U.S. Economy: Shadow rates for an economy that is a ‘shadow of its former self’

According to Professor Hamilton:

“Before 2008, U.S. monetary policy was primarily conducted in terms of a target set by the Federal Reserve for the fed funds rate, which is the interest rate a bank pays to borrow funds overnight from other banks. A large academic literature used the fed funds rate as a summary of monetary policy, looking at its correlations in dynamic regressions with other variables of macroeconomic interest. But the fed funds rate has been stuck near zero for the last 5 years, and will likely be replaced by an alternative policy focus even once we exit the zero lower bound. Economic researchers face not just the difficulty of summarizing what the Fed has been doing in the current and future environment, but also the practical challenge of how to update their historical regressions to try to describe the full set of historical data along with the new experience in a coherent way. Here I describe a new research paper that suggests one solution to these problems.

…This hypothesizes the existence of a “shadow” short-term interest rate that might in some circumstances be quite negative. In normal times (when the observed short-term interest rate is sufficiently high), this shadow rate is positive and coincides with the observed short rate, and the dynamic relations among interest rates of various maturities are described using familiar tools. The hypothesis is that when the shadow rate falls below some bound, we could continue to calculate an implied negative shadow rate as if it followed the usual historical dynamics as well as calculate forecasts for that shadow rate.

Of particular interest is Wu and Xia’s observation that their series for the shadow rate exhibits similar correlations with other macro variables since 2009 as the fed funds rate did in data up until the end of 2007. Wu and Xia took a popular model that had been estimated before the Great Recession in which the fed funds rate was used as the summary of monetary policy, and just replaced the fed funds rate with the Wu-Xia shadow rate to get a data set that continues after 2009. Although this device could not fully account for all that happened to interest rates and unemployment during the Great Recession over 2007-2009, Wu and Xia found the evidence to be consistent with the hypothesis that data since 2009 could be described using the spliced series as the monetary policy indicator and using the same model that described pre-2007 data”.

Read the whole article here.

Read the original post by James Hamilton here.

About the Author

Marcus Nunes
João Marcus Marinho Nunes is a partner of Phynance Estratégias Quantitativas e Investimentos and a professor of Economics at Fundação Getúlio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil. He also blogs here: http://thefaintofheart.wordpress.com/

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