Output gap

Policy rules

Monetary economists like rules. Traditionally, they worry that policymakers will sacrifice the long-term benefits of price stability for the more immediate gratification of higher growth. Realizing how hard it is to resist temptation, politicians have delegated monetary policy to a central bank that is independent, but subject to a mandate that constrains their discretion. This institutional setup helped lower inflation in the advanced economies from a median exceeding 10 percent in the late 1970s and early 1980s to about 2 percent by the late 1990s.

But, convinced that overly accommodative financial conditions in the first few years of the century spurred the credit accumulation that fed the 2007-09 financial crisis, there is a push to constrain central banks further by requiring that they publish and account for their actions with reference to a simple policy rule...

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Your Friend FRED

“Captain, we’re here. Why not avail ourselves of this opportunity for study? … No other vessel has been out this far.” Lt. Commander Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Where No One Has Gone Before” (1987)

If you are a student of economics – or an inquisitive android like Lt. Commander Data of Star Trek: TNG fame – then you have a great friend to help you understand the world: FRED.  The Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED for short) is provided free of charge to the public by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. FRED currently includes more than 238,000 time series from nearly 80 sources covering about 200 countries, and it continues to grow...

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Is the Fed Behind the Curve?

Imagine Fed Governor Rip van Winkle started his nap at the beginning of 2007 and just woke up to find that inflation is close to the Fed’s objective and the unemployment rate is at its 30-year average. You could forgive him for expecting the federal funds rate to be close to its long-run norm of about 4%, and for his surprise upon learning that the funds rate is at 0.1% and Fed assets are five times where they were when his snooze began.

Is the Fed already behind the curve? Why do policymakers emphasize their expectation that rates will stay low “for a considerable time” beyond October (when asset purchases are expected to halt)? What risks are they seeking to balance?


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