Peter Ireland

Research Papers

Research Paper (pdf): A Classical View of the Business Cycle
(Revised July 2019) (co-authored with Michael T. Belongia) In the 1920s, Irving Fisher extended his previous work on the Quantity Theory to describe, through an early version of the Phillips Curve, how changes in the money stock could be associated with cyclical movements in output, employment, and inflation. At the same time, Holbrook Working designed a quantitative rule for achieving price stability through control of the money supply. This paper develops a structural vector autoregressive time series model that allows these "classical" channels of monetary transmission to operate alongside the now-more-familiar interest rate channel of the New Keynesian model. Even with Bayesian priors that intentionally favor the New Keynesian view, the United States data produce posterior distributions for the model's key parameters that are consistent with the ideas of Fisher and Working. Changes in real money balances enter importantly into the model's aggregate demand relationship, while growth in Divisia M2 appears in the estimated monetary policy rule. Contractionary monetary policy shocks reveal themselves through persistent declines in nominal money growth instead of rising nominal interest rates and account for important historical movements in output and inflation. These results point to the need for new theoretical models that capture a wider range of channels through which monetary policy affects the economy and suggest that, even today, the monetary aggregates could play a useful role in the Federal Reserve's policymaking strategy.

Research Paper (pdf): The Demand for Divisia Money: Theory and Evidence
(Revised May 2019) (co-authored with Michael T. Belongia) A money-in-the-utility function model is extended to capture the distinct roles of noninterest-earning currency and interest-earning deposits in providing liquidity services to households. It implies the existence of a stable money demand relationship that links a Divisia monetary aggregate to consumption as a scale variable and the associated Divisia user-cost dual as an opportunity cost measure. Cointegrating money demand equations of this form appear for the Divisia M2 and MZM aggregates in quarterly United States data spanning the period from 1967:1 through 2019:1. The identification of a stable money demand function over a period that includes the financial innovations of the 1980s and continues through the recent financial crisis and Great Recession suggests that a properly measured aggregate quantity of money can play a role in the conduct of monetary policy. That role can be of greater prominence when traditional interest rate policies are constrained by the zero lower bound.

Research Paper (pdf): End Interest on Bank Reserves
(Revised September 2020) Interest on reserves interferes greatly with the Federal Reserve's ability to use its traditional monetary policy tools to maintain a favorable environment of stable prices and maximum sustainable employment. It also threatens the efficiency of our financial system and even the Fed's own independence, by allowing the central bank to allocate credit on a large scale, possibly under pressure from the political system. The American people should therefore ask Congress to revoke the Fed's ability to pay interest of reserves as soon as possible.

Research Paper (pdf): Monetary Policy Implementation: Making Better and More Consistent Use of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet
(Revised March 2019) The Federal Open Market Committee's recent Statement Regarding Monetary Policy Implementation reflects Committee members' longstanding practice of interpreting and evaluating monetary policy actions with exclusive reference to their effects on interest rates. The alternative monetarist framework outlined here emphasizes, instead, that all monetary policy actions have implications for supply of base money and hence the size and composition of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. This monetarist framework implies that monetary policy can be made more effectively, in a consistent and rule-like manner, both at and away from the zero lower interest rate bound.

Research Paper (pdf): Monetary Policy Rules: SOMC History and a Recent Case Study
(Revised March 2020) Since the Shadow Open Market Committee's founding in the early 1970s, the Federal Reserve's monetary policy strategy has been greatly enhanced by its own self-declared two-percent inflation objective. This strategy remains dangerously incomplete, however, because the Fed has never announced a monetary policy rule describing how it plans to adjust its interest rate targets in order to actually achieve that inflation objective. The most recent episode of US monetary history highlights, once again, the costs of conducting monetary policy without reference to a specific rule.

Research Paper (pdf): A Reconsideration of Money Growth Rules
(Revised April 2020) (co-authored with Michael T. Belongia) A New Keynesian model, estimated using Bayesian methods over a sample period that includes the 2009-15 episode of zero nominal interest rates, illustrates the effects of replacing the Federal Reserve's historical policy of interest rate management with one targeting money growth instead. Counterfactual simulations show that a rule for adjusting the money growth rate, modestly and gradually, in response to changes in the output gap delivers performance comparable to the estimated interest rate rule in stabilizing output and inflation. The simulations also reveal that, under the same money growth rule, the US economy would have recovered more quickly from the 2007-09 recession, with a much shorter period of exceptionally low interest rates. These results suggest that money growth rules can serve as simple but useful guides for monetary policy and eliminate concerns about monetary policy effectiveness when the zero lower bound constraint is binding.

Research Paper (pdf): Rules versus Discretion: Inference Gleaned from Greenbook Forecasts and FOMC Decisions
(Revised June 2019) (co-authored with Michael T. Belongia) From 1987 through 2013, the Federal Open Market Committee appears to have set its federal funds rate target with reference to Greenbook forecasts of the output gap and inflation and, at times, to have made further adjustments to the funds rate as those forecasts were revised. If viewed in the context of the Taylor (1993) Rule, discretionary departures from the settings prescribed by Greenbook forecasts consistently presage business cycle turning points. Similarly, estimates from an interest rate rule with time-varying parameters imply that, around such turning points, the FOMC responds less vigorously to information contained in Greenbook forecasts about the changing state of the economy. These results suggest possible gains from closer adherence to a rule with constant parameters.

Research Paper (pdf): Strengthening the Second Pillar: A Greater Role for Money in Achieving the ECB's Nominal Objectives
(Revised August 2020) (co-authored with Michael T. Belongia) Like most central banks, the European Central Bank makes and implements its monetary policy decisions by adjusting its targets for short-term interest rates in response to information gleaned from a wide range of macroeconomic indicators and projections. Unlike many other central banks, however, the ECB also monitors money growth as a "cross check" against the macroeconomic analysis that guides its policies of interest rate management. This paper argues that making further use of this "second pillar" would help the ECB to better achieve its nominal objectives in the present environment of exceptionally low inflation. By modifying the "P-star" framework - a small-scale model with Quantity Theory foundations - the paper shows how the ECB could use its influence over Divisia money growth to stabilize nominal spending around a target path, even while its traditional interest rate policies are constrained by the zero lower bound.

Research Paper (pdf): The Time is Right for Nominal GDP Level Targeting
(Revised June 2020) By lowering the federal funds rate to zero and resuming large-scale asset purchases, the Federal Open Market Committee has sent a strong signal that it will not allow temporary disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic to trigger a sustained deflation that would delay or weaken unnecessarily the expected economic recovery. After the recovery begins, however, the FOMC will face another challenge: to make equally clear that monetary policy will not generate a sustained, longer-term rise in inflation. The FOMC can meet this challenge by announcing a multi-year target path for the level of nominal GDP and describing their future policy actions with consistent reference to that target path, thereby emphasizing their commitment to maintaining the environment of long-run monetary stability most conducive to robust growth in real income and employment as well.

Research Paper (pdf): The Transmission of Monetary Policy Shocks Through the Markets for Reserves and Money
(Revised July 2020) This paper identifies supply and demand curves for bank reserves and a Divisia aggregate of monetary services within a structural vector autoregressive time-series model. Estimated over four sample periods spanning 1967 and 2019, the model illustrates how monetary policy actions can be interpreted with reference to their initial impact on bank reserves and the federal funds rate and their subsequent effects on Divisia money, nominal consumption spending, the aggregate nominal price level, and the unemployment rate. Model estimates attribute strong inflationary effects to monetary policy in the late 1960s and 1970s and also show that changes in the supply of reserves associated with the Fed's large-scale asset purchases since 2008 worked, as intended, to offset deflationary pressures and reduce unemployment. The model describes a much richer monetary policy process than one focused on interest rates alone.

Published Papers

Older Working Papers and Federal Reserve Publications


Peter Ireland's Homepage