Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Risk Sharing View of Monetary Policy

I have a new working paper titled "Better Risk Sharing Through Monetary Policy? The Financial Stability Case for a Nominal GDP Target". I presented this paper at the recent Cato Monetary Policy Conference. Here is the abstract:
A series of papers have shown that a monetary regime targeting nominal GDP (NGDP)
can reproduce the distribution of risk that would exist if there were widespread use of state contingentdebt securities (Koenig, 2013; Sheedy, 2014; Azariadis et al., 2016, Bullard and DiCecia, 2018). This paper empirically evaluates this view by exploiting an implication of the theory: those countries whose NGDP stayed closest to its expected pre-crisis growth path during the crisis should have experienced the least financial instability. This paper constructs an NGDP gap measure for 21 advanced economies that is used to test this implication. The results strongly suggest that there is a meaningful role for NGDP in promoting financial and economic stability.
And an excerpt:
The key insight of Koenig (2013), Sheedy (2014), Azariadis et al. (2016), and Bullard and DiCecia (2018) is that in a world of incomplete markets where there is non-state contingent nominal contracting, an NGDP target can reproduce the risk distribution that would occur if there were complete markets and state contingent nominal debt contracting. An NGDP target, in other words, can make up for the lack of insurance against future risks that could affect debtors’ ability to repay their debt. Conversely, an NGDP target can also make up for the lack of insurance against potential returns a creditor might miss out on because their funds are locked up in a fixed-price nominal loan. Bullard and Dicecia (2018) show that this result holds even when the heterogeneity among debtors and creditors modeled approximates that of the actual income, financial wealth, and consumption inequality in the United States. They note this makes NGDP targeting “monetary policy for the masses.” 
This paper uses what I call a 'sticky-forecast' of NGDP as a benchmark path. Here is the intuition for the measure:
The idea behind the sticky forecast path for NGDP is twofold. First, the public makes many economic decisions based on a forecast of their nominal incomes. For example, households may take out a 30-year mortgage based on an implicit forecast of their nominal income over this horizon. The actual realization of nominal income may turn out to be very different than expected, but the households may not be able to quickly adjust their plans given sticky debt contracts and other commitments that constrain them. Therefore, the consequences of previous forecasts are often binding on them and slow to change even if their nominal income forecasts have been updated. Second, in addition to these old forecasts and decisions whose influence lingers, new forecasts and new decisions are being made each quarter for subsequent periods that will also have lingering effects. Together, this means future periods have many overlapping and different forecast applied to them that only gradually adjust.
The sticky-forecast path of NGDP can be viewed, in other words, as the neutral level of NGDP given the public's expectations of nominal income leading up to each period. The gap between it and actual NGDP is the "NGDP gap" and provides a measure of the stance of monetary policy.

Here is a note that further explains its construction for the United States using quarterly data from the Survey of Professional Forecasters. The note also shows how the sticky-forecast measure can be used as cross-check on the stance of U.S. monetary policy. The figures below illustrate its use. The first figure shows the sticky-forecast path of NGDP along with the actual NGDP series.

This next figure show the NGDP Gap, the percent deviation between these two series. As noted above, this can seen as the stance of monetary policy. Interestingly, it provides results very similar to Taylor rules. The NGDP Gap indicates that currently the monetary conditions are still a bit tight, but close to neutral. 


  1. Great post David. I really like the idea of defining the neutral stance of monetary policy to be the stance such that actual NGDP meets the public's NGDP expectations.

    1. Thanks Ken. Yes, I would like to start doing a regular report on the stance of monetary policy that coincides with the GDP releases.