DP16279 Macroeconomic Expectations and Credit Card Spending

Author(s): Mikhail Galashin, Martin Kanz, Ricardo Perez-Truglia
Publication Date: June 2021
Keyword(s): Consumption, Exchange rate, Expectations, field experiment, inflation
JEL(s): C81, C93, D83, E31, R31
Programme Areas: Financial Economics, Development Economics, Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16279

How do macroeconomic expectations affect consumer decisions? We examine this question using a natural field experiment with 2,872 credit card customers from a large commercial bank. We conduct a survey to measure consumer expectations about future inflation and the nominal exchange rate and combine this with an information-provision experiment that generates exogenous variation in these expectations. We merge the survey and experimental data with detailed administrative data on the subjects' credit card transactions and balances. The experiment is designed to test three standard predictions from models of intertemporal consumption choice: inflation expectations should affect spending on durables; exchange rate expectations should affect spending on tradables; and, holding constant the nominal interest rate, inflation expectations should affect borrowing. We find that the information provided to participants strongly affects subjective expectations. However, we do not find any significant effects on actual consumer behavior (as measured in administrative data) or self-reported consumption plans (as measured in survey data). Our preferred interpretation is that consumers are not sophisticated enough to factor inflation and exchange rate expectations into their consumption decisions. The absence of a link between consumer expectations and behavior has potentially important implications for macroeconomic policies such as forward guidance.