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The European Central Bank (ECB) released its 2014:Q1 Survey of Professional Forecasters (SPF) on February 13. The release comes at a time of growing concern about low Euro-zone inflation: consumer prices were up only 0.7 percent over the year in January, the fourth consecutive monthly reading of less than 1 percent and well below the ECB’s target of just below 2 percent. Some commentators have argued that falling inflation after five years of recession or very slow growth has raised the threat of deflation.
Victoria Gregory, Christina Patterson, Ayşegül Şahin, and Giorgio Topa
Fluctuations in unemployment are mostly driven by fluctuations in the job-finding prospects of unemployed workers—except at the onset of recessions, according to various research papers (see, for example, Shimer [2005, 2012] and Elsby, Hobijn, and Sahin ). With job losses back to their pre-recession levels, the job-finding rate is arguably one of the most important indicators to watch. This rate—defined as the fraction of unemployed workers in a given month who find jobs in the consecutive month—provides a good measure of how easy it is to find jobs in the economy. The chart below presents the job-finding rate starting from 1990. Clearly, the job-finding rate is still substantially below its pre-recession levels, suggesting that it is still difficult for the unemployed to find work. In this post, we explore the underlying reasons behind the low job-finding rate.
How tight is the labor market? The unemployment rate is down substantially from its October 2009 peak, but two-thirds of the decline is due to people dropping out of the labor force. In addition, an unusually large share of the unemployed has been out of work for twenty-seven weeks or more—the long-duration unemployed. These statistics suggest that there remains a great deal of slack in U.S. labor markets, which should be putting downward pressure on labor compensation. Instead, compensation growth has moved modestly higher since 2009. A potential explanation is that the long-duration unemployed exert less influence on wages than the short-duration unemployed, a hypothesis we examine here. While preliminary, our findings provide some support for this hypothesis and show that models taking into account unemployment duration produce more accurate forecasts of compensation growth.
The unemployment rate is a popular measure of the condition of the labor market. With the Great Recession, the unemployment rate increased from a low of 4.4 percent in March 2007 to a peak of 10.0 percent in October 2009. As the economy recovered and growth resumed, the unemployment rate has fallen to 6.7 percent. What other measures are useful to supplement our understanding of the degree of the labor market recovery?
The Federal Reserve Reform Act of 1977 established the monetary policy objectives of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. The goal of “stable prices” has long been understood to mean a low positive inflation rate. On January 25, 2012, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) explicitly defined its price stability mandate in terms of a longer-run goal of 2 percent inflation measured by the total personal consumption expenditure (PCE) deflator. Here, we examine how the behavior of inflation over different time periods compares to this goal. We then discuss how the goal of stabilizing inflation over the long run, rather than on a year-after-year basis, tends to imply a stabilization of the U.S. price level around a trend line—an outcome similar to that from price-level targeting, which offers various theoretical benefits.
To what extent are Japanese equities driven by changes in the value of the yen? This question is especially relevant for recent developments in Japan, where both the Nikkei equity index and the dollar value of the yen appear to have reacted strongly to new policy initiatives that were introduced in late 2012 (that is, the fiscal and monetary policy changes collectively referred to as “Abenomics”). In this post, we use a particular statistical technique to compute how much of the post-Abenomics Nikkei reaction can be ascribed to changes in the foreign exchange rate. Our estimates imply that roughly half of the recent movements in the Nikkei can be ascribed to the changing value of the yen, with the remainder reflecting the domestic implications of Abenomics and other factors.
The financial crisis, recession, and slow recovery have emphasized the interactions between financial markets and the real economy. These developments have also motivated macroeconomists, central bankers, and financial regulators to think of new policy instruments that could help limit “systemic” or “systemwide” financial risks, as the Bank for International Settlements and the Financial Stability Board describe them. But apart from finding the right tools, policymakers are also interested in understanding how such instruments should be set in conjunction with monetary policy. In this post, we discuss the issues that arise when deciding how to design institutions for monetary and macroprudential policymaking. It turns out that the answer to this question hinges on a key issue in monetary policy: the ability of a decisionmaker to make binding commitments regarding his or her future behavior.
Economic news moves markets. Most analyses find that economic news is incorporated quickly (within minutes) into asset prices, with some measurable persistence of these effects, and with some spillovers across national borders. Some types of announcements—for example, U.S. nonfarm payrolls announcements—generate much larger asset price responses than others. Generally, news that is more timely, is more precise (being subject to smaller revisions on average), and contains more information (being better able to better forecast GDP growth, inflation, or central bank policy decisions) has a larger effect on asset prices.
Following the June 18-19 Federal Open Market
Committee (FOMC) meeting different measures of short-term interest rates
increased notably. In the chart below, we plot two such measures: the two-year
Treasury yield and the one-year overnight indexed swap (OIS) forward rate, one
year in the future. The vertical line indicates the final day of the June FOMC
meeting. To what extent did this rise in rates following the June FOMC meeting
reflect a shift in the expected future path of the federal funds rate (FFR)?
Market participants and policy makers often directly read the expected path
from financial market data such as the OIS contracts. In this post, we take an
alternative approach by looking at surveys of professional forecasters to
assess how expectations changed.
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