Good morning. I am very pleased to welcome you here today. This conference is part of a first-ever public review by the Federal Open Market Committee of our monetary policy strategy, tools, and communications. We have a distinguished group of experts from academics and other walks of life here to share perspectives on how monetary policy can best serve the public.
早上好。欢迎诸位的到来。本次会议是美联储联邦公开市场委员会 (FOMC) 首次就我们的货币政策策略、工具和沟通举行公开评审的一个环节。会议聚集了来自学界和其他各行各业的顶尖专家，与诸位分享货币政策如何最好地为公众服务的观点。
I’d like first to say a word about recent developments involving trade negotiations and other matters. We do not know how or when these issues will be resolved. We are closely monitoring the implications of these developments for the U.S. economic outlook and, as always, we will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion, with a strong labor market and inflation near our symmetric 2 percent objective. My comments today, like this conference, will focus on longer-run issues that will remain even as the issues of the moment evolve.
While central banks face a challenging environment today, those challenges are not entirely new. In fact, in 1999 the Federal Reserve System hosted a conference titled "Monetary Policy in a Low Inflation Environment." Conference participants discussed new challenges that were emerging after the then-recent victory over the Great Inflation.1 They focused on many questions posed by low inflation and, in particular, on what unconventional tools a central bank might use to support the economy if interest rates fell to what we now call the effective lower bound (ELB). Even though the Bank of Japan was grappling with the ELB as the conference met, the issue seemed remote for the United States. The conference received little coverage in the financial press, but a Reuters wire service story titled "Fed Conference Timing on Inflation Odd, but Useful" emphasized the remoteness of the risk.2 Participants at the conference could not have anticipated that only 10 years later, the world would be engulfed in a deep financial crisis, with unemployment soaring and central banks around the world making extensive use of new strategies, tools, and ways to communicate.
虽然中央银行目前面临一个充满挑战的环境，但这些挑战对我们并非完全陌生。事实上，在1999年美联储主办了一次题为“低通胀环境下的货币政策”的会议。与会者讨论了当时刚刚战胜大通胀后出现的新挑战。他们关注的是低通胀带来的许多问题，特别是如果利率下降到我们现在称之为有效下限 (ELB) 的水平，中央银行可能会用什么非常规工具来支持经济。尽管日本央行在会议召开期间正努力解决ELB带来的问题，但这个问题对当时的美国而言似乎遥不可及。该次会议在财经媒体上几乎没有得到报道，路透社的报道题为“美联储会议对通货膨胀关注的时机奇怪、但有用“，报道中强调我们距离风险还远。当时的与会者无法预料到，在仅仅10年后，世界将陷入严重金融危机，失业率飙升，世界各地的中央银行广泛使用新的策略、工具和沟通方式。
The next time policy rates hit the ELB—and there will be a next time—it will not be a surprise. We are now well aware of the challenges the ELB presents, and we have the painful experience of the Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath to guide us. Our obligation to the public we serve is to take those measures now that will put us in the best position deal with our next encounter with the ELB. And with the economy growing, unemployment low, and inflation low and stable, this is the right time to engage the public broadly on these topics.
The review has several parts, all of which are intended to open our monetary policy to critical examination. We are holding a series of Fed Listens events around the country to help us understand the perspectives of people from diverse backgrounds and with varied interests. This conference and many other engagements will help us bring to bear the best thinking from policymakers and experts. Beginning later this year, the FOMC will devote time at a series of our regular meetings to assess lessons from these events, supported by staff analysis performed throughout the Federal Reserve System. We will publicly report the outcome of our discussions. In the meantime, anyone who is interested in participating or learning more can find information on the Federal Reserve Board's website.3
评审分为几个环节，所有环节都旨在就我们的货币政策公开征求批判性评论。我们正在全国范围内举办一系列“美联储在聆听” (Fed Listens) 活动，以帮助我们了解来自各种背景、有着不同利益诉求的人们的观点。这次会议和其他活动将帮助我们充分运用政策制定者和专家们的独到见解。今年晚些时候开始，联邦公开市场委员会将花时间在一系列定期会议上评估这些活动带来的经验成果，联储系统的全体员工都将参与到对这些成果的分析当中。我们将公开报告我们的讨论结果。与此同时，任何有兴趣参与或了解更多的人都可以在美联储的官方网站上找到相关信息。
Before turning to the specifics of the review, I want to focus a little more closely on the challenges we face today. For a reference point, at the time of the 1999 conference, the United States was eight years into an expansion; core inflation was 1.4 percent, and the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent—not so different from today.4 Macroeconomists were puzzling over the flatness of the Phillips curve, the level of the natural rate of unemployment, and a possible acceleration in productivity growth—questions that are also with us today.5
在谈及评审的具体细节之前，我想给予我们当前所面临的挑战更多关注。作为参考点，在1999年的会议召开时，美国经济扩张已经持续了八年之久；核心通胀率为1.4％，失业率为4.1％，与当下的情况没有太大的差异。宏观经济学家们对菲利普斯曲线的平坦形态，自然失业率的水平以及生产率增长的可能加速感到困惑 - 这些同样是我们今天所面临的问题。
The big difference between then and now is that the federal funds rate was 5.2 percent—which, to underscore the point, put the rate 20 quarter-point rate cuts away from the ELB. Since then, standard estimates of the longer-run normal or neutral rate of interest have declined between 2 and 3 percentage points, and some argue that the effective decline is even larger.6 The combination of lower real interest rates and low inflation translates into lower nominal rates and a much higher likelihood that rates will fall to the ELB in a downturn.
As the experience of the past decade showed, extended ELB episodes can be associated with painfully high unemployment and slow growth or recession. Economic weakness puts downward pressure on inflation, which can raise real interest rates and reinforce the challenge of supporting needed job growth. In addition, over time, inflation has become much less sensitive to tightness in resource utilization. This insensitivity can be a blessing in avoiding deflation when unemployment is high, but it means that much greater labor market tightness may ultimately be required to bring inflation back to target in a recovery. Using monetary policy to push sufficiently hard on labor markets to lift inflation could pose risks of destabilizing excesses in financial markets or elsewhere.
In short, the proximity of interest rates to the ELB has become the preeminent monetary policy challenge of our time, tainting all manner of issues with ELB risk and imbuing many old challenges with greater significance. For example, the behavior of inflation7 now draws much sharper focus. When nominal interest rates were around 4 or 5 percent, a low-side surprise of a few tenths on inflation did not raise the specter of the ELB. But the world has changed. Core inflation is currently running a bit below 2 percent on a trailing 12-month basis. In this setting, a similar low-side surprise, if it were to persist, would bring us uncomfortably closer to the ELB. My FOMC colleagues and I must—and do—take seriously the risk that inflation shortfalls that persist even in a robust economy could precipitate a difficult-to-arrest downward drift in inflation expectations. At the heart of the review is the evaluation of potential changes to our strategy designed to strengthen the credibility of our symmetric 2 percent inflation objective.
The ELB problem also complicates the FOMC's efforts to achieve transparency and accountability. The Fed, like most major central banks, is insulated from short-term political pressures. In our democracy, that insulation carries with it an obligation for us to be transparent and publicly accountable. When policy rates reached the ELB during the crisis, central banks resorted to what were then new, untested tools to pursue their mandated goals. These tools are no longer new, but their efficacy, costs, and risks remain less well understood than the traditional approaches to central banking. My FOMC colleagues and I are committed to explaining why the use of these tools in the wake of the crisis was a prudent and effective approach to pursuing our congressional mandate and why tools like these are likely to be needed again. Our review is but one part of our efforts to engage with the public on these matters.
Let me turn to the specifics of the review, which is focused on three questions:
Can the Federal Reserve best meet its statutory objectives with its existing monetary policy strategy, or should it consider strategies that aim to reverse past misses of the inflation objective?
Are the existing monetary policy tools adequate to achieve and maintain maximum employment and price stability, or should the toolkit be expanded?
How can the FOMC's communication of its policy framework and implementation be improved?
These questions are quite broad, and my colleagues and I come to them with open minds. We believe our current policy framework is working well, and we have made no decisions about particular changes. In fact, the review is still in its early stages.
The first question raises the issue of whether the FOMC should use makeup strategies in response to ELB risks. By the time of the 1999 conference, research was beginning to show that—in models, at least—such strategies could substantially reduce the unemployment and other costs of ELB spells.8 The simplest version goes like this: Suppose that a spell with interest rates near the ELB leads to a persistent shortfall of inflation relative to the central bank's goal. But what if the central bank promised credibly that it would deliberately make up for any lost inflation by stimulating the economy and temporarily pushing inflation modestly above the target? In the models, the prospect of future stimulus promotes anticipatory consumption and investment that could greatly reduce the pain of being at the ELB.9 Policymakers discussed this reasoning in the wake of the crisis, but neither the Fed nor any other major central bank chose to pursue such a policy.10 Why? For makeup strategies to work, households and businesses must go out on a limb, so to speak, raising spending in the midst of a downturn. In theory, they would do this based on their confidence that the central bank will deliver the makeup stimulus at some point—perhaps years in the future. In models, great confidence in central bankers is achieved by assumption. Despite the flattering nature of this assumption, crisis-era policymakers had major questions about whether their promise of good times to come would really have moved the hearts, minds, and pocketbooks of the public. Part of the problem was that the groundwork had not been laid in advance of the downturn—a problem we could hope to fix well before next time. Policymakers also had deeper concerns about the legitimacy and effectiveness of attempting to bind some future FOMC to take actions that could be objectionable from a short-term perspective when the time came to deliver.11
Research on makeup strategies has begun to grapple more seriously with the credibility questions.12 But important questions remain. To achieve buy-in by households and businesses, a comprehensible, credible, and actionable makeup strategy will need to be followed by years of central bank policy consistent with that strategy.
The second question asks about the adequacy of the Fed's toolkit for providing stimulus when facing the ELB. In the United States, we used several different formulations of both forward guidance and large‑scale purchases of longer-term securities.13 While views differ on the effectiveness of these policies, with their use, the unemployment rate fell steadily and inflation expectations remained well anchored, outcomes that were favorable overall when viewed against the recoveries of many other advanced economies. My own view is that these policies provided meaningful support for demand, but that they should not be thought of as a perfect substitute for our traditional interest rate tool. In any case, we have a responsibility to thoroughly evaluate what mix of these tools is likely to work best when the next ELB episode arrives.
Perhaps it is time to retire the term "unconventional" when referring to tools that were used in the crisis. We know that tools like these are likely to be needed in some form in future ELB spells, which we hope will be rare. We now have a significant body of evidence regarding the effectiveness, costs, and risks of these tools, including those used by the FOMC and others tried elsewhere. Our plans must take advantage of this growing understanding as assessments are refined.
The third question concerns improving communication, which I discussed earlier from the standpoint of governance and accountability. But transparency also plays a central role in policy effectiveness through its effects on the expectations of households and businesses. Of course, this was the major insight behind the transparency revolution in central banking over the past few decades. Today, central banks publicly share a large and ever-increasing amount of information about policy. But policymakers and commentators inside and outside central banks sometimes question whether all of the transparency adds up to effective communication.14
The FOMC's famous dot plot is one example. A focus on the median forecast amounts to emphasizing what the typical FOMC participant would do if things go as expected. But we have been living in times characterized by large, frequent, unexpected changes in the underlying structure of the economy.15 In this environment, the most important policy message may be about how the central bank will respond to the unexpected rather than what it will do if there are no surprises. Unfortunately, at times the dot plot has distracted attention from the more important topic of how the FOMC will react to unexpected economic developments. In times of high uncertainty, the median dot might best be thought of as the least unlikely outcome.
著名的FOMC点阵图就是一个例子。对图上中位预测的关注，相当于强调在事态如预期发展的情况下，典型FOMC参与者会采取什么样的行动。然而我们生活的这个时代的特点是，在经济基础结构内部常会发生大规模的意外变化。在这种环境下，最重要的政策信息或许是央行会如何应对意外情况，而不是在没有意外情况下采取的行动。不幸的是，点阵图有时分散了人们对FOMC如何应对意外经济发展这一更重要话题的注意力。在高度不确定性期间，点阵图的中位预测最好是被当作不发生可能性最小 (least unlikely) 的结果。
Let me conclude by saying that I look forward to our discussions here and to the ongoing work of the review that lies ahead. We need the best tools and strategies possible for dealing with the challenges we now face, and we must communicate them in a clear and credible way. My colleagues and I welcome your best thinking on these issues.
来源：Powell, Jerome H., Opening Remarks at the "Conference on Monetary Policy Strategy, Tools, and Communications Practices", Federal Reserve Board - Speeches, Jun. 4th 2019