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There has also been a huge runup both in consumer debt (highest of all the developed countries) and housing prices (higher relative to long term trend than the recent US record).

Also, if unemployment tracks NGDP, there are welfare costs to tight control of inflation.

Then there's Canada's exposure to the US and Chinese economies.

I've been thinking through this, trying to get my head straight on what price level to target.

Take the extreme, and clearest, case. Suppose we export everything we produce, and import everything we consume.

Sure, we would like to stabilise our incomes, measured in terms of import prices in C$, because that's what we care about. But targeting the CPI might not do that, if our producer prices are sticky in C$, and if targeting the CPI would mean an exchange rate that made it impossible to sell our exports.

The usual prescription would be to target the stickiest price, and that isn't necessarily the CPI.

I need to keep thinking about this.

In my view, a central bank should ideally target a price index of everything traded against money. No hedonic pricing. Probably a Fisher index (although I have not really thought that one through). In short, Pbar in the equation of exchange. The idea being that the central bank should be supplying enough money to facilitate transactions but not so much or so little as to disturb the overall price level. A central bank can target consumer prices if it likes, and I think that would be sufficient to stabilise the overall price level in the long run, but, as we have seen, the danger is that asset prices can diverge so far that the central bank has to be really strong to keep its focus on consumer prices. In truth, I think that the choice of consumer prices was - perhaps unwittingly - a bit political: the punters like their central bank to hold down the price of what they buy, but not what they own.

I'm always a radical when it comes to real estate prices: I want them to flatline or fall a bit because in the next ten years I want to buy a house.

I'm 30. I want a nice-enough house that I can look after, that doesn't leak that has enough room for the Missus (haven't found her, yet) and the two kids. My brother has moved into that stage which is why I'm an uncle. Rising real estate prices do not serve me one bit.

"What should a central bank do when producer and consumer prices diverge?"

Target the path of NGDP, just like always :)

It's odd that monetarists seem to be giving up quantity theory and the use of monetary aggregates at exactly the point where there are, for the first time, properly constructed aggregates. Doesn't this deserve some discussion?

NGDP is a coincident indicator, whereas the hope has been that aggregates would be leading indicators. I'd rather have leading indicators than faith in expectations channels and a rather elderly Chuck Norris.

Also maybe the answer isn't to target only one number. Perhaps, given the current array of tools, there could be 2 targets. The problems often seem to arise when one of the untargeted variables reaches extreme values.

"What should a central bank do when producer and consumer prices diverge?"

Do you mean a central bank in general or the Bank of Canada? Having the much bigger US as a neighbor and major trading partner makes Canada a rather special case. Their NGDPs are highly correlated.

I'm not sure this is the same as what I was commenting in the other post, but it certainly is related.

A central bank (of an economy with a large export sector) that chose to target total AD essentially surrenders domestic activity to the external demand of its exports. In other words, NGDP targeting seems to exacerbate the Dutch disease.

This can become a serious problem if your exports are volatile, but even in a low actual volatility environment it is problematic for commodity exporters because the supply is finite: it is anti-insurance.

"My (possibly incomplete) understanding is about how inflation affects welfare is on its effect on the price of consumption goods, especially in a world where nominal wages are slow to adjust. So it makes sense to me to make consumer prices the focus of attention and let producer prices go."

Does inflation really affect welfare through consumer good prices, _once you adjust for supply-side conditions_? My answer is no: a nasty terms of trade shocks will raise inflation and make consumers worse off, but the central bank cannot do anything about it, and should not even try. So the answer is target producer prices, because they are a better approximation to monetary conditions (NGDP/total expenditure) that the central bank _can_ do something about.


"Sure, we would like to stabilise our incomes, measured in terms of import prices in C$, because that's what we care about."

Why is stabilizing income better than say stabilizing an asset to liability ratio? Income (or inflation adjusted income) is one way to measure wealth. Asset / Liability ratio is another. I fail to see why one measure should be "cared about" over another.

This leads Gordon to beg the question, What should a central bank do when producer and consumer prices diverge?...

Gordon and Rowe’s focus is strictly on Canada, but given the hype surrounding NGDP targeting in the US, it might prove interesting to compare similar data.

Bubbles and Bursts has some good charts. Especially his chart comparing Canadian and US GDP deflators. US GDP deflator is much smoother, especially around 2008/9. That was also a time when the exchange rate moved a lot, IIRC.

As far as I know the only central bank that focuses on producer prices is the central bank for India, which monitors a wholesale price index. Here the reason seems to be mainly the existence of multiple CPIs for different segments of the population. If India had one CPI that covered virtually all households, their central bank would probably also target consumer prices.
I am not sure, even as a simplification, it is reasonable to treat the GDP deflator as a producer price index. After all, a large part of the deflator consists of personal expenditures, which are mostly deflated with consumer price indexes, and these consumer price deflators also occur in other places, such as calculating the value of physical change in inventories for retail trade. If one considers the GDP deflator as a producer price series, would one also consider the deflator for domestic final expenditures, for final domestic demand or for personal expenditures as producer price indexes? It seems to me that they should all be viewed as hybrid series, a mix of consumer and producer price index series, with consumer price series playing a subsidiary role in the GDP deflator but a dominant role in the personal expenditure deflator. As far as I know the only inflation targeting central bank in the world that targets a National Accounts deflator is the US Fed, and it targets the personal expenditure price index.
The more interesting question is whether a central bank should monitor consumer prices on a national or a domestic basis. Assume as Peter N does that all consumer expenditures by the resident population are imports and all production is exported. Targeting a national-basis consumer price series, appropriate to escalation of the population’s incomes, would be a weighted average of consumer price series for the foreign countries in which residents visited or worked. It would be an absolutely hopeless series for the central bank to target because it would have so little influence on it. Domestic restaurant prices, domestic rents, domestic hotel rates, would have no place in it since by assumption all spending on these would come from non-residents. On the other hand, targeting a domestic-basis consumer price series, while quite inappropriate to the escalation of the population’s incomes, would be appropriate for the central bank, since it could control domestic prices.
The UK CPI monitored by the Bank of England and the Monetary Union Index of Consumer Prices both adopt the domestic approach in their calculation. So, for example, foreign students tuition fees in the UK are part of the UK CPI, but not UK students’ tuition fees paid abroad. The Canadian CPI, like most CPIs adopts a national approach in terms of its weighting but a domestic approach in terms of its pricing. The expenditure weights for tuition fees represent all tuition fees paid by students who are Canadian residents at schools within Canada and abroad, but only tuition fees at Canadian universities are priced.
It is hard for someone to get their head around including foreign students’ tuition fees in a target inflation indicator, which seems so contrary to any welfare interpretation of a consumer price index. However, suppose the whole world consisted of Mexico, the US and Canada, each with their own inflation targeting central bank. If they all targeted domestic-based consumer price series, everyone’s consumption would be targeted by one central bank or another; no consumption would be ignored. Not so much potential output would have to be sacrificed to meet the world inflation target precisely because each central bank was targeting the prices that they had best control of, but the inflation outcomes would be the same.
Governor Carney in his speech in New York City on February 24 actually gave as a key argument against NGDP targeting that the deflator was based on the domestic approach, not the national approach! Now that he is about to become governor of a central bank with a domestic-based inflation indicator, it is about time he got up to speed on this issue.

Andrew Baldwin has a good comment stuck in the spam filter.

Mostly because I don't use Twitter:

I hope Stephen is reading this. I will be a delegate to the NDP Convention for my riding.

The Observer cost is a political donation, you get a tax credit of $625.

Therefore your effective observer fee is $575 for the three days. I'd love to meet if you want to come.

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