  5. Lars E.O. Svensson, 1999. "Price Stability as a Target for Monetary Policy: Defining and Maintaining Price Stability," NBER Working Papers 7276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Carlo Altavilla, 2003. "Assessing monetary rules performance across EMU countries," International Journal of Finance & Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(2), pages 131-151.
  7. T.C.Y. Kam & G.C. Lim, 2001. "Interest Rate Smoothing and Inflation-Output Variabilityin a Small Open Economy," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 817, The University of Melbourne.
  8. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2005. "Targeting versus instrument rules for monetary policy: what is wrong with McCallum and Nelson?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 613-626.

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