Discussion paper

DP4447 The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap

Prevalent thinking about liquidity traps suggests that the perfect substitutability of money and bonds at a zero short-term nominal interest rate renders open-market operations ineffective for achieving macroeconomic stabilization goals. We show that even were this the case, there remains a powerful argument for large-scale open market operations as a fiscal policy tool. As we also demonstrate, however, this same reasoning implies that open-market operations will be beneficial for stabilization as well, even when the economy is expected to remain mired in a liquidity trap for some time. Thus, the microeconomic fiscal benefits of open-market operations in a liquidity trap go hand in hand with standard macroeconomic objectives. Motivated by Japan?s recent economic experience, we use a dynamic general-equilibrium model to assess the welfare impact of open-market operations for an economy in Japan?s predicament. We argue that Japan can achieve a substantial welfare improvement through large open-market purchases of domestic government debt.


Auerbach, A and M Obstfeld (2004), ‘DP4447 The Case for Open-Market Purchases in a Liquidity Trap‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4447. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp4447