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The Mystique of Central Bank Speak

  • Petra M. Geraats

    (University of Cambridge)

Despite the recent trend toward greater transparency of monetary policy, in many respects mystique still prevails in central bank speak. This paper shows that the resulting perception of ambiguity could be desirable. Under the plausible assumption of imperfect common knowledge about the degree of central bank transparency, economic outcomes are affected by both the actual and perceived degree of transparency. It is shown that actual transparency is beneficial, while it may be useful to create the perception of opacity. The optimal communication strategy for the central bank is to provide clarity about the inflation target and to communicate information about the output target and supply shocks with perceived ambiguity. In this respect, the central bank benefits from sustaining transparency misperceptions, which helps to explain the mystique of central bank speak.

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Article provided by International Journal of Central Banking in its journal International Journal of Central Banking.

Volume (Year): 3 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 37-80

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Handle: RePEc:ijc:ijcjou:y:2007:q:1:a:2
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  1. Stein, Jeremy C, 1989. "Cheap Talk and the Fed: A Theory of Imprecise Policy Announcements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 32-42, March.
  2. Jensen, Henrik, 2001. "Optimal Degrees of Transparency in Monetary Policymaking," CEPR Discussion Papers 2689, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Petra M. Geraats, 2006. "Transparency of Monetary Policy: Theory and Practice," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 52(1), pages 111-152, March.
  4. Geraats, P.M., 2004. "Transparency and Reputation: The Publication of Central Bank Forecasts," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0473, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  5. Marvin Goodfriend, 1985. "Monetary mystique : secrecy and central banking," Working Paper 85-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  6. Petra M. Geraats, 2002. "Central Bank Transparency," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 532-565, November.
  7. Faust, J. & Svensson, L.E.O., 1998. "Transparency and Credibility: Monetary Policy with Unobservable Goals," Papers 636, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  8. Volker Hahn, 2009. "Transparency of Central Bank Preferences," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 10, pages 32-49, 02.
  9. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1986. "A Theory of Ambiguity, Credibility, and Inflation under Discretion and Asymmetric Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(5), pages 1099-1128, September.
  10. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-89, November.
  11. Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Hoeberichts, M.M. & Schaling, E., 1997. "Why Money Talks and Wealth Whispers : Monetary Uncertainty and Mystique," Discussion Paper 1997-47, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  12. S[empty]rensen, Jan Rose, 1991. "Political uncertainty and macroeconomic performance," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 377-381, December.
  13. Geraats, P.M., 2004. "Modelling Stochastic Relative Preferences," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0468, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  14. Stephen Morris & Hyun Song Shin, 2002. "Social Value of Public Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1521-1534, December.
  15. Beetsma, Roel M W J & Jensen, Henrik, 2003. " Why Money Talks and Wealth Whispers: Monetary Uncertainty and Mystique: Comment," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 35(1), pages 129-36, February.
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