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How Much Do Official Price Indexes Tell Us About Inflation?

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Author Info

  • Jessie Handbury

    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Tsutomu Watanabe

    (University of Tokyo)

  • David E. Weinstein

    (Columbia University and NBER)

Abstract

Official price indexes, such as the CPI, are imperfect indicators of inflation calculated using ad hoc price formulae different from the theoretically well-founded inflation indexes favored by economists. This paper provides the first estimate of how accurately the CPI informs us about “true” inflation. We use the largest price and quantity dataset ever employed in economics to build a Törnqvist inflation index for Japan between 1989 and 2010. Our comparison of this true inflation index with the CPI indicates that the CPI bias is not constant but depends on the level of inflation. We show the informativeness of the CPI rises with inflation. When measured inflation is low (less than 2.4% per year) the CPI is a poor predictor of true inflation even over 12-month periods. Outside this range, the CPI is a much better measure of inflation. We find that the U.S. PCE Deflator methodology is superior to the Japanese CPI methodology but still exhibits substantial measurement error and biases rendering it a problematic predictor of inflation in low inflation regimes as well.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Economics in its series UTokyo Price Project Working Paper Series with number 013.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:upd:utppwp:013

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Postal: University of Tokyo 702 Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan
Phone: +81-3-3812-2111
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Web page: http://www.e.u-tokyo.ac.jp/
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  1. Michael T. Kiley, 1996. "Endogenous price stickiness and business cycle persistence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-23, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Etienne Gagnon, 2006. "Price Setting during Low and High Inflation: Evidence from Mexico," 2006 Meeting Papers 300, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. David E. Lebow & Jeremy B. Rudd, 2003. "Measurement Error in the Consumer Price Index: Where Do We Stand?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 159-201, March.
  4. Jerry Hausman, 2003. "Sources of Bias and Solutions to Bias in the Consumer Price Index," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 23-44, Winter.
  5. Stanley Fischer, 1981. "Relative Shocks, Relative Price Variability, and Inflation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 12(2), pages 381-442.
  6. Stockton, David J, 1988. "Relative Price Dispersion, Aggregate Price Movement, and the Natural Rate of Unemployment," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(1), pages 1-22, January.
  7. Aoki, Kosuke, 2003. "On the optimal monetary policy response to noisy indicators," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 501-523, April.
  8. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer, 1988. "The New Keynsesian Economics and the Output-Inflation Trade-off," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(1), pages 1-82.
  9. Abe, Naohito & Tonogi, Akiyuki, 2010. "Micro and macro price dynamics in daily data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(6), pages 716-728, September.
  10. Parks, Richard W, 1978. "Inflation and Relative Price Variability," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(1), pages 79-95, February.
  11. Vining, Daniel R, Jr & Elwertowski, Thomas C, 1976. "The Relationship between Relative Prices and the General Price Level," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(4), pages 699-708, September.
  12. Friedman, Milton, 1977. "Nobel Lecture: Inflation and Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 451-72, June.
  13. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2007. "Product Creation and Destruction: Evidence and Price Implications," NBER Working Papers 13041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Ball, Laurence, 1992. "Why does high inflation raise inflation uncertainty?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 371-388, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Abe, Naohito & Moriguchi, Chiaki & Inakura, Noriko, 2014. "The Impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake on Commodity Prices: New Evidence from High-Frequency Scanner Data," Research Center for Price Dynamics Working Paper Series 12, Research Center for Price Dynamics, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

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