November/December 2005

In This Edition

  • An Analysis of Recent Studies of the Effect of Foreign Exchange Intervention

    Two recent strands of research have contributed to our understanding of the effects of foreign exchange intervention: (i) the use of high-frequency data and (ii) the use of event studies to evaluate the effects of intervention. This article surveys recent empirical studies of the effect of foreign exchange intervention and analyzes the implicit assumptions and limitations of such work. After explicitly detailing such drawbacks, the paper suggests ways to better investigate the effects of intervention.

  • Discrete Monetary Policy Changes and Changing Inflation Targets in Estimated Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Models

    Many estimated macroeconomic models assume interest rate smoothing in the monetary policy equation. In practice, monetary policymakers adjust a target level for the federal funds rate by discrete increments. One often-neglected consequence of using a quarterly average of the daily federal funds rate in empirical work is that any change in the target federal funds rate will affect the quarterly average in the current quarter and the subsequent quarter. Despite this clear source of predictable change in the quarterly average of the federal funds rate, the vast bulk of the literature that estimates policy rules ignores information concerning the timing and magnitude of discrete changes to the target federal funds rate. Consequently, policy equations that include interest rate smoothing inadvertently make the strong and unnecessary assumption that the starting point for interest rate smoothing is last quarter's average level of the federal funds rate. The authors consider, within an estimated general equilibrium model, whether policymakers put weight on the end-of-quarter target level of the federal funds rate when choosing a point at which to smooth the interest rate.

  • How Predictable Is Fed Policy?

    This article was originally presented as a speech at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, October 4, 2005.

  • Oil Price Volatility and U.S. Macroeconomic Activity

    Oil shocks exert influence on macroeconomic activity through various channels, many of which imply a symmetric effect. However, the effect can also be asymmetric. In particular, sharp oil price changes—either increases or decreases—may reduce aggregate output temporarily because they delay business investment by raising uncertainty or induce costly sectoral resource reallocation. Consistent with these asymmetric-effect hypotheses, the authors find that a volatility measure constructed using daily crude oil futures prices has a negative and significant effect on future gross domestic product (GDP) growth over the period 1984-2004. Moreover, the effect becomes more significant after oil price changes are also included in the regression to control for the symmetric effect. The evidence here provides economic rationales for Hamilton's (2003) nonlinear oil shock measure: It captures overall effects, both symmetric and asymmetric, of oil price shocks on output.

  • Revisions to User Costs for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Monetary Services Indices

    This analysis discusses recent changes to the user cost figures that are computed as part of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis monetary services indices (MSI). The authors first introduce an alternative splicing procedure, robust to differences in scale between series, for those price subindices which, individually, have a time span shorter than the overall MSI but are spliced to span the entire period. They then correct an error in the calculation of user costs for money market mutual funds that caused these funds' user costs to be based, for a considerable period of time, on the last-reported value for one input data series. Finally, the authors also restore the yield-curve adjustment for composite assets, which they removed from published data during 2004 as they explored the unusual behavior of the user cost data for small-denomination time deposits.

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Fed in Print: An index of the economic research conducted by the Fed.