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Nominal frictions, relative price adjustment, and the limits to monetary policy

  • Alexander L. Wolman

In simple sticky-price models, the guiding principle for optimal monetary policy is to stabilize nominal prices so as to eliminate the distortions associated with price adjustment. If there is only one sector, or one category of consumption goods, then stabilizing nominal prices means making the inflation rate zero. A growing subliterature on sticky prices considers optimal monetary policy when there are multiple sectors of sticky-price goods, broadly defined. If the relative prices of these goods need to move over time, then the principle just stated cannot be satisfied for all goods. Here I sketch some theoretical models to clarify the issues involved and use data for the United States to suggest that these issues are not mere theoretical curiosities.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in its journal Economic Quarterly.

Volume (Year): (2008)
Issue (Month): Sum ()
Pages: 219-233

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedreq:y:2008:i:sum:p:219-233:n:v.94no.3
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  1. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow, 2002. "Some Evidence on the Importance of Sticky Prices," NBER Working Papers 9069, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Kevin X. D. Huang & Zheng Liu, 2004. "Inflation targeting: what inflation rate to target?," Working Papers 04-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  3. Jon Steinsson & Emi Nakamura, 2007. "Monetary Non-Neutrality in a Multi-Sector Menu Cost Model," 2007 Meeting Papers 736, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Benigno, Pierpaolo, 2004. "Optimal monetary policy in a currency area," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 293-320, July.
  5. Andrew Levin & Christopher J. Erceg & Dale W. Henderson, 1999. "Optimal Monetary Policy with Staggered Wage and Price Contracts," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 1151, Society for Computational Economics.
  6. Mankiw, N. Gregory & Reis, Ricardo, 2002. "What measure of inflation should a central bank target?," Working Paper Series 0170, European Central Bank.
  7. Robert King & Alexander L. Wolman, 1999. "What Should the Monetary Authority Do When Prices Are Sticky?," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy Rules, pages 349-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Erceg, Christopher & Levin, Andrew, 2006. "Optimal monetary policy with durable consumption goods," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1341-1359, October.
  9. Marvin Goodfriend & Robert King, 1997. "The New Neoclassical Synthesis and the Role of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 231-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Aoki, Kosuke, 2001. "Optimal monetary policy responses to relative-price changes," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 55-80, August.
  11. Alexander L. Wolman, 1999. "Sticky prices, marginal cost, and the behavior of inflation," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Fall, pages 29-48.
  12. Julio Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1997. "An Optimization-Based Econometric Framework for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 297-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Carvalho Carlos, 2006. "Heterogeneity in Price Stickiness and the Real Effects of Monetary Shocks," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 6(3), pages 1-58, December.
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