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Are Phillips curves useful for forecasting inflation?

  • Andrew Atkeson
  • Lee E. Ohanian.

This study evaluates the conventional wisdom that modern Phillips curve-based models are useful tools for forecasting inflation. These models are based on the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment (the NAIRU). The study compares the accuracy, over the last 15 years, of three sets of inflation forecasts from NAIRU models to the naive forecast that at any date inflation will be the same over the next year as it has been over the last year. The conventional wisdom is wrong; none of the NAIRU forecasts is more accurate than the naive forecast. The likelihood of accurately predicting a change in the inflation rate from these three forecasts is no better than the likelihood of accurately predicting a change based on a coin flip. The forecasts include those from a textbook NAIRU model, those from two models similar to Stock and Watson's, and those produced by the Federal Reserve Board.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its journal Quarterly Review.

Volume (Year): (2001)
Issue (Month): Win ()
Pages: 2-11

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:2001:i:win:p:2-11:n:v.25no.1
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  1. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1999. "Forecasting Inflation," NBER Working Papers 7023, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jonas D.M. Fisher, 2000. "Forecasting inflation with a lot of data," Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Mar.
  3. Clarida, R. & Gali, J. & Gertler, M., 1998. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and some Theory," Working Papers 98-01, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  4. Phelps, Edmund S, 1969. "The New Microeconomics in Inflation and Employment Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(2), pages 147-60, May.
  5. Brayton, Flint & Levin, Andrew & Lyon, Ralph & Williams, John C., 1997. "The evolution of macro models at the Federal Reserve Board," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 43-81, December.
  6. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
  7. Stephen G. Cecchetti & Rita S. Chu & Charles Steindel, 2000. "The unreliability of inflation indicators," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 6(Apr).
  8. Robert E. Lucas, Jr. & Thomas J. Sargent, 1979. "After Keynesian macroeconomics," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
  9. Flint Brayton & John M. Roberts & John C. Williams, 1999. "What's happened to the Phillips curve?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-49, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. F. Brayton & P. Tinsley, 1996. "A guide to FRB/US: a macroeconomic model of the United States," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. David Reifschneider & Robert Tetlow & John Williams, 1999. "Aggregate disturbances, monetary policy, and the macroeconomy: the FRB/US perspective," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-19.
  12. Reifschneider, David L. & Stockton, David J. & Wilcox, David W., 1997. "Econometric models and the monetary policy process," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-37, December.
  13. N. Gregory Mankiw, 2000. "The Inexorable and Mysterious Tradeoff Between Inflation and Unemployment," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1905, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  14. Robert J. Gordon, 1996. "The Time-Varying NAIRU and its Implications for Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 5735, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Blinder, Alan S, 1997. "Is There a Core of Practical Macroeconomics That We Should All Believe?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 240-43, May.
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