The Whole Can Be Greater Than the Sum of its Parts

By Vitor Gaspar, Maurice Obstfeld and Ratna Sahay

There are policy options to bring new life into anemic economic recoveries and to counteract renewed slowdowns.  Our new paper, along with our co-authors, debunks widespread concerns that little can be done by policymakers facing a vicious cycle of (too) low growth, (too) low inflation, near-zero interest rates, and high debt levels.

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The Lowdown on U.S. Core Inflation

Yasser AbdihBy Yasser Abdih

There was a time when U.S. central bankers worried that inflation was too high, and they tried to bring it down. Now the opposite is true: the Federal Reserve is concerned that inflation has remained stubbornly low, and it’s trying to boost prices. The reason: persistently low inflation raises the risk that prices will actually start to decline, a dangerous condition known as deflation. That’s bad news because it makes people less willing to borrow and spend—anticipating lower prices, consumers will put off spending—and could also lead to a fall in wages. Continue reading

Learning to Adjust: The Effects of Currency Depreciations on Inflation in Latin America

By Yan Carrière-Swallow and Bertrand Gruss

(Versions in Español and Português)

Falling global commodity prices and the normalization of monetary policy in the United States have contributed to widespread currency depreciations in Latin America. In theory, a falling currency is expected to create inflation by driving up the price of imported goods and services—triggering what economists call exchange rate pass-through.

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It’s Mostly Food: How to Tame Indian Inflation

By Rahul Anand and Paul Cashin

After being low for decades, inflation in India trended higher from the mid-2000s. It reached 10–11 percent by 2008, and remained elevated at double digits for several years. Even though inflation fell by almost half in 2014, inflation expectations have remained high.

High and persistent inflation in recent years has presented serious macroeconomic challenges in India, increasing the country’s domestic and external vulnerabilities. As Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan pointed out at the 8th R.N. Kao Memorial Lecture in 2014, “inflation is a destructive disease … we can’t push inflation under the carpet as a central banker. We have to deal with it.”

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Population Pressures

Jeff HaydenBy Jeff Hayden

(Versions in عربي and Español)

Say “population growth” and many people immediately think of resources under stress. The mind jumps to 19th century scholar Thomas Malthus, who saw population outstripping the food supply, or to Paul Ehrlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb warned of global catastrophe from overpopulation.

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Managing China’s Economic Transition

Changyong RheeBy Changyong Rhee

(Version in 中文 and Español)

From advanced economy financial markets to developing country commodity producers, the world has closely followed developments in China in recent months. After 35 years of extraordinarily rapid growth, the Chinese economy is undergoing a major transition from export-led growth to a model increasingly driven by consumption and services, with less emphasis on debt-financed public investment.

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Making Monetary Policy Decisions in the Dark

By Francesco Grigoli, Alexander Herman, Andrew Swiston, and Gabriel Di Bella

(Version in Español and Português)

In the wake of the global financial crisis, monetary and fiscal policies were used aggressively to counteract the effects of the crisis on economic activity. Policymakers look at a number of indicators to guide them in assessing an economy’s level of activity relative to its productive capacity. But trying to figure out the position of the economy in real time is often quite challenging, with consequences for setting policy.

In the case of Brazil in 2011, for example, policymakers estimated in real time that the economy was at a level of output consistent with its productive capacity. Over time, however, the assessment of the cyclical position of the Brazilian economy changed drastically. It had not just been at full capacity, but was overheating. The economy was actually facing inflationary pressures, requiring policy tightening to bring it back to the central bank’s target.

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