DP11754 Ambiguous Policy Announcements

Author(s): Claudio Michelacci, Luigi Paciello
Publication Date: January 2017
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JEL(s):
Programme Areas: Monetary Economics and Fluctuations
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11754

We study the effects of monetary policy announcements in a New Keynesian model, where ambiguity-averse households with heterogenous net financial wealth use a worst-case criterion to assess the credibility of announcements. The announcement of a future loosening of monetary policy leads to the rebalancing of financial asset positions, it can cause credit crunches, and it may prove to be contractionary in the interim before implementation. This is because the households with positive net financial wealth (creditors) are those that are most likely to believe the announcement, due to the potential loss of wealth from the prospective policy easing. And when creditors believe the announcement more than debtors, their expected wealth losses are larger than the wealth gains that debtors expect. So aggregate net wealth is perceived to fall, and the economy can contract owing to lack of aggregate demand, which is more likely when the inequality in wealth is more pronounced. We evaluate the importance of this mechanism, focusing on the start of the ECB's practice of offering forward guidance in July 2013. The inflation expectations of households have responded in accordance with the theory. After matching the entire distribution of European households' net financial wealth, we find that the ECB's announcement is contractionary in our model. In general, redistributing expected wealth may have perverse effects when agents are ambiguity-averse.