Interest-Rate Smoothing

Robert J. Barro

NBER Working Paper No. 2581 (Also Reprint No. r1279)
Issued in May 1988
NBER Program(s):   EFG   ME

The paper develops a model in which targeting of the nominal interest rate is a reasonable guide for monetary policy. Expected real interest rates and output are exogenous with respect to monetary variables, and the central bank ends up influencing nominal interest rates by altering expected inflation. In this model the monetary authority can come arbitrarily close in each period to its (time-varying) target for the nominal interest rate, even while holding down the forecast variance of the price level. The latter objective pins down the extent of monetary accommodation to shifts in the demand for money and other shocks, and thereby makes determinate the levels of money and prices at each date. Empirical evidence for the United States in the post-World War II period suggests that the model's predictions accord reasonably well with observed behavior for nominal interest rates, growth rates of the monetary base, and rates of inflation. Earlier periods, especially before World War I, provide an interesting contrast because interest-rate smoothing did not apply. The behavior of the monetary base and the price level at these times differed from the post-World War I1 experience in ways predicted by the theory

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2581

Published: "Interest-Rate Targeting" From Journal of Monetary Economics, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 3-30, (January 1989).

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