DP6031 | The Central Banker as a Risk Manager: Estimating the Federal Reserve's Preferences under Greenspan

Publication Date

07/01/2007

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Abstract

Motivated by policy statements of central bankers, we propose to regard the central banker as a risk manager who aims at containing inflation and the deviation of output from potential within pre-specified bounds. We develop formal tools of risk management that may be used to quantify the risks of failing to attain that objective. Risk measures inherently depend on the loss function of the user. We propose a simple, yet flexible class of loss functions that nests the standard assumption of quadratic symmetric preferences, while being congruent with a risk management model. We show how the parameters of this loss function under weak assumptions may be estimated from realizations for inflation and output gap data even in the absence of a fully specified structural model of the economy. We present estimates of the Federal Reserve?s risk aversion parameters with respect to the inflation and output objectives during the Greenspan period. We formally test for and reject the standard assumptions of quadratic and symmetric preference that underlies the derivation of the Taylor rule. Our results suggest that Fed policy decisions under Greenspan are better understood in terms of the Fed weighing upside and downside risks to their objectives rather than simply responding to the conditional mean of inflation and of the output gap. We derive a natural generalization of the Taylor rule that links changes in the interest rate to the balance of the risks implied by the dual objective of sustainable economic growth and price stability. Unlike standard Taylor rules, this generalized policy rule is consistent with the wording of policy decisions by the Federal Reserve.