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Underlying Inflation: Concepts, Measurement and Performance

  • Ivan Roberts

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

This paper explores the concept of underlying inflation and the properties of various measures of underlying inflation in the Australian context. Underlying inflation measures are routinely calculated and monitored by central banks in many countries, including the Reserve Bank of Australia. Alternative measurement concepts are explored, and a range of measures that have been calculated for Australia are discussed and evaluated on the basis of statistical criteria. These criteria capture the intuition that a good measure of underlying inflation should be less volatile than CPI (or headline) inflation, be unbiased with respect to CPI inflation, and capture the ‘trend’ in CPI inflation so that, on average, CPI inflation will tend to adjust towards the measure of underlying inflation. In the Australian context, statistical measures of underlying inflation, such as the trimmed mean or weighted median, perform fairly satisfactorily against these criteria. The performance of these measures can be further improved by seasonally adjusting prices at the CPI component level. Although underlying inflation measures have become less necessary in the past decade as inflation itself has become less volatile, these findings suggest that underlying inflation measures can still add value to the analysis of inflationary trends.

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Paper provided by Reserve Bank of Australia in its series RBA Research Discussion Papers with number rdp2005-05.

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Date of creation: Jul 2005
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Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp2005-05
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  1. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1992. "Relative-Price Changes as Aggregate Supply Shocks," NBER Working Papers 4168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael F. Bryan & Stephen G. Cecchetti, 1994. "Measuring Core Inflation," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 195-219 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Robert Dixon & G.C. Lim, 2004. "Underlying Inflation in Australia: Are the Existing Measures Satisfactory?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 80(251), pages 373-386, December.
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  8. Shiratsuka, Shigenori, 1997. "Inflation Measures for Monetary Policy: Measuring the Underlying Inflation Trend and Its Implication for Monetary Policy Implementation," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 15(2), pages 1-26, December.
  9. Juan-Luis Vega & Mark A. Wynne, 2003. "A First Assessment of Some Measures of Core Inflation for the Euro Area," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 4, pages 269-306, 08.
  10. Michael F. Bryan & Stephen G. Cecchetti & Rodney L. Wiggins II, 1997. "Efficient inflation estimation," Working Paper 9707, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
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  12. Quah, Danny, 1995. "Measuring Core Inflation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1153, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  14. Hogan, Seamus & Marianne Johnson & Thérèse Laflèche, 2001. "Core Inflation," Technical Reports 89, Bank of Canada.
  15. Marques, Carlos Robalo & Neves, Pedro Duarte & da Silva, Afonso Goncalves, 2002. "Why should Central Banks avoid the use of the underlying inflation indicator?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 17-23, March.
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