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Economic projections and rules-of-thumb for monetary policy

  • Orphanides, Athanasios
  • Wieland, Volker

Monetary policy analysts often rely on rules-of-thumb, such as the Taylor rule, to describe historical monetary policy decisions and to compare current policy to historical norms. Analysis along these lines also permits evaluation of episodes where policy may have deviated from a simple rule and examination of the reasons behind such deviations. One interesting question is whether such rules-of-thumb should draw on policymakers' forecasts of key variables such as inflation and unemployment or on observed outcomes. Importantly, deviations of the policy from the prescriptions of a Taylor rule that relies on outcomes may be due to systematic responses to information captured in policymakers' own projections. We investigate this proposition in the context of FOMC policy decisions over the past 20 years using publicly available FOMC projections from the biannual monetary policy reports to the Congress (Humphrey-Hawkins reports). Our results indicate that FOMC decisions can indeed be predominantly explained in terms of the FOMC's own projections rather than observed outcomes. Thus, a forecast-based rule-of-thumb better characterizes FOMC decision-making. We also confirm that many of the apparent deviations of the federal funds rate from an outcome-based Taylor-style rule may be considered systematic responses to information contained in FOMC projections.

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Paper provided by Center for Financial Studies (CFS) in its series CFS Working Paper Series with number 2008/16.

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Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200816
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  1. William Poole, 2007. "Understanding the Fed," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 3-14.
  2. Athanasios Orphanides & David H. Small & Volker Wieland & David W. Wilcox, 1997. "A quantitative exploration of the opportunistic approach to disinflation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1997-36, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. William Poole, 2008. "Rules-of-thumb for guiding monetary policy," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 447-498.
  4. John Taylor, 2007. "Housing and Monetary Policy," Discussion Papers 07-003, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  5. Athanasios Orphanides & Volker Wieland, 1999. "Efficient monetary policy design near price stability," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-67, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Orphanides, Athanasios & Wilcox, David W, 2002. "The Opportunistic Approach to Disinflation," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(1), pages 47-71, Spring.
  7. Dale W. Henderson & Warwick J. McKibbin, 1993. "A comparison of some basic monetary policy regimes for open economies: implications of different degrees of instrument adjustment and wage persistence," International Finance Discussion Papers 458, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
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