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Interest Rate Stepping, Interest Rate Smoothing and Uncertainty: Some Views from the Literature

  • W.H. Verhagen
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    This report analyses some of the reasons mentioned in the literature as to why central banks change interest rates at discrete intervals in the face of a continuously changing environment (interest rate stepping) and why they seem to prefer to implement changes in a series of small steps (interest rate smoothing). Despite the fact that both seem difficult to explain within the certainty equivalent optimal control framework frequently used to study monetary policy, it appears that modifying some of the assumptions of these models go a long way in explaining these phenomena. In particular, replacing the assumption that all uncertainty takes the form of additive shocks with known probability distributions with perhaps more realistic ways to model uncertainty will often yield stepping and smoothing as features of an optimal interest rate rule.

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    File URL: http://www.dnb.nl/binaries/wo0683_tcm46-145981.pdf
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    Paper provided by Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department in its series WO Research Memoranda (discontinued) with number 683.

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    Date of creation: 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:dnb:wormem:683
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    1. Svensson, Lars E O, 1996. "Inflation Forecast Targeting: Implementing and Monitoring Inflation Targets," CEPR Discussion Papers 1511, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. McCallum, Bennett T, 1995. "Two Fallacies Concerning Central-Bank Independence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(2), pages 207-11, May.
    3. Friedman, Milton, 1970. "A Theoretical Framework for Monetary Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 193-238, March-Apr.
    4. D. Backus & J. Driffil, 1998. "Inflation and Reputation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625, David K. Levine.
    5. Kenneth Rogoff, 1985. "The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(4), pages 1169-1189.
    6. Philip Lowe & Luci Ellis, 1997. "The Smoothing of Official Interest Rates," RBA Annual Conference Volume, in: Philip Lowe (ed.), Monetary Policy and Inflation Targeting Reserve Bank of Australia.
    7. Charles Goodhart, 1998. "Central Bankers and Uncertainty," FMG Special Papers sp106, Financial Markets Group.
    8. Marvin Goodfriend, 1990. "Interest rates and the conduct of monetary policy," Working Paper 90-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    9. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 1997. "The science of monetary policy: A new Keynesian perspective," Economics Working Papers 356, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 1999.
    10. Woodford, M., 1999. "Optimal Monetary Policy Inertia.," Papers 666, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
    11. Robert J. Barro, 1986. "Reputation in a Model of Monetary Policy with Incomplete Information," NBER Working Papers 1794, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Alex Cukierman, 1992. "Central Bank Strategy, Credibility, and Independence: Theory and Evidence," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262031981, December.
    13. Rudebusch, Glenn D., 1995. "Federal Reserve interest rate targeting, rational expectations, and the term structure," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 245-274, April.
    14. Alan S. Blinder, 1999. "Central Banking in Theory and Practice," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262522608, December.
    15. Alex Cukierman, 2002. "Are contemporary central banks transparent about economic models and objectives and what difference does it make?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 15-36.
    16. Lucas, Robert Jr, 1976. "Econometric policy evaluation: A critique," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 19-46, January.
    17. Sargent, Thomas J & Wallace, Neil, 1975. ""Rational" Expectations, the Optimal Monetary Instrument, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(2), pages 241-54, April.
    18. Peter von zur Muehlen, 2001. "Activist vs. non-activist monetary policy: optimal rules under extreme uncertainty," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-02, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    19. Eijffinger, S.C.W. & Schaling, E. & Verhagen, W.H., 1999. "A Theory of Interest Rate Stepping : Inflation Targeting in a Dynamic Menu Cost Model," Discussion Paper 1999-71, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    20. Glenn D. Rudebusch, 2001. "Term structure evidence on interest rate smoothing and monetary policy inertia," Working Paper Series 2001-02, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    21. 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.
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