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A defense of moderation in monetary policy

  • Williams, John C.

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 US 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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Macroeconomics.

Volume (Year): 38 (2013)
Issue (Month): PB ()
Pages: 137-150

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jmacro:v:38:y:2013:i:pb:p:137-150
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622617

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  1. 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.).
  2. Svensson, L-E-O, 1996. "Inflation Forecast Targeting : Implementaing and Monitoring Inflation Targets," Papers 615, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
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  4. 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.
  5. Thomas Laubach and John C. Williams, 2001. "Measuring the Natural Rate of Interest," Computing in Economics and Finance 2001 35, Society for Computational Economics.
  6. Han Chen & Vasco Cúrdia & Andrea Ferrero, 2012. "The macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchase programs," Working Paper Series 2012-22, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  7. John C. Williams, 2011. "Unconventional monetary policy: lessons from the past three years," Speech 92, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  8. Glenn D. Rudebusch & John C. Williams, 2006. "Revealing the secrets of the temple: the value of publishing central bank interest rate projections," Working Paper Series 2006-31, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  9. John C. Williams, 2003. "Simple rules for monetary policy," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, pages 1-12.
  10. 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.
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  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. John C. Williams, 2012. "The Federal Reserve's unconventional policies," Speech 113, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  17. Athanasios Orphanides & John C. Williams, 2005. "Monetary policy with imperfect knowledge," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2005-51, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  18. Sack, Brian, 2000. "Does the fed act gradually? A VAR analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 229-256, August.
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  21. 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.
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  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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