Thiess Buettner, Boryana Madzharova, 27 October 2020

Facing the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments all over the world are considering providing a fiscal stimulus. A potentially powerful instrument to do so is a broad-based consumption tax such as VAT. This column argues that changes in VAT may have some effect in stimulating spending on certain consumer durable goods such as household appliances. However, these effects may be heterogenous across different product types and the timing and perceived credibility of the announcements are also important factors for policymakers to consider.

Paweł Baranowski, Wirginia Doryń, Tomasz Łyziak, Ewa Stanisławska, 22 October 2020

To achieve macroeconomic stabilisation, central banks attempt to manage the expectations of the private sector. Decisions on short-term interest rates and communication can both impact expectations, but communication is especially important under the effective lower bound, when the room to move interest rates down is limited. Using data from Poland, this column shows that while monetary policy shapes the expectations of the private sector through both communication and interest rate decisions, the impact can differ depending on the variable forecasted and on the forecasting horizon.

Luis Garicano, Jesus Saa-Requejo, Tano Santos, 06 October 2020

One lasting effect of the Global Crisis and the Covid-19 crisis will be a large increase in general government debt worldwide. This may lead to a scenario of ‘fiscal dominance’, in which expansionary fiscal policies are combined with accommodating monetary policies to alleviate the debt burden. This column argues that such a situation would put central banks in a precarious position of having to contain inflationary pressures and maintain financial stability. Expanding the independence of central banks and reaffirming the commitment to fighting inflation may be necessary in case of an unexpected inflation shock. 

Marco Del Negro, Michele Lenza, Giorgio Primiceri, Andrea Tambalotti, 18 September 2020

The analysis of inflation dynamics and their possible changes over time is a key input in the design of monetary policy, particularly in the context of the strategy reviews recently undertaken by the Federal Reserve and currently under way at the ECB and other central banks. This column studies the causes of the stability of US inflation over the business cycle since the 1990s. It concludes that the stability is mainly due to a reduced sensitivity of firms’ pricing decisions to their cost pressures. Ignoring this observation could impair the ability of monetary policy to steer inflation toward its objective.

Ignazio Angeloni, 14 September 2020

The long-awaited outcome of the Federal Reserve’s monetary strategy review is finally out. This column argues that while the ‘Powell doctrine’ responds to a genuine need to address issues in the Fed’s policy framework, it also introduces complexities in the interpretation and implementation of monetary policy which are likely to become more apparent over time. The hurdles involved do not have easy solutions, and other central banks pondering their own monetary policy framework are well advised to take heed.

Itamar Drechsler, Alexi Savov, Philipp Schnabl, 11 September 2020

In a recent speech in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Jay Powell laid out the Fed’s new monetary policy framework.  Under this framework, the Fed will allow inflation to run above its 2% target in order to boost employment following a downturn.  The new framework marks a departure from the perceived wisdom of the 1970s’ Great Inflation.  Under this perceived wisdom, the Fed must respond aggressively to rising inflation or risk losing its credibility and letting inflation spiral out of control.  New research on the Great Inflation challenges this perceived wisdom and offers a new explanation for what really drives inflation.  Instead of Fed credibility, this explanation puts the financial system and how it transmits monetary policy front and centre.  In doing so, it reconciles the 1970s with the current environment and provides a foundation for understanding why the Fed’s new framework is unlikely to trigger runaway inflation.

Eric Lonergan, Megan Greene, 03 September 2020

The low interest rate environment since the Global Financial Crisis has led economists and analysts to suggest that major central banks have run out of monetary policy tools with which to face major downturns, including the Covid-19 crisis. This column argues that a dual interest rate approach could help to eliminate the effective lower bound and given central banks infinite fire power. By employing dual interest rates, central banks can go beyond targeting short-term interest rates and providing emergency liquidity to provide a stimulus across the economy. As political support for fiscal stimulus in the face of the Covid-19 crisis wanes, central banks can and should step in with overwhelming force.

Gregor Boehl, Gavin Goy, Felix Strobel, 30 August 2020

Despite their pivotal role, the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, remain open to debate. This column provides insights from a structural investigation of the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programme during the global financial crisis. In line with the general consensus, the results suggest that asset purchases substantially eased borrowing conditions and facilitated new investment. The rise in investment led to an increase in the productive capacity which, in turn, lowered firms’ marginal cost. These supply-side effects dominated demand-side effects in determining the response of inflation, leading to a mild disinflationary effect.

Philippe Andrade, Erwan Gautier, Eric Mengus, 04 August 2020

According to macroeconomic theory, managing inflation expectations is crucial for stabilising the economy. This is particularly true in times of crisis, when the nominal interest rate hits its lower bound. This column provides new evidence from France on how the inflation expectation channel operates in terms of consumer spending. The results suggest that households make consumption decisions based on the broad inflation regime that they expect, rather than with regards to the precise inflation forecast.

Maritta Paloviita, Markus Haavio, Pirkka Jalasjoki, Juha Kilponen, Ilona Vänni, 28 July 2020

The introductory statements made by the ECB are some of the most important sources of insight into the central banks’ policy goals. This column presents a textual analysis which seeks to measure the tone of the statements, with the aim of estimating the Governing Council's ‘loss function’. The results suggest that the ECB has been either more averse to inflation above the 2% ceiling, or that the de facto inflation target has been considerably below this threshold. The results also suggest that an inflation aim of 2%, combined with asymmetry, is a plausible specification of the ECB's wider preferences.

Xavier Jaravel, Martin O'Connell, 26 July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in large shocks to both demand and supply, which conceivably could result in deflation, disinflation, or higher inflation. This column summarises findings, based on real-time scanner data in UK, on inflation among fast-moving consumer goods during the pandemic. It shows that at the beginning of lockdown there was a sharp upturn in inflation and a significant fall in product variety.

Pascal Seiler, 16 July 2020

Sharp changes in consumer expenditure may bias inflation during the Covid-19 pandemic. This column measures the effects of the Covid-induced weighting bias on the Swiss consumer price index by quantifying the changes in consumer spending using public data from debit card transactions, updating CPI basket weights and constructing an alternative ‘Covid price index’. There is evidence that Covid inflation was higher during the lockdown than suggested by CPI inflation. Persistent ‘low-touch’ consumer behaviour may lead to inflation being underestimated through to the end of 2020.

Charles Goodhart, 13 June 2020

The correlation between monetary growth and inflation has an historic pedigree as long as your arm. This column argues that rejecting the likelihood of (eventually) rising velocity following the current massive monetary expansion requires an alternative theory of inflation that has successfully eluded all of us thus far. Ignoring the potential inflationary dangers is the equivalent to an ostrich putting its head in the sand, and while the path towards disinflation may be well known, it simply isn’t available today.

Dirk Broeders, Gavin Goy, Annelie Petersen, Nander de Vette, 19 May 2020

Inflation-linked financial instruments are widely used to infer market-based inflation expectations and inflation risk. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and an unprecedented oil price shock, the euro five-year, five-year inflation-linked swap is currently hovering around an all-time low of just below 1%. This column shows that around 60% of the drop the swap rate since 2015 can be attributed to the inflation risk premium, while the inflation expectations component explains the remaining 40%. In addition, inflation option prices reveal that the distribution surrounding inflation expectations has shifted to the left since January 2020, suggesting that markets expect the outbreak of COVID-19 to be a persistent disinflationary shock.

Charles Goodhart, Duncan Needham, 16 May 2020

The COVID-19 crisis presents a multi-faceted challenge to policymakers. A combination of declining commodity prices, the rise in unemployment, and emergency state spending are all set to create challenging economic conditions, even as the pandemic itself subsides. This column argues that one mechanism that could help control long-run inflation levels is the issuance of long-dated gilts. This would also help to protect the young and unborn generations from the threat of resurgent inflation, which could lead to a massive rise in their future debt service requirements. 

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Michael Weber, 12 May 2020

Business cycles are rarely a matter of life or death in advanced economies, but the COVID-19 crisis is forcing policymakers into painful trade-offs between saving lives and saving the economy. This column uses several waves of a customised survey to study the economic costs of US lockdowns in terms of spending, labour market outcomes, and macroeconomic expectations. It finds overall spending drops of more than 30%, unemployment expectations climbing more than 10%, inflation expectations falling, uncertainty rising, and plans to purchase large durables plummeting.

Olivier Blanchard, 24 April 2020

Will falling commodity prices, stumbling oil prices, and a depressed labour market bring low inflation and perhaps even deflation, or will very large increases in fiscal deficits and central bank balance sheets bring inflation? This column argues that it is hard to see strong demand leading to inflation. Precautionary saving is likely to play a lasting role, leading to low consumption, and uncertainty is likely to lead to low investment. The challenge for monetary and fiscal policy is thus likely to be to sustain demand and avoid deflation rather than the reverse.

Olivier Blanchard, Jean Pisani-Ferry, 10 April 2020

The extraordinary operations that are under way in most countries in response to the COVID-19 shock have raised fears that large-scale monetisation will result in a major inflation episode. This column argues that so far, there is no evidence that central banks have given up, or are preparing to give up, on their price stability mandate. While there are obviously some reasons to worry, central banks are doing the right thing and the authors see no reason to panic.

David Miles, Andrew Scott, 04 April 2020

Might inflation rise as a result of policies undertaken during the current crisis and as demand comes back more strongly than supply when it ends? This column argues that it is possible, but far from clear. Indeed, there are reasons to doubt whether any rise in inflation will come. Looking back at past crises – and in particular wars – reveals some similarities but more differences with the current pandemic. There was more reason to see UK inflation rise after the three major wars of the past 220 years; and even then, the evidence that it did is not conclusive. 

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