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The Wedge of the Century: Understanding a Divergence between CPI and PPI Inflation Measures

Shang-Jin Wei, Yinxi Xie

NBER Working Paper No. 24319
Issued in February 2018, Revised in May 2019
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment, Monetary Economics

Two strands of the literature suggest that PPI inflation, rather than CPI inflation, should be the targeting variable in a monetary policy rule. The distinction between these two rules would only be important if the two inflation indices do not co-move strongly. The first contribution of this paper is to document that the two inflation gauges did co-move strongly in the last century but the correlation has fallen substantially since the start of this century. The second contribution is to propose a structural explanation for this divergence based on a lengthening of world production chains since 2000. This theory implies that the decline in the correlation is likely to be permanent and a rethinking of the monetary policy rules has become more important. Our multi-stage multi-country production model has additional predictions on the behavior of CPI and PPI inflation beyond a fallen correlation, and these predictions are also confirmed in the data.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24319

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