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Interest Rate Signals and Central Bank Transparency

In: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2007

  • Pierre Gosselin
  • Aileen Lotz
  • Charles Wyplosz

The present paper extends the literature on central bank transparency that relies on information heterogeneity among private agents in four directions. First, it adds the interest rate to the list of signals that the central bank can reveal. Second, it allows for more than one economic fundamental. Third, it extends the range of uncertainties that matter. So far the literature has focused on uncertainty about the economic fundamentals, assumed to be estimated with known precision; we also allow for uncertainty about precision. Fourth, it derives results that are general in the sense that they do not depend on any particular social welfare criterion. Each extension sheds new light on the role of central bank transparency. Focusing on the signaling role of the interest rate, we consider various degrees of transparency, ranging from full opacity, to just publishing the interest rate, to also revealing the signals and estimates of their precision. While uncertainty about the fundamentals results in the now familiar common knowledge effect, uncertainty about information precision creates a fog effect, which reduces the quality of decisions taken by the central bank and the private sector. In the absence of the fog effect, full transparency is generally not desirable, because it deprives the central bank from the ability to optimally manipulate private sector expectations. When the central bank's fog is large, we find that full transparency is usually the best communication strategy. This result tends to survive when the private sector's fog is large. Full opacity is only desirable when the central bank is poorly informed. Another result that emerges from our analysis is that it is usually desirable for the central bank to divulge some information, even if it is erroneous, and known to be erroneous. The reason is that, when the private sector knows that the central bank is mistaken, it needs to evaluate the extent of its mistakes.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Richard Clarida & Francesco Giavazzi, 2009. "NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2007," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clar07-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 2997.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:2997
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    1. Christian Hellwig, 2004. "Heterogeneous Information and the Benefits of Public Information Disclosures (October 2005)," UCLA Economics Online Papers 283, UCLA Department of Economics.
    2. Stephen Morris & Hyun Song Shin, 2005. "Central Bank Transparency and the Signal Value of Prices," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 36(2), pages 1-66.
    3. Hyun Song Shin & Jeffery D. Amato, 2003. "Public and private information in monetary policy models," BIS Working Papers 138, Bank for International Settlements.
    4. John C. B. Cooper, 2004. "Dollarisation in Theory and Practice," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 5(4), pages 79-89, October.
    5. McCallum, Bennett T, 1995. "Two Fallacies Concerning Central-Bank Independence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 207-11, May.
    6. Mauro Roca, 2010. "Transparency and Monetary Policy with Imperfect Common Knowledge," IMF Working Papers 10/91, International Monetary Fund.
    7. Vickers, John, 1986. "Signalling in a Model of Monetary Policy with Incomplete Information," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(3), pages 443-55, November.
    8. Alex Cukierman, 2007. "The limits of transparency," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    9. Petra M. Geraats, 2002. "Central Bank Transparency," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 532-565, November.
    10. 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.
    11. Jeffrey D. Amado & Stephen Morris & Hyun Song Shin, 2003. "Communication and Monetary Policy," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1405, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    12. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
    13. 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.
    14. Carl E. Walsh, 2007. "Optimal Economic Transparency," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 3(1), pages 5-36, March.
    15. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2005. "Social Value of Public Information: Morris and Shin (2002) Is Actually Pro Transparency, Not Con," NBER Working Papers 11537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Charles Bean, 2005. "Monetary Policy in an Uncertain World," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 6(1), pages 31-53, January.
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