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Fed communication and the zero lower bound
After the onset of the global financial crisis, the Federal Reserve had to rely on other tools?including communication?to work around the constraints of being unable to lower the federal funds rate below zero. One way to assess how effective these communications were is by estimating how interest rates on bonds with different maturities reacted to Fed communications before and after the zero-bound period. A measure based on news reports of Fed communications suggests that this tool gave the Fed some ability to affect long-term yields through its communications.
AUTHORS: Nechio, Fernanda; Carvalho, Carlos; Hsu, Eric
Has China’s economy become more “standard”?
Financial liberalization in China has broad implications, including changing how its central bank?s monetary policy affects the nation?s economy. An estimate of Chinese economic activity and inflation based on a broad set of indicators suggests that the way policy is transmitted to China?s economy has become more like Western market economies in the past decade. Although Chinese monetary policy may actually have exacerbated its economic downturn during the global financial crisis, a move toward stimulatory policy has helped ease its slower growth more recently.
AUTHORS: Fernald, John G.; Spiegel, Mark M.; Hsu, Eric
Is China Fudging Its GDP Figures? Evidence from Trading Partner Data
We propose using imports, measured as reported exports of trading partners, as an alternative benchmark to gauge the accuracy of alternative Chinese indicators (including GDP) of fluctuations in economic activity. Externally-reported imports are likely to be relatively well measured, as well as free from domestic manipulation. Using principal components, we derive activity indices from a wide range of indicators and examine their fit to (trading-partner reported) imports. We choose a preferred index of eight non-GDP indicators (which we call the China Cyclical Activity Tracker, or C-CAT). Comparison with that index and others indicate that Chinese statistics have broadly become more reliable in measuring cyclical fluctuations over time. However, GDP adds little information relative to combinations of other indicators. Moreover, since 2013, Chinese GDP growth has shown little volatility around a gradually slowing trend. Other measures, including the C-CAT and imports, do not show this reduction in volatility. Since 2017, the C-CAT slowed from well above trend to close to trend. As of mid- 2019, it was giving the same cyclical signal as GDP.
AUTHORS: Spiegel, Mark M.; Hsu, Eric; Fernald, John G.
Measuring the effect of the zero lower bound on monetary policy
The Zero Lower Bound (ZLB) on interest rates is often regarded as an important constraint on monetary policy. To assess how the ZLB affected the Fed?s ability to conduct policy, we estimate the effects of Fed communication on yields of different maturities in the pre-ZLB and ZLB periods. Before the ZLB period, communication affects both short and long-dated yields. In contrast, during the ZLB period, the reaction of yields to communication is concentrated in longer-dated yields. Our findings support the view that the ZLB did not put such a critical constraint on monetary policy, as the Fed retained some ability to affect long-term yields through communication.
AUTHORS: Carvalho, Carlos; Hsu, Eric; Nechio, Fernanda
Is China fudging its figures? Evidence from trading partner data
How reliable are China?s GDP and other data? We address this question by using trading-partner exports to China as an independent measure of its economic activity from 2000-2014. We find that the information content of Chinese GDP improves markedly after 2008. We also consider a number of plausible, non-GDP indicators of economic activity that have been identified as alternative Chinese output measures. We find that activity factors based on the first principal component of sets of indicators are substantially more informative than GDP alone. The index that best matches activity in-sample uses four indicators: electricity, rail freight, an index of raw materials supply, and retail sales. Adding GDP to this group only modestly improves in-sample performance. Moreover, out of sample, a single activity factor without GDP proves the most reliable measure of economic activity.
AUTHORS: Hsu, Eric; Spiegel, Mark M.; Fernald, John G.