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News and Uncertainty about COVID-19: Survey Evidence and Short-Run Economic Impact

We survey households about their expectations of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in real time and at daily frequency. Our baseline question asks about the expected impact on output and inflation over a one-year horizon. Starting on March 10, the median response suggests that the expected output loss is still moderate. This changes over the course of three weeks: At the end of March, the expected loss amounts to some 15 percent. Meanwhile, the pandemic is expected to raise inflation considerably. The uncertainty about these effects is very large. In the second part of the paper we feed the survey data into a New Keynesian business cycle model. Because the economic costs of the pandemic have not fully materialized yet but are nonetheless (a) anticipated and (b) uncertain, private expenditure collapses, thereby amplifying and bringing forward in time the economic costs of the pandemic. The short-run economic impact of the pandemic depends critically on whether monetary policy accommodates the drop in the natural rate of interest or not.

JEL Codes: C83, E43, E52.
Keywords: COVID-19, corona, household expectations, survey, news shocks, uncertainty, natural rate, monetary policy, zero lower bound.

Suggested citation: Dietrich, Alexander M., Keith Kuester, Gernot J. Müller, and Raphael S. Schoenle. 2020. “News and Uncertainty about COVID-19: Survey Evidence and Short-Run Economic Impact.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 20-12.

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