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Author:Cotton, Christopher D. 

What Is Driving Inflation—Besides the Usual Culprits?

The prices of services associated with low-skill workers have been a key driver of “supercore” inflation, which excludes food, energy prices, and shelter prices. Low-skill-services inflation seems to be tied to faster wage growth in those industries coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wage growth in low-skill services has begun to decline, suggesting that there may be lower inflation in these industries going forward. At the same time, wage growth in high-skill services has recently accelerated, suggesting that there may be higher inflation in these industries in the near future.
Current Policy Perspectives

Consumption Spending during the COVID-19 Pandemic

We use a novel empirical approach to decompose the impact of different economic, demographic, and COVID-19–related factors (such as lockdowns, case counts, and vaccination rates) on consumption spending on a week-by-week basis during the pandemic. This allows us to study how demographic and economic groups were differentially affected by the pandemic while crucially controlling for other factors. Our results imply that Hispanic and college-educated populations showed particularly large and persistent declines in relative spending. We also compute the relative importance of factors in ...
Current Policy Perspectives

Working Paper
To What Degree and through Which Channel Do Central Banks Other Than the Federal Reserve Cause Spillovers?

Spillovers play a crucial role in driving monetary policy around the world. The literature focuses predominantly on spillovers from the Federal Reserve. Less attention has been paid to spillovers from other central banks. I measure the degree to which 20 central banks cause spillovers. I show that central banks in medium- to high-income countries cause spillovers to medium- to long-term interest rates in similar countries through a bond-pricing channel. These effects are narrower than spillovers from the Federal Reserve, which also affect emerging markets, short-term interest rates, and other ...
Working Papers , Paper 23-3

Forecasting CPI Shelter under Falling Market-Rent Growth

Shelter (housing) costs constitute a large component of price indexes, including 42 percent of the widely followed core Consumer Price Index (CPI). The shelter prices measured in the CPI capture new and existing renters and tend to lag market rents. This lag explains how in recent months the shelter-price index (CPI shelter) has accelerated while market rents have pulled back. We construct an error correction model using data at the metropolitan statistical area level to forecast how CPI shelter will evolve. We forecast that CPI shelter will grow 5.88 percent from September 2022 to September ...
Current Policy Perspectives

Working Paper
The Role of Industrial Composition in Driving the Frequency of Price Change

We analyze the impact of shifts in the industrial composition of the economy on the distribution of the frequency of price change and its consequences for the slope of the Phillips curve for the United States. By combining product-level microdata on the frequency of price change with data on industry shares from 1947 through 2019, we document that shifts in industrial composition led to a gradual reduction in the median monthly frequency of price change from 9.2 percent in 1947 to 6.9 percent in 2019. Other percentiles of the distribution of the frequency of price change show similar ...
Working Papers , Paper 22-9

Debt, Deficits, and Interest Rates

This paper identifies how a rise in the deficit/debt impacts interest rates by looking at the high-frequency response of interest rates to fiscal surprises. The fiscal surprises are the unexpected components of deficit releases and the changes in official forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office and by the Office of Management and Budget. The paper estimates that a rise in the deficit-to-GDP ratio of 1 percentage point raises the 10-year nominal rate by 8.1 basis points. This is quantitatively similar for other Treasury maturities and for corporate debt interest rates. The paper also ...
Current Policy Perspectives

Working Paper
Looking Beyond the Fed: Do Central Banks Cause Information Effects?

The importance of central bank information effects is the subject of an ongoing debate. Most work in this area focuses on the limited number of monetary policy events at the Federal Reserve. I assess the degree to which nine other central banks cause information effects. This analysis yields a much larger panel of primarily novel events. Following a surprise monetary tightening, economic forecasts improve in line with information effects. However, I find this outcome is driven by the predictability of monetary policy surprises and not information effects. My results support the view that ...
Working Papers , Paper 22-21

The Distribution of Sectoral Price Changes and Recent Inflation Developments

Inflation has declined across many sectors so far in 2023, but the distribution of sectoral price changes still shows atypical features, such as bimodality in which substantial masses of sectors record price changes both below and above the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target. Such bimodality was not typical before the pandemic, suggesting that sector-specific price adjustments are now playing a more important role in inflation developments. The recent slowdown in inflation was partly caused by a larger-than-normal share of the consumption basket being located in the left tail of ...
Current Policy Perspectives

Working Paper
Impact of Occupational Unemployment Risk on Household Spending

The life-cycle consumption and permanent income hypotheses predict that if workers face greater likelihood of unemployment in the future that lowers expected future income, they will save more today. In this paper, we test this hypothesis by looking at the expenditure response of workers to the change in unemployment risk measured at the occupational level. We find that occupational unemployment risk does not have a large impact on consumption expenditure. However, despite investigating multiple forms of occupational unemployment risk for multiple expenditure categories in two expenditure ...
Working Papers , Paper 22-7

Working Paper
The Inflation Target and the Equilibrium Real Rate

Many economists have proposed raising the inflation target to reduce the probability of hitting the zero lower bound (ZLB). It is both a common assumption and a feature of standard models that raising the inflation target does not impact the equilibrium real rate. I demonstrate that in the New Keynesian model, once heterogeneity is introduced, raising the inflation target causes the equilibrium real rate to fall. This implies that raising the inflation target will increase thenominal interest rate by less than expected and thus will be less effective in reducing the probability of hitting the ...
Working Papers , Paper 20-2




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