The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap

Alan J. Auerbach, Maurice Obstfeld

NBER Working Paper No. 9814
Issued in July 2003
NBER Program(s):   EFG   ME   PE

Prevalent thinking about liquidity traps suggests that the perfect substitutability of money and bonds at a zero short-term nominal interest rate renders open-market operations ineffective for achieving macroeconomic stabilization goals. We show that even were this the case, there remains a powerful argument for large-scale open market operations as a fiscal policy tool. As we also demonstrate, however, this same reasoning implies that open-market operations will be beneficial for stabilization as well even when the economy is expected to remain mired in a liquidity trap for some time. Thus, the microeconomic fiscal benefits of open-market operations in a liquidity trap go hand in hand with standard macroeconomic objectives. Motivated by Japan's recent economic experience, we use a dynamic general-equilibrium model to assess the welfare impact of open-market operations for an economy in Japan's predicament. We argue Japan can achieve a substantial welfare improvement through large open-market purchases of domestic government debt.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9814

Published: Auerbach, Alan J. and Maurice Obstfeld. "The Case For Open-Market Purchases In A Liquidity Trap," American Economic Review, 2005, v95(1,Mar), 110-137. Alan Auerbach & Maurice Obstfeld. "The case for open-market purchases in a liquidity trap," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue March 2003. citation courtesy of

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