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Recent Inflation-Related Research

Inflation-Related Economic Commentary

Economic Commentary provides research, analysis, and perspectives on an economic topic or policy issue.

  • Cyclical versus Acyclical Inflation: A Deeper Dive


    Saeed Zaman

    Abstract

    This Commentary builds on recent research separating the components of overall inflation into cyclical and acyclical categories, but it does so at a finer level of disaggregation than previous analyses to understand recent inflation developments in the two categories. The inflation rate among cyclically sensitive subcomponents, which comprise roughly 40 percent of overall core PCE inflation, has generally continued to firm in recent years in line with a strengthening labor market and has returned to near pre-Great Recession levels. By contrast, the inflation rate among the acyclical subcomponents remains subdued. A modest firming in acyclical core PCE inflation to a more normal level, combined with ongoing strength in the labor market, would be enough to return core PCE inflation to 2 percent within approximately one year.  Read More

  • The Flattening of the Phillips Curve: Policy Implications Depend on the Cause


    Filippo Occhino

    Abstract

    According to the historical relationship known as the Phillips curve, strengthening of the economy is commonly associated with increasing inflation. With inflation having only modestly picked up in the past few years as the economy has become more robust, many believe the Phillips curve relationship has weakened, with the curve becoming flatter. I show that the flattening can be due to very different types of structural changes and that knowing the type of change that has occurred is crucial for choosing the appropriate monetary policy.  Read More

  • Behavior of a New Median PCE Measure: A Tale of Tails


    Daniel R Carroll Randal J Verbrugge

    Abstract

    We introduce two new measures of trend inflation, a median PCE inflation rate and a median PCE excluding OER inflation rate, and investigate their performance. Our analysis indicates that both perform comparably to other simple trend inflation estimators such as the trimmed-mean PCE. Furthermore, we find that the performance of the median PCE is related to skewness in the distribution of cross-sectional growth rates across categories in the PCE, and our results suggest that the Bowley skewness statistic may be useful in forecasting.  Read More

Inflation-Related Working Papers

Working papers are preliminary versions of technical papers containing the results and discussions of current research.

  • WP 19-25 | The Propagation of Monetary Policy Shocks in a Heterogeneous Production Economy


    Ernesto Pasten Raphael Schoenle Michael Weber

    Abstract

    Realistic heterogeneity in price rigidity interacts with heterogeneity in sectoral size and input-output linkages in the transmission of monetary policy shocks. Quantitatively, heterogeneity in price stickiness is the central driver for real effects. Input-output linkages and consumption shares alter the identity of the most important sectors to the transmission. Reducing the number of sectors decreases monetary non-neutrality with a similar impact response of inflation. Hence, the initial response of inflation to monetary shocks is not sufficient to discriminate across models and ignoring heterogeneous consumption shares and input-output linkages identifies the wrong sectors from which the real effects originate.  Read More

  • WP 19-24 | The Effects of Price Endings on Price Rigidity: Evidence from VAT Changes


    Edward Knotek II Doron Sayag Avichai Snir

    Abstract

    We document a causal role for price endings in generating micro and macro price rigidity. Based on micro price data underlying the consumer price index in Israel, we document that most stores have a favored price ending—a final digit, usually a zero or nine, used by a majority of prices in that store—and that these favored price endings are utilized extensively. Using changes to the VAT rate as exogenous cost shocks that affect prices regardless of ending, we find that the frequency of price adjustment for nonfavored endings increases by twice as much as the frequency of adjustment for favored endings in months when the VAT rate changes. In the aggregate, sluggish pass-through of VAT rate changes is due to favored endings; changes in the VAT rate are passed through fully and immediately to nonfavored endings. Keywords: sticky prices, favored price endings, zero-ending prices, nine-ending prices, pass-through.  Read More

  • WP 19-23 | The Roles of Price Points and Menu Costs in Price Rigidity


    Edward Knotek II

    Abstract

    Macroeconomic models often generate nominal price rigidity via menu costs. This paper provides empirical evidence that treating menu costs as a structural explanation for sticky prices may be spurious. Using scanner data, I note two empirical facts: (1) price points, embodied in nine-ending prices, account for approximately two-thirds of prices; and (2) at the conclusion of sales, post-sale prices return to their pre-sale levels more than three-fourths of the time. I construct a model that nests roles for menu costs and price points and estimate model variants. Excluding the two facts yields a statistically and economically significant role for menu costs in generating price rigidity. Incorporating the two facts yields an incentive to set nine-ending prices two orders of magnitude larger than the menu costs. In this setting, the price point model can match the two stylized facts, but menu costs are effectively irrelevant as a source of price rigidity. The choice of a mechanism for price rigidity matters for aggregate dynamics.  Read More