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Optimal Nonlinear Policy: Signal Extraction with a Non-Normal Prior

  • Eric Swanson

The literature on optimal monetary policy typically makes three major assumptions: 1) policymakers’ preferences are quadratic, 2) the economy is linear, and 3) stochastic shocks and policymakers’ prior beliefs about unobserved variables are normally distributed. This paper relaxes the third assumption and explores its implications for optimal policy. The separation principle continues to hold in this framework, allowing for tractability and application to forward-looking models, but policymakers’ beliefs are no longer updated in a linear fashion, allowing for plausible nonlinearities in optimal policy. We consider in particular a class of models in which policymakers’ priors about the natural rate of unemployment are diffuse in a region around the mean. When this is the case, it is optimal for policy to respond cautiously to small surprises in the observed unemployment rate, but become increasingly aggressive at the margin. These features of optimal policy match statements by Federal Reserve officials and the behavior of the Fed in the 1990s

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Paper provided by Society for Computational Economics in its series Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 with number 147.

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Date of creation: 11 Nov 2005
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Handle: RePEc:sce:scecf5:147
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  1. Svensson, Lars E. O. & Woodford, Michael, 2003. "Indicator variables for optimal policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 691-720, April.
  2. Wieland, Volker, 2003. "Monetary Policy and Uncertainty about the Natural Unemployment Rate," CFS Working Paper Series 2003/05, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  3. Laurence H. Meyer & Eric T. Swanson & Volker W. Wieland, 2001. "NAIRU uncertainty and nonlinear policy rules," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-01, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Andrew J. Filardo, 1998. "New evidence on the output cost of fighting inflation," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q III.
  5. Pearlman, Joseph G., 1992. "Reputational and nonreputational policies under partial information," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 339-357, April.
  6. Swanson, Eric T., 2006. "Optimal nonlinear policy: signal extraction with a non-normal prior," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 185-203, February.
  7. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 1996. "How Precise are Estimates of the Natural Rate of Unemployment?," NBER Working Papers 5477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Pearlman, Joseph & Currie, David & Levine, Paul, 1986. "Rational expectations models with partial information," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 90-105, April.
  9. Orphanides, Athanasios & Wieland, Volker, 1999. "Inflation zone targeting," Working Paper Series 0008, European Central Bank.
  10. repec:cup:macdyn:v:8:y:2004:i:1:p:27-50 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Sack, Brian & Wieland, Volker, 2000. "Interest-rate smoothing and optimal monetary policy: a review of recent empirical evidence," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 52(1-2), pages 205-228.
  12. Taylor, John B., 1993. "Discretion versus policy rules in practice," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 195-214, December.
  13. Swanson, Eric T., 2004. "Signal Extraction And Non-Certainty-Equivalence In Optimal Monetary Policy Rules," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 27-50, February.
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