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If exchange rates are random walks, then almost everything we say about monetary policy is wrong

  • Fernando Alvarez
  • Andrew Atkeson
  • Patrick J. Kehoe

The key question asked by standard monetary models used for policy analysis is, How do changes in short-term interest rates affect the economy? All of the standard models imply that such changes in interest rates affect the economy by altering the conditional means of the macroeconomic aggregates and have no effect on the conditional variances of these aggregates. We argue that the data on exchange rates imply nearly the opposite: the observation that exchange rates are approximately random walks implies that fluctuations in interest rates are associated with nearly one-for-one changes in conditional variances and nearly no changes in conditional means. In this sense, standard monetary models capture essentially none of what is going on in the data. We thus argue that almost everything we say about monetary policy using these models is wrong.

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

Volume (Year): (2008)
Issue (Month): Jul ()
Pages: 2-9

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:2008:i:jul:p:2-9:n:v.32no.1
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  1. Brandt, Michael W. & Cochrane, John H. & Santa-Clara, Pedro, 2006. "International risk sharing is better than you think, or exchange rates are too smooth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 671-698, May.
  2. Fama, Eugene F., 1984. "Forward and spot exchange rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 319-338, November.
  3. Yin-Wong Cheung & Menzie D. Chinn & Antonio Garcia Pascual, 2002. "Empirical Exchange Rate Models of the Nineties: Are Any Fit to Survive?," NBER Working Papers 9393, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Fernando Alvarez & Andrew Atkeson & Patrick J. Kehoe, 2008. "Time-varying risk, interest rates, and exchange rates in general equilibrium," Staff Report 371, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Meese, Richard A. & Rogoff, Kenneth, 1983. "Empirical exchange rate models of the seventies : Do they fit out of sample?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1-2), pages 3-24, February.
  6. David K. Backus, 2001. "Affine Term Structure Models and the Forward Premium Anomaly," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(1), pages 279-304, 02.
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