NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Measuring Central Bank Communication: An Automated Approach with Application to FOMC Statements

David O. Lucca, Francesco Trebbi

NBER Working Paper No. 15367
Issued in September 2009
NBER Program(s):   ME

We present a new automated, objective and intuitive scoring technique to measure the content of central bank communication about future interest rate decisions based on information from the Internet and news sources. We apply the methodology to statements released by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) after its policy meetings starting in 1999. Using intra-day financial quotes, we find that short-term nominal Treasury yields respond to changes in policy rates around policy announcements, whereas longer-dated Treasuries mainly react to changes in policy communication. Using lower frequency data, we find that changes in the content of the statements lead policy rate decisions by more than a year in univariate interest rate forecasting and vector autoregression (VAR) models. When we estimate Treasury yield responses to the shocks identified in the VAR, we find communication to be a more important determinant of Treasury rates than contemporaneous policy rate decisions. These results are consistent with the view that the FOMC releases information about future policy rate actions in its statements and that market participants incorporate this information when pricing longer-dated Treasuries. Finally, we decompose realized policy rate decisions using a forward-looking Taylor rule model. Based on this decomposition, we find that FOMC statements contain significant information regarding both the predicted rule-based interest rate and the Taylor-rule residual component, and that content of the statements leads the residual by a few quarters.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15367

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