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Limits of Monetary Policy in Theory and Practice

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  • Carmen M. Reinhart and Vincent R. Reinhart

Abstract

Considerable debate rages about whether Federal Reserve policy was too lax in the early part of the 2000s, thereby fueling the home-price bubble that was the proximate cause of the global financial crisis. We present evidence that the view that modest alterations to monetary policy have vast consequences is inconsistent with theory and not supported by evidence. We take a close look at the responses of asset markets to changes in the short-term policy interest rate since the founding of the Fed in 1914. Changes in the federal funds rate have no systematic effect on either long-term interest rates or housing prices over nearly a century. Indeed, since the mid-1990s the policy rate had a negative relationship with long-term interest rates. This is consistent with a global view of capital markets where massive cross-border flows shape the availability of domestic credit and asset prices. The evidence casts doubts on arguments that a moderately different monetary policy path might have mattered.
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Suggested Citation

  • Carmen M. Reinhart and Vincent R. Reinhart, 2011. "Limits of Monetary Policy in Theory and Practice," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 31(3), pages 427-439, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:cto:journl:v:31:y:2011:i:3:p:427-439
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Guillermo A. Calvo & Carmen M. Reinhart, 2002. "Fear of Floating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(2), pages 379-408.
    2. Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2010. "After the fall," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 17-60.
    3. Reinhart, Vincent & Simin, Timothy, 1997. "The market reaction to federal reserve policy action from 1989 to 1992," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 149-168.
    4. Alan Greenspan, 2010. "The Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(1 (Spring), pages 201-261.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kenneth N. Kuttner, 2013. "Low Interest Rates and Housing Bubbles: Still No Smoking Gun," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Role of Central Banks in Financial Stability How Has It Changed?, chapter 8, pages 159-185 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Carmen Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart, 2009. "Capital Flow Bonanzas: An Encompassing View of the Past and Present," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2008, pages 9-62 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:sgh:gosnar:y:2012:i:7-8:p:45-65 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Jordà, Òscar & Schularick, Moritz & Taylor, Alan M., 2015. "Betting the house," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(S1), pages 2-18.
      • Òscar Jordà & Moritz Schularick & Alan M. Taylor, 2014. "Betting the House," NBER Chapters,in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2014, pages 2-18 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Kenneth Kuttner, 2011. "Monetary Policy and Asset Price Volatility: Should We Refill the Bernanke-Gertler Prescription?," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-04, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jun 2011.
    6. Adam S. Posen, 2011. "Monetary Policy, Bubbles, and the Knowledge Problem," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 31(3), pages 461-471, Fall.
    7. Lukasz Goczek, 2011. "Federal Policy Responses To The 2007-2009 Credit Crunch In The Us," Equilibrium. Quarterly Journal of Economics and Economic Policy, Institute of Economic Research, vol. 6(3), pages 27-42, September.
    8. Jeroen Hessel & Jolanda Peeters, 2011. "Housing bubbles, the leverage cycle and the role of central banking," DNB Occasional Studies 905, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    9. Cendejas Bueno, José Luis & Muñoz, Félix & Castañeda, Juan, 2013. "Expansión monetaria y ciclo económico en España: 1998-2012," Working Papers in Economic Theory 2013/09, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).
    10. Jean-Paul Pollin, 2010. "Commentaire : Articuler les explications pour comprendre la bulle immobilière," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 438(1), pages 173-179.
    11. Bradley Jones, 2015. "Asset Bubbles; Re-thinking Policy for the Age of Asset Management," IMF Working Papers 15/27, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Gerald P. O'Driscoll, 2011. "Money, Prices, and Bubbles," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 31(3), pages 441-459, Fall.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • R00 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General - - - General
    • Z0 - Other Special Topics - - General

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