Asymmetric Responses of Consumer Spending to Energy Prices: A Threshold VAR Approach
We document asymmetric responses of consumer spending to energy price shocks: Using a multiple-regime threshold vector autoregressive model estimated with Bayesian methods on US data, we find that positive energy price shocks have a larger negative effect on consumption compared with the increase in consumption in response to negative energy price shocks. For large shocks, the cumulative consumption responses are three to five times larger for positive than for negative shocks. Digging into disaggregated spending, we find that the estimated asymmetric responses are strongest for durable ...
Inflation: Drivers and Dynamics | 2019 CEBRA Annual Meeting Session Summary
The relationship between the Phillips curve and inflation has become weaker over time, producing questions regarding how policymakers might connect inflation to the rest of the economy. Presentations given during the “Inflation: Drivers and Dynamics” session of the Central Bank Research Association’s annual meeting focused on the intersection of monetary policy and inflation dynamics to examine the ways in which policy might impact inflation and related expectations and processes. This Economic Commentary summarizes the papers presented during this session.
Real-Time Density Nowcasts of US Inflation: A Model-Combination Approach
We develop a flexible modeling framework to produce density nowcasts for US inflation at a trading-day frequency. Our framework: (1) combines individual density nowcasts from three classes of parsimonious mixed-frequency models; (2) adopts a novel flexible treatment in the use of the aggregation function; and (3) permits dynamic model averaging via the use of weights that are updated based on learning from past performance. Together these features provide density nowcasts that can accommodate non-Gaussian properties. We document the competitive properties of the nowcasts generated from our ...
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 ...
Average Inflation Targeting and Household Expectations
Using a daily survey of U.S. households, we study how the Federal Reserve’s announcement of its new strategy of average inflation targeting affected households’ expectations. Starting with the day of the announcement, there is a very small uptick in the minority of households reporting that they had heard news about monetary policy relative to prior to the announcement, but this effect fades within a few days. Those hearing news about the announcement do not seem to have understood the announcement: they are no more likely to correctly identify the Fed’s new strategy than others, nor ...
The Effects of Price Endings on Price Rigidity: Evidence from VAT Changes
We document a causal role for price endings in generating micro and macro price rigidity. Based on micro price data underlying the consumer price index in Israel, we document that most stores have a favored price ending?a final digit, usually a zero or nine, used by a majority of prices in that store?and that these favored price endings are utilized extensively. Using changes to the VAT rate as exogenous cost shocks that affect prices regardless of ending, we find that the frequency of price adjustment for nonfavored endings increases by twice as much as the frequency of adjustment for ...
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 ...
How will unemployment fare following the recession?
Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the U.S. unemployment rate has risen more than four percentage points. Similar sharp increases in unemployment have occurred in other severe recessions, such as those in 1973-75 and 1981-82. In the aftermath of those severe recessions, the economy rapidly recovered and unemployment quickly declined. ; Will unemployment behave similarly following this recession? One reason why unemployment may not fall as quickly this time is that the labor market has changed substantively since the early 1980s. In the two recoveries since then, not only did ...
What drives consumer debt dynamics?
Consumers generally have been reducing their debt levels in the wake of the housing bust, and many policymakers and economists have pointed to this deleveraging as an important drag on the recovery from the recession. ; A key driving factor has been the sharp decline in the number of consumers taking on additional debt. With fewer borrowers taking advantage of low interest rates to take on debt and expand spending, accommodative monetary policy is less effective than in normal times. ; But Knotek and Braxton find that a modest rebound is now under way in the number of consumers increasing ...
How useful is Okun's law?
From the beginning of 2003 through the first quarter of 2006, real gross domestic product in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 3.4 percent. As expected, unemployment during the period fell. Over the course of the next year, average growth slowed to less than half its earlier rate--but unemployment continued to drift downward. This situation presented a puzzle for policymakers and economists, who expected the unemployment rate to increase as the economy slowed. ; Typically, growth slowdowns coincide with rising unemployment. This negative correlation between GDP growth and ...