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2022.05.13 无痛的通货膨胀不再是可信的

发表于 2022-5-15 23:41:30 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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Finance and economics
Jón Steinsson believes that a painless disinflation is no longer plausible
The economics professor says that the Fed’s hard-won credibility is at stake

May 13th 2022


After rising steadily for over a year, inflation in America is now higher than it has been for four decades. On May 4th the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by 0.5 percentage points. Jerome Powell, its chair, also indicated that further 0.5-percentage-point increases are likely in June and July. Together, these actions will constitute the fastest tightening of policy since the 1980s.

This “expeditious” tightening is a welcome shift from late last year. Back then the thinking of the Fed, of pundits and of market participants fell far behind the curve. The Fed was expected to raise rates by less than one percentage point over the course of 2022. Proposals (including one of my own) to raise rates by a total of two percentage points were considered radical.

Even now some critics see the Fed‘s current stance as falling short. Markets currently expect it to raise rates to about 2.75% by the end of the year, and only by about 0.5 percentage points more next year. The Fed‘s own (rather optimistic) forecast from March had inflation at 4.3% at the end of this year and 2.7% at the end of 2023. This same forecast had unemployment remaining at record lows for the foreseeable future. This combination of forecasts has been dubbed the “immaculate disinflation” because inflation is seen as falling rapidly despite a very tight labour market and a policy rate that is for the most part negative in real terms (ie, adjusted for inflation).

Is it plausible that inflation will come down with so little pain? This was certainly not the case last time inflation rose to its current heights in America. Back in the 1980s, the process of disinflation was extremely painful. Under the leadership of Paul Volcker, the Fed raised interest rates to 20% and engineered a huge recession.

There are differences, however, between today’s situation and that of 40 years ago. Arguably, the most important is the credibility the Fed has built up since then thanks to its inflation-fighting. In the early 1980s, its credibility was in tatters after a decade of high and volatile inflation. But the Fed’s relentless focus on bringing about low and stable inflation meant that by 2000 its credibility was sky high.

Credibility has the effect of anchoring longer-term expectations of inflation. Since the late 1990s, those expectations have been virtually constant. This makes controlling inflation much easier than it otherwise would be. For example, those setting wages and prices in the economy react less strongly to temporary disturbances, such as a disruption in the energy markets.

The case for an “immaculate disinflation” today rests on longer-run expectations about inflation continuing to be solidly anchored at the Fed’s target of 2%. If this remains the case, it is entirely possible that inflation will simply return to target as the disturbances associated with covid-19 and the war in Ukraine dissipate. In this scenario, there is no need for particularly tight policy. After all, the unemployment rate is no lower today than it was at the start of 2020 when inflation was 2%.

The risks to this benign scenario are twofold. First, it may be that some of the special disturbances associated with the pandemic and the war do not fade away quickly. A new wave of covid-19 may emerge. China’s adherence to its zero-covid policy seems likely to cause substantial disruptions for some time. And there is no end in sight to the war in Ukraine.

The second, more serious, risk is that the Fed’s credibility starts eroding. The longer inflation stays high, the likelier this is. At a certain point the excuses for inflation’s persistence will wear thin—even if they are valid. The public will simply lose confidence in the Fed. I worried about this possibility late last year when the Fed’s delayed pivot towards tighter policy seemed woefully inadequate. Even now, I worry that the Fed is in a race against time to bring down inflation before its credibility is seriously damaged. For that reason, I think it needs to err on the side of tightening more than the most optimistic scenario would warrant, as insurance against the possibility that things might get worse.

These risks imply that disinflation will probably be painful. However, I remain optimistic that it is possible to disinflate at substantially lower cost than past experience suggests. The Fed has established the notion that it is ready to raise rates in 0.5-percentage-point increments as often as is needed. This amounts to as much as four percentage points of tightening per year, which should really be enough. More importantly, Fed officials are at last willing to state unequivocally that they will do whatever it takes to bring down inflation. It is only if the public remains fully confident that the Fed is willing to cause whatever pain is needed, that it stands any chance of engineering a disinflation without much suffering.

Jón Steinsson is a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jón Steinsson认为,无痛的通货膨胀不再是可信的



这种 "快速 "的紧缩政策与去年年底相比是一个可喜的转变。那时,美联储、专家学者和市场参与者的想法都远远落后于曲线。预计美联储将在2022年期间加息不到一个百分点。将利率总共提高两个百分点的建议(包括我自己的一个建议)被认为是激进的。

即使是现在,一些批评者也认为美联储目前的立场是不够的。市场目前预计,到今年年底,它将把利率提高到2.75%左右,而明年只提高0.5个百分点左右。美联储自己3月份的预测(相当乐观),今年年底的通货膨胀率为4.3%,2023年底为2.7%。同样的预测显示,在可预见的未来,失业率将保持在历史最低水平。这种预测组合被称为 "完美的通货膨胀",因为尽管劳动力市场非常紧张,而且政策利率在大多数情况下是实际负值(即根据通货膨胀调整),但通货膨胀被视为迅速下降。




今天,"完美的通货膨胀 "的理由是,对通货膨胀的长期预期继续牢固地固定在美联储2%的目标上。如果情况仍然如此,那么随着与19号汽油事件和乌克兰战争有关的干扰消散,通货膨胀将完全有可能恢复到目标值。在这种情况下,没有必要采取特别严格的政策。毕竟,今天的失业率并不比2020年初通胀率为2%时低。




Jón Steinsson是加州大学伯克利分校的经济学教授。
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