IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Inflation expectations, uncertainty and monetary policy

Listed author(s):
  • Christopher A Sims

Monetary economics as practiced by central bank modelers has made a great deal of progress in recent years. In a 2002 paper I interviewed research economists at four central banks and surveyed the models in use at those banks. I criticized the models for having lost all touch with statistical inference and with its connection to decision theory. I also criticized them for not following the rational expectations literature by jointly specifying and estimating the equations in their systems. And I pointed out that none of the models had a consistent treatment of asset markets. Since then many central banks, taking advantage of the new computational methods for Bayesian inference that economists are learning to use, have made substantial progress toward meeting the first two of these criticisms. They have still for the most part done little about the third. And academic economists are beginning to question some of the standard assumptions in the rational expectations framework that underlies these models. Recent events in financial markets, and the difficulties that they raise for central banks, make it painfully clear that even the frontier Bayesian DSGE models like that in use at the Swedish Riksbank do not model asset markets in any depth. But the problem goes beyond that: these models, and most academic macro models as well, assume a standard rational expectations framework: there is only one probability measure in play, the "true" probability measure from which nature draws realizations. Agents in the model form expectations using this true distribution, conditioning on information sets that consist of all information in the model dated t and earlier. It is well documented that people do not actually behave this way, and in the literature on behavioral finance there is some suggestion that deviations from this standardized assumption of rational behavior given a common probability distribution may be important. The recent events in financial markets - the dotcom boom, the US house price boom, perhaps the continuing commodity price boom - look to some observers like bubbles that must have fed off some sort of irrational behavior. Many observers think that monetary policy might have somehow fueled these bubble-like episodes in asset markets. These are important questions for monetary policy, and it is disturbing that the monetary policy models in use cannot even be used to pose these questions. In this paper I focus on two particular, and related, deviations from the assumption that all agents have the same probability distribution and that they optimally process all information available up to some date t. I consider the implications of agents' being able to process information only at a limited rate, and the implications of agents' assuming differing probability distriubions. This is part of a series of BIS Working Papers (273 to 278) collecting papers presented at the BIS's Seventh Annual Conference on "Whither monetary policy? Monetary policy challenges in the decade ahead" in Luzern, Switzerland, on 26-27 June 2008. The event brought together senior representatives of central banks and academic institutions to exchange views on this topic. BIS Paper 45 contains the opening address of William R White (BIS), the contributions of the policy panel on "Beyond price stability - the challenges ahead" and speeches by Edmund Phelps (Columbia University) and Martin Wolf (Financial Times). The participants in the policy panel discussion chaired by Malcolm D Knight (BIS) were Martin Feldstein (Harvard University), Stanley Fischer (Bank of Israel), Mark Carney (Bank of Canada) and Jean-Pierre Landau (Banque de France). This Working Paper includes comments by Athanasios Orphanides and Lars E O Svensson.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Full PDF document
Download Restriction: no

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 275.

in new window

Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2009
Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:275
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Centralbahnplatz 2, CH - 4002 Basel

Phone: (41) 61 - 280 80 80
Fax: (41) 61 - 280 91 00
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Faust, Jon & Svensson, Lars E O, 2001. "Transparency and Credibility: Monetary Policy with Unobservable Goals," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 42(2), pages 369-397, May.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:275. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christian Beslmeisl)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.