2013 Annual Report Why Inflation Is Very Low, and Why It Matters
One of the Federal Reserve?s mandates is maintaining stable prices. During my more than three decades in the Federal Reserve System, the focus has been primarily on avoiding high and variable inflation, and over most of that period, the Federal Reserve has successfully fulfilled its objective to keep inflation in check. More recently, however, our attention has turned to a less familiar concern?persistently low inflation. While high inflation has well-known costs for economic performance, the problems posed by persistently low inflation can be equally harmful. As its title promises, this ...
Consumers and COVID-19: Survey Results on Mask-Wearing Behaviors and Beliefs
Masks or cloth face coverings have the potential to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 without greatly disrupting economic activity if they are widely used. To assess the state of mask wearing, we surveyed US consumers about their recent and prospective mask-wearing behavior. We find that most respondents are wearing masks in public but that some respondents are less likely to follow social-distancing guidelines while doing so, indicating a potential tradeoff between two of the recommended methods that jointly reduce coronavirus transmission. While most respondents indicated that they were ...
Markov-chain approximations of vector autoregressions: application of general multivariate-normal integration techniques
Discrete Markov chains can be useful to approximate vector autoregressive processes for economists doing computational work. One such approximation method first presented by Tauchen (1986) operates under the general theoretical assumption of a transformed VAR with diagonal covariance structure for the process error term. We demonstrate one simple method of more conveniently treating this approximation problem in practice using readily available multivariate-normal integration techniques to allow for arbitrary positive-semidefinite covariance structures. Examples are provided using processes ...
Regime changes and monetary stagflation
This paper examines whether monetary shocks can consistently generate stagflation in a dynamic, stochastic setting. I assume that the monetary authority can induce transitory shocks and longer-lasting monetary regime changes in its operating instrument. Firms cannot distinguish between these shocks and must learn about them using a signal extraction problem. The possibility of changes in the monetary regime greatly improves the ability of money to generate stagflation. This is true whether the regime actually changes or not. If the monetary regime changes on average once every ten years, ...
Drifting inflation targets and stagflation
The 1970s provided the United States its first experience with the phenomenon of stagflation?simultaneously high inflation and poor economic performance in terms of unemployment and GDP. Economists continue to debate the root causes of stagflation. The conventional view is that sharp increases in the price of oil during the decade were to blame: large increases in oil prices raise inflation, which saps purchasing power from consumers and businesses and thus hurts economic activity. But a number of economists also point to a role for monetary policy in generating stagflation, in particular ...
Changing Policy Rule Parameters Implied by the Median SEP Paths
This Commentary estimates the implied parameters of simple monetary policy rules using the median paths for the federal funds rate and other economic variables provided in the Federal Open Market Committee?s Summary of Economic Projections (SEP). The implied policy rule parameters appear to have changed over time, as the federal funds rate projections have become less responsive to the unemployment gap. This finding could reflect changes in policymakers? preferences, uncertainty over other aspects of the policy rule, or limitations of estimating simple monetary policy rules from the median ...
Convenient prices, currency, and nominal rigidity : theory with evidence from newspaper prices
Newspapers, movie tickets, and concession stand items typically charge prices that facilitate rapid, simple transactions: their prices often coincide with available monetary units, require few pieces of money, or require little change. In this sense, these prices are more convenient than other proximate prices. I model a firm that explicitly incorporates convenience into its pricing decisions, where convenience is quantified by the number of currency units in a transaction. The model illustrates how alternating periods of price rigidity and flexibility can arise in such a setting, along with ...
The Slowdown in Residential Investment and Future Prospects
Using a statistical model, we find that three factors explain most of the decline in residential investment at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014: the increase in mortgage rates since early 2013, the unusually cold winter, and a modest tightening of lending standards in the residential mortgage market. Future prospects for residential investment depend heavily on mortgage rates. A return to normal weather and easing lending standards would boost activity, but even moderate increases in mortgage rates through the end of next year could restrain residential investment going forward.
Consumer Debt Dynamics: Follow the Increasers
Consumer debt played a central role in creating the U.S. housing bubble, the ensuing housing downturn, and the Great Recession, and it has been blamed as a factor in the weak subsequent recovery as well. This paper uses micro-level data to decompose consumer debt dynamics by separating the actions of consumer debt increasers and decreasers, and then further decomposing movements into percentage and size margins among the increasers and decreasers. We view such a decomposition as informative for macroeconomic models featuring a central role for consumer debt. Using this framework, we show that ...