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Working Paper

Welfare Implications of Asset Pricing Facts: Should Central Banks Fill Gaps or Remove Volatility?

I find that removing consumption volatility is a priority over filling the gap between consumption and its flexible-price counterpart, or inflation targeting, in a model that matches empirical measures of the welfare costs of consumption fluctuations. Nearly 30 years of financial market data suggest sizable welfare costs of fluctuations that can be decomposed into a term structure that is downward-sloping on average, especially during downturns. This evidence offers guidance in selecting a model to study the benefits of macroeconomic stabilization from a structural perspective. The addition of nonlinear external habit formation to a textbook New Keynesian model can rationalize the evidence, and it offers a framework suitable for studying the desirability of removing fluctuations. The model is nearly observationally equivalent in its quantity implications to a standard New Keynesian model with CRRA utility, but the asset pricing and optimal policy implications are dramatically different. In the model, a central bank that minimizes consumption volatility generates welfare improvements relative to an inflation targeting regime that are equivalent to a 25 percent larger consumption stream.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Lopez, Pierlauro. 2023. “Welfare Implications of Asset Pricing Facts: Should Central Banks Fill Gaps or Remove Volatility?” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 21-16R.