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Interest-Rate Smoothing


  • Robert J. Barro


The paper develops a model in which targeting of the nominal interest rate is a reasonable guide for monetary policy. Expected real interest rates and output are exogenous with respect to monetary variables, and the central bank ends up influencing nominal interest rates by altering expected inflation. In this model the monetary authority can come arbitrarily close in each period to its (time-varying) target for the nominal interest rate, even while holding down the forecast variance of the price level. The latter objective pins down the extent of monetary accommodation to shifts in the demand for money and other shocks, and thereby makes determinate the levels of money and prices at each date. Empirical evidence for the United States in the post-World War II period suggests that the model's predictions accord reasonably well with observed behavior for nominal interest rates, growth rates of the monetary base, and rates of inflation. Earlier periods, especially before World War I, provide an interesting contrast because interest-rate smoothing did not apply. The behavior of the monetary base and the price level at these times differed from the post-World War I1 experience in ways predicted by the theory

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Barro, 1988. "Interest-Rate Smoothing," NBER Working Papers 2581, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2581
    Note: EFG ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Financial Panics, the Seasonality of the Nominal Interest Rate, and theFounding of the Fed," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 125-140, March.
    2. Kimbrough, Kent P., 1986. "The optimum quantity of money rule in the theory of public finance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 277-284, November.
    3. McCallum, Bennett T., 1981. "Price level determinacy with an interest rate policy rule and rational expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 319-329.
    4. William Poole, 1969. "Optimal choice of monetary policy instruments in a simple stochastic macro model," Special Studies Papers 2, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. 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 241-254, April.
    6. Barro, Robert J., 1976. "Rational expectations and the role of monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-32, January.
    7. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1987. "The optimal collection of seigniorage : Theory and evidence," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 327-341, September.
    8. William Poole, 1970. "Optimal Choice of Monetary Policy Instruments in a Simple Stochastic Macro Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(2), pages 197-216.
    9. Fair, Ray C, 1979. "An Analysis of the Accuracy of Four Macroeconometric Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(4), pages 701-718, August.
    10. Brunner, Karl & Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H., 1980. "Stagflation, persistent unemployment and the permanence of economic shocks," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 467-492, October.
    11. Clark, Truman A, 1986. "Interest Rate Seasonals and the Federal Reserve," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 76-125, February.
    12. King, Robert G & Plosser, Charles I, 1984. "Money, Credit, and Prices in a Real Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 363-380, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Barsky, Robert B. & Mankiw, N. Gregory & Miron, Jeffrey A. & Weill, David N., 1988. "The worldwide change in the behavior of interest rates and prices in 1914," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 1123-1147, June.
    2. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, 1989. "The Size and Incidence of the Losses from Noise Trading," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(3), pages 681-696, July.
    3. Carl E. Walsh, 1987. "The impact of monetary targeting in the United States, 1976-1984," Working Papers in Applied Economic Theory 87-04, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    4. Brian P. Sack, 1998. "Uncertainty, learning, and gradual monetary policy," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1998-34, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. Nouriel Roubini, 1988. "Offset and Sterilization Under Fixed Exchange Rates With An Optimizing Central Bank," NBER Working Papers 2777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, "undated". "The Size and Incidence of Losses from Noise Trading," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _128, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.

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