Why is euro inflation so low?
Jean-Pierre Landau 02 December 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Inflation in the Eurozone stood at 0.4% (year on year) in November. It has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. The Eurozone is now clearly diverging from many advanced economies, where inflation is either on the rise – albeit at moderate levels – as in the US, or, when falling, still remaining close to target, as the UK.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
inflation, eurozone, safe assets, safety trap, risk aversion, disinflation, exchange rates, interest rates, liquidity trap, zero lower bound, monetary policy, public debt, Eurozone crisis, Central Banks, ECB, quantitative easing, long-term refinancing operations, unconventional monetary policy, liquidity, asset-backed securities, securitisation, debt sustainability, fiscal space, fiscal capacity, balance sheets
Influencing household inflation expectations
Alberto Cavallo, Guillermo Crucas, Ricardo Perez-Truglia 10 November 2014
Although central banks have a natural desire to influence household inflation expectations, there is no consensus on how these expectations are formed or the best ways to influence them. This column presents evidence from a series of survey experiments conducted in a low-inflation context (the US) and a high-inflation context (Argentina). The authors find that dispersion in household expectations can be explained by the cost of acquiring and interpreting inflation statistics, and by the use of inaccurate memories about price changes of specific products. They also provide recommendations for central bank communication strategies.
Expectations about macroeconomic variables play an important role in economic theory and policymaking. Household inflation expectations, in particular, are key to understand consumption and investment decisions, and ultimately, the impact of monetary policies. Although central banks have a natural desire to influence expectations, there is no consensus on how household expectations are formed or what the best way to affect them is (see Bernanke 2007, Bachmann et al. 2012, Coibion and Gorodnichenko 2013, and Armantier et al. 2014).
expectations, beliefs, inflation, inflation expectations, monetary policy, US, Argentina, central bank communication, rational inattention, costly information, learning
Bond markets help lower inflation
Andrew K Rose 06 October 2014
Governments benefit from inflation since the real value of public debt falls but inflation is a tax on money holders. Bond holders are aware of this fact and act accordingly. This column explores empirically the role of bond markets in keeping inflation low. The existence of long, nominal, local-currency bonds lowers inflation by three to four percentage points. The results hold for inflation-targeting countries, and other monetary regimes do not have the same effects.
“I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.”
James Carville, Wall Street Journal (25 February, 1993, p. A1)
Financial markets Macroeconomic policy
inflation, nominal bonds, local-currency bonds, inflation-targeting
The halo of victory: What Americans learned from World War I
Hugh Rockoff 04 October 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
World War I had important consequences for the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. This was especially true in the world of finance. The US transitioned from being a debtor nation to a creditor nation, and financial leadership moved from London to New York. But equally important were the lessons that Americans drew from the war. Although the war had much to teach, Americans tended, I will argue below, to learn too much from the war, drawing strong conclusions from a war in which the US was actively engaged for only 19 months.
Competition policy Economic history
World War I, WWI, planning, rationing, New Deal, Great Depression, fiscal policy, monetary policy, stimulus, financial crisis, conscription, inflation, unemployment, price controls, Competition policy, antitrust, National Industrial Recovery Act
Where danger lurks
Olivier Blanchard 03 October 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.
The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
macroeconomics, global crisis, great moderation, rational expectations, nonlinearities, fluctuations, business cycle, monetary policy, inflation, bank runs, deposit insurance, sudden stops, capital flows, liquidity, maturity mismatch, zero lower bound, liquidity trap, capital requirements, credit constraints, precautionary savings, housing boom, Credit crunch, unconventional monetary policy, fiscal policy, sovereign default, diabolical loop, deflation, debt deflation, financial regulation, regulatory arbitrage, DSGE models
Will the US inflate away its public debt?
Ricardo Reis, Jens Hilscher, Alon Raviv 07 August 2014
Faced with daunting levels of public debt, it may be tempting to inflate away the burden. Some recent research has endorsed such a policy, but this column argues that it is infeasible. The rule of thumb that suggests an inflation rate four percentage points higher would reduce debt by 20% ignores creditor composition and maturity details, even if a 6% inflation rate were achievable. The hard truth is that there is no easy way out of debt.
Should the US Federal Reserve raise the inflation target from its current level of 2%? And will it? One benefit would be to make hitting the zero lower bound less likely, which would lead to less severe recessions, as Olivier Blanchard, Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, and Paolo Mauro (2010), Daniel Leigh (2010), and Laurence Ball (2013) have argued on this website.
inflation, monetary policy, public debt, seignorage
What are the macroeconomic effects of asset purchases?
Martin Weale, Tomasz Wieladek 10 June 2014
After reducing their policy rates close to zero in response to the global financial crisis, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve began purchasing assets. This column assesses the effect of these asset purchases on output and inflation. In line with previous studies, the authors find that asset purchase announcements are associated with increases in both output and inflation in both countries. They also find that quantitative easing had a larger impact on UK inflation, which suggests that the UK Phillips curve is steeper.
After policy rates fell close to zero in response to the global financial crisis of 2008-09, the scope for further conventional monetary policy easing was exhausted. As a result, both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve embarked on large-scale asset purchases of government and financial securities (see Figures 1 and 2).
inflation, Federal Reserve, Phillips curve, Bank of England, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, output
Disagreement about inflation expectations: The case of Japanese households
Shusaku Nishiguchi, Jouchi Nakajima, Kei Imakubo 02 May 2014
Inflation expectations are not fully captured with a single number. One important aspect is the degree of "disagreement" or "dispersion" in such expectations. This column discusses how the distribution of Japanese households' medium-horizon inflation expectations evolved using survey data. As prices have been rising since 2013, the expectations distribution showed a decrease in respondents expecting deflation or high inflation, and there was a substantial increase in respondents expecting moderate inflation.
It is well known that inflation expectations vary across agents. Nevertheless, this fact has attracted little attention. Analysis of inflation expectations typically tend to focus on measures such as the mean and the median of such expectations. One of the distinguished exceptions is Mankiw et al. (2003), who discuss in a context of sticky information how the disagreement in US households' inflation expectations was evolving through the Volcker disinflation. Our recent research (Nishiguchi et al. 2014) has brought the disagreement issue once again to the fore.
inflation, Japan, inflation expectations
Is the Phillips curve alive and well after all? Inflation expectations and the missing disinflation
Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko 15 November 2013
During the Great Recession, advanced economies have not experienced the disinflation that has historically been associated with high unemployment. This column shows that using consumers’ (as opposed to forecasters’) inflation expectations restores the traditional Phillips curve relationship for recent years. Consumers’ inflation expectations are more responsive to oil prices than those of professional forecasters. The increase in oil prices between 2009 and 2012 may in fact have prevented the onset of pernicious deflationary dynamics.
“Prior to the recent deep worldwide recession, macroeconomists of all schools took a negative relation between slack and declining inflation as an axiom. Few seem to have awakened to the recent experience as a contradiction to the axiom.” (Bob Hall, 2013.)
“The surprise [about inflation] is that it’s fallen so little, given the depth and duration of the recent downturn. Based on the experience of past severe recessions, I would have expected inflation to fall by twice as much as it has.” (John Williams, 2010.)
Global crisis Monetary policy
inflation, Phillips curve, expectations, oil, global crisis, disinflation, Great Recession
Independent monetary policies, synchronised outcomes
Espen Henriksen, Finn Kydland, Roman Šustek 02 October 2013
The monetary policy for Eurozone members is one-size-fits-all in an economic area rife with economic differences. Does this really make a difference? This column argues that even if each EZ member state had a fully independent monetary authority, monetary policies would likely still appear highly synchronised across EZ members.
The recession in the Eurozone has given new life to optimal-currency-area thinking. The argument goes that the disadvantages of a single currency come from the loss of flexibility and ability to use monetary policy to respond to “asymmetric shocks” (Krugman and Obstfeld 2009). The often-unarticulated presumption is that countries with independent monetary policies would make different policy decisions as long as contemporaneous shocks to output and employment were asymmetric.
Exchange rates Monetary policy
inflation, monetary policy, EMU, Central Banks, capital controls, exchange-rate policy