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Simple rules for monetary policy

  • John C. Williams

What is a good monetary policy rule for stabilizing the economy? In this paper, efficient policy rules are computed using the FRB/US large-scale open-economy macroeconometric model. Simple three-parameter policy rules are found to be very effective at minimizing fluctuations in inflation, output, and interest rates: Increases in rule complexity yield only trivial reductions in aggregate variability. Under rational expectations, efficient policies smooth the interest rate response to shocks and use the feedback from anticipated policy actions to stabilize inflation and output and to moderate movements in short-term interest rates. Policy should react to a multi-period inflation rate rather than the current quarter inflation rate; in fact, targeting the price level, as opposed to the inflation rate, involves only small additional stabilization costs. These results are robust to parameter and model uncertainty and the imposition of the non-negativity constraint on nominal interest rates. However, if expectations formation is invariant to policy, as in backward-looking models, the expectations channel is shut off and the performance of policies that are efficient under rational expectations may, as a result, deteriorate markedly; efficient policies, in contrast, exploit systematic expectational errors.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 1999-12.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:1999-12
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  1. Anderson, Gary & Moore, George, 1985. "A linear algebraic procedure for solving linear perfect foresight models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 247-252.
  2. Marc P. Giannoni & Michael Woodford, 2003. "Optimal Interest-Rate Rules: I. General Theory," Levine's Bibliography 506439000000000384, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Ray C. Fair & E. Philip Howrey, 1995. "Evaluating Alternative Monetary Policy Rules," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1091, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  4. Phelps, Edmund S & Taylor, John B, 1977. "Stabilizing Powers of Monetary Policy under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 163-90, February.
  5. Flint Brayton & Eileen Mauskopf & David Reifschneider & Peter Tinsley & John Williams, 1997. "The role of expectations in the FRB/US macroeconomic model," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 227-245.
  6. Richard Clarida & Jordi Galí & Mark Gertler, 2000. "Monetary Policy Rules And Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence And Some Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(1), pages 147-180, February.
  7. David Reifschneider & John C. Williams, 2000. "Three lessons for monetary policy in a low-inflation era," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, pages 936-978.
  8. Svensson, Lars E O, 1998. "Open-Economy Inflation Targeting," CEPR Discussion Papers 1989, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Henderson, Dale W. & McKibbin, Warwick J., 1993. "A comparison of some basic monetary policy regimes for open economies: implications of different degrees of instrument adjustment and wage persistence," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 221-317, December.
  10. 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.
  11. Buiter, Willem H & Jewitt, Ian, 1981. "Staggered Wage Setting with Real Wage Relativities: Variations on a Theme of Taylor," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 49(3), pages 211-28, September.
  12. Bennett T. McCallum & Edward Nelson, . "Performance of Operational Policy Rules in an Estimated Semi-Classical Structural Model," GSIA Working Papers 1998-22, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  13. Marvin Goodfriend, 1990. "Interest rates and the conduct of monetary policy," Working Paper 90-06, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
  14. F. Brayton & P. Tinsley, 1996. "A guide to FRB/US: a macroeconomic model of the United States," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-42, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  15. Athanasios Orphanides, 2001. "Monetary Policy Rules Based on Real-Time Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 964-985, September.
  16. Taylor, John B, 1979. "Estimation and Control of a Macroeconomic Model with Rational Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1267-86, September.
  17. Andrew Levin & Volker Wieland & John C. Williams, 1998. "Robustness of simple monetary policy rules under model uncertainty," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-45, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  18. 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.
  19. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1982. "Sticky Prices in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1187-1211, December.
  20. 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.
  21. P.A. Tinsley, 1993. "Fitting both data and theories: polynomial adjustment costs and error- correction decision rules," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 93-21, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  22. Mccallum, Bennet T., 1988. "Robustness properties of a rule for monetary policy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 173-203, January.
  23. Laurence Ball, 1997. "Efficient rules for monetary policy," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series G97/3, Reserve Bank of New Zealand.
  24. Ann-Charlotte Eliasson & Peter Isard & Douglas Laxton, 1999. "Simple Monetary Policy Rules Under Model Uncertainty," IMF Working Papers 99/75, International Monetary Fund.
  25. Brian Sack, 1998. "Does the Fed act gradually? a VAR analysis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-17, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  26. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
  27. William Poole, 1999. "Monetary policy rules?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 3-12.
  28. David E. Lebow & John M. Roberts & David J. Stockton, 1992. "Economic performance under price stability," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 125, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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