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Luca Benati

16 January 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 718
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Abstract
We use tests for multiple breaks at unknown points in the sample, and the Stock-Watson (1996, 1998) time-varying parameters median-unbiased estimation methodology, to investigate changes in the equilibrium rate of growth of labor productivity-both per hour and per worker-in the United States, the Eurozone, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan over the post-WWII era. Results for the U.S. well capture the 'conventional wisdom' of a golden era of high productivity growth, the 1950s and 1960s; a marked deceleration starting from the beginning of the 1970s; and a strong growth resurgence starting from mid-1990s. Evidence clearly suggests the 1990s' productivity acceleration to have reached a plateau over the last few years. Results for the Eurozone point towards a marked deceleration since the beginning of the 1980s, with equilibrium productivity growth stabilising over the most recent period.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
24 April 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 746
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Abstract
We fit a Bayesian time-varying parameters structural VAR with stochastic volatility to the Federal Funds rate, GDP deflator inflation, real GDP growth, and the rate of growth of M2. We identify 4 shocks-monetary policy, demand non-policy, supply, and money demand-by imposing sign restrictions on the estimated reduced-form VAR on a period-by-period basis. The evolution of the monetary rule in the structural VAR accords well with narrative accounts of post-WWII U.S. economic history, with (e.g.) significant increases in the long-run coefficients on inflation and money growth around the time of the Volcker disinflation. Overall, however, our evidence points towards a dominant role played by good luck in fostering the more stable macroeconomic environment of the last two decades. First, the Great Inflation was due, to a dominant extent, to large demand non-policy shocks, and to a lower extent to supply shocks. Second, imposing either Volcker or Greenspan over the entire sample period would only have had a limited impact on the Great Inflation episode, while imposing Burns and Miller would have resulted in a counterfactual inflation path remarkably close to the actual historical one. Although the systematic component of monetary policy clearly appears to have improved over the sample period, this does not appear to have been the dominant influence in post-WWII U.S. macroeconomic dynamics.
JEL Code
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
E47 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies
28 June 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 769
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Abstract
We use a Bayesian time-varying parameters structural VAR with stochastic volatility for GDP deflator inflation, real GDP growth, a 3-month nominal rate, and the rate of growth of M4 to investigate the underlying causes of the Great Moderation in the United Kingdom. Our evidence points towards a dominant role played by shocks in fostering the more stable macroeconomic environment of the last two decades. Results from counter-factual simulations, in particular, show that (1) the Great Inflation was due, to a dominant extent, to large demand non-policy shocks, and to a lesser extent
JEL Code
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
E47 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies
21 August 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 802
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Abstract
We use Bayesian time-varying parameters VARs with stochastic volatility to investigate changes in the marginal predictive content of the yield spread for output growth in the United States and the United Kingdom, since the Gold Standard era, and in the Eurozone, Canada, and Australia over the post-WWII period. Overall, our evidence does not provide much support for either of the two dominant explanations why the yield spread may contain predictive power for output growth, the monetary policy-based one, and Harvey's (1988) 'real yield curve' one. Instead, we offer a new conjecture.
JEL Code
E42 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Monetary Systems, Standards, Regimes, Government and the Monetary System, Payment Systems
E43 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
E47 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
21 August 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 797
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Abstract
We jointly estimate the natural rate of interest, the natural rate of unemployment, expected inflation, and potential output for the Euro area, the United States, Sweden, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Particular attention is paid to time-variation in (i) the data-generation process for inflation, which we capture via a time-varying parameters specification for the Phillips curve portion of the model; and (ii) the volatilities of disturbances to inflation and cyclical (log) output, which we capture via break tests. Time-variation in the natural rate of interest is estimated to have been comparatively large for the United States, and especially for the Euro area, and smaller for Australia and the United Kingdom. Overall, natural rate estimates are characterised by a significant extent of uncertainty.
JEL Code
E31 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Price Level, Inflation, Deflation
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
25 October 2007
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 824
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Abstract
Using a structural VAR with time-varying parameters and stochastic volatility on post-WWII U.S. data, we document a striking negative correlation between the evolution of the long-run coefficient on inflation in the monetary rule and the evolution of the persistence and predictability of inflation relative to a trend component. Using a standard sticky-price model, we show that a more aggressive policy stance towards inflation causes a decline in inflation predictability, providing a possible interpretation for the findings of the structural VAR.
JEL Code
E37 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies
25 January 2008
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 851
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Abstract
Under inflation targeting inflation exhibits negative serial correlation in the United Kingdom, and little or no persistence in Canada, Sweden and New Zealand, and estimates of the indexation parameter in hybrid New Keynesian Phillips curves are either equal to zero, or very low, in all countries. Analogous results hold for the Euro area-and for France, Germany, and Italy-under European Monetary Union; for Switzerland under the new monetary regime; and for the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden under the Gold Standard: under stable monetary regimes with clearly defined nominal anchors, inflation appears to be (nearly) purely forward-looking, so that no mechanism introducing backward-looking components is necessary to fit the data. These results question the notion that the intrinsic inflation persistence found in post-WWII U.S. data-captured, in hybrid New Keynesian Phillips curves, by a significant extent of backward-looking indexation-is structural in the sense of Lucas (1976), and suggest that building inflation persistence into macroeconomic models as a structural feature is potentially misleading.
JEL Code
E31 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Price Level, Inflation, Deflation
E42 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Monetary Systems, Standards, Regimes, Government and the Monetary System, Payment Systems
E47 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies
23 February 2008
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 866
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Abstract
Most analyses of the U.S. Great Moderation have been based on structural VAR methods, and have consistently pointed towards good luck as the main explanation for the greater macroeconomic stability of recent years. Based on an estimated New-Keynesian model in which the only source of change is the move from passive to active monetary policy, we show that VARs may misinterpret good policy for good luck. First, the policy shift is suficient to generate decreases in the theoretical innovation variances for all series, and decreases in the variances of inflation and the output gap, without any need of sunspot shocks. With sunspots, the estimated model exhibits decreases in both variances and innovation variances for all series. Second, policy counterfactuals based on the theoretical structural VAR representations of the model under the two regimes fail to capture the truth, whereas impulse-response functions to a monetary policy shock exhibit little change across regimes. Since these results are in line with those found in the structural VARbased literature on the Great Moderation, our analysis suggests that existing VAR evidence is compatible with the 'good policy' explanation of the Great Moderation.
JEL Code
E3 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
6 March 2009
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1027
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Abstract
Over the last two centuries, the cross-spectral coherence between either narrow or broad money growth and inflation at the frequency ω=0 has exhibited little variation-being, most of the time, close to one-in the U.S., the U.K., and several other countries, thus implying that the fraction of inflation's long-run variation explained by long-run money growth has been very high and relatively stable. The cross-spectral gain at ω=0, on the other hand, has exhibited significant changes, being for long periods of time smaller than one. The unitary gain associated with the quantity theory of money appeared in correspondence with the inflationary outbursts associated with World War I and the Great Inflation-but not World War II-whereas following the disinflation of the early 1980s the gain dropped below one for all the countries and all the monetary aggregates I consider, with one single exception. I propose an interpretation for this pattern of variation based on the combination of systematic velocity shocks and infrequent inflationary outbursts. Based on estimated DSGE models, I show that velocity shocks cause, ceteris paribus, comparatively much larger decreases in the gain between money growth and inflation at ω=0 than in the coherence, thus implying that monetary regimes characterised by low and stable inflation exhibit a low gain, but a still comparatively high coherence. Infrequent inflationary outbursts, on the other hand, boost both the gain and coherence towards one, thus temporarily revealing the one-for-one correlation between money growth and inflation associated with the quantity theory of money, which would otherwise remain hidden in the data.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
31 March 2009
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1038
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Abstract
Following Fuhrer and Moore (1995), several authors have proposed alternative mechanisms to 'hardwire' inflation persistence into macroeconomic models, thus making it structural in the sense of Lucas (1976). Drawing on the experience of the European Monetary Union, of inflation-targeting countries, and of the new Swiss monetary policy regime, I show that, in the Phillips curve models proposed by Fuhrer and Moore (1995), Gali and Gertler (1999), Blanchard and Gali (2007), and Sheedy (2007), the parameters encoding the 'intrinsic' component of inflation persistence are not invariant across monetary policy regimes, and under the more recent, stable regimes they are often estimated to be (close to) zero. In line with Cogley and Sbordone(2008), I explore the possibility that the intrinsic component of persistence many researchers have estimated in U.S. post-WWII inflation may result from failure to control for shifts in trend inflation. Evidence from the Euro area, Switzerland, and five inflation-targeting countries is compatible with such hypothesis.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
11 December 2009
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1134
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Abstract
Policy counterfactuals based on estimated structural VARs routinely suggest that bringing Alan Greenspan back in the 1970s’ United States would not have prevented the Great Inflation. We show that a standard policy counterfactual suggests that the Bundesbank–which is near-universally credited for sparing West Germany the Great Inflation–would also not have been able to prevent the Great Inflation in the United States. The sheer implausibility of this result sounds a cautionary note on taking the outcome of SVAR-based policy counterfactuals at face value, and raises questions on the very reliability of such exercises.
JEL Code
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
E47 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Money and Interest Rates→Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
E52 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Monetary Policy
E58 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit→Central Banks and Their Policies
21 April 2010
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1176
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Abstract
We characterise the evolution of the U.S. unemployment-inflation trade-off since the late XIX century era via a Bayesian time-varying parameters structural VAR. The Great Inflation episode appears as historically unique along several dimensions. In particular, the shape of the ‘Phillips loop’–which is defined in terms of the impulse-response functions of inflation and unemployment’s deviations from equilibrium–was, during those years, clearly out of line with respect to the rest of the sample period for all structural innovations except money demand shocks. During the Great Depression, on the other hand, the Phillips trade-off did not exhibit any peculiar qualitative feature, so that, when seen through these lenses, the 1930s only stand out because of the sheer size of the macroeconomic fluctuation. The historical evolution of the Phillips trade-off exhibits virtually no connection with the evolution of the extent of trade openness of the U.S. economy. Although, by itself, this does not rule out a possible impact of globalisation on the slope of the trade-off in recent years, it clearly suggests that, historically, the evolution of the trade-off has been dominated by factors other than trade openness.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
5 May 2010
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1188
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Abstract
Based on standard New Keynesian models I show that policy counterfactuals based on the theoretical structural VAR representations of the models fail to reliably capture the impact of changes in the parameters of the Taylor rule on the (reduced-form) properties of the economy. Based on estimated models for the Great Inflation and the most recent period, I show that, as a practical matter, the problem appears to be non-negligible. These results imply that the outcomes of SVAR-based policy counterfactuals should be regarded with caution, as their informativeness for the specific issue at hand–e.g., understanding the role played by monetary policy in exacerbating the Great Depression, causing the Great Inflation, or fostering the Great Moderation–is, in principle, open to question. Finally, I argue that SVAR-based policy counterfactuals suffer from a crucial logical shortcoming: given that their reliability crucially depends on unknown structural characteristics of the underlying data generation process, such reliability cannot simply be assumed, and can instead only be ascertained with a reasonable degree of confidence by estimating structural (DSGE) models.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles
20 October 2010
WORKING PAPER SERIES - No. 1258
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Abstract
We explore the macroeconomic impact of a compression in the long-term bond yield spread within the context of the Great Recession of 2007-2009 via a Bayesian time-varying parameter structural VAR. We identify a ‘pure’ spread shock which, leaving the short-term rate unchanged by construction, allows us to characterise the macroeconomic impact of a compression in the yield spread induced by central banks’ asset purchases within an environment in which the short rate cannot move because it is constrained by the zero lower bound. Two main findings stand out. First, in all the countries we analyse (U.S., Euro area, Japan, and U.K.) a compression in the long-term yield spread exerts a powerful effect on both output growth and inflation. Second, conditional on available estimates of the impact of the FED’s and the Bank of England’s asset purchase programmes on long-term government bond yield spreads, our counterfactual simulations indicate that U.S. and U.K. unconventional monetary policy actions have averted significant risks both of deflation and of output collapses comparable to those that took place during the Great Depression.
JEL Code
E30 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→General
E32 : Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics→Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles→Business Fluctuations, Cycles