Nominal income target
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A nominal income target is a monetary policy target. Such targets are adopted by central banks to manage national economic activity. Nominal aggregates are not adjusted for inflation. Nominal income aggregates that can serve as targets include nominal gross domestic product (NGDP) and nominal gross domestic income (GDI). Central banks use a variety of techniques to hit their targets, including conventional tools such as interest rate targeting or open market operations, unconventional tools such as quantitative easing or interest rates on excess reserves and expectations management to hit its target. The concept of NGDP targeting was originally proposed by James Meade (1978) and James Tobin (1980).
The concept was resuscitated and popularized in the wake of the 2008 financial crash by a group (school) that came to be known as the Market Monetarists. They claimed that the crisis would have been far less severe had central banks adopted some form of nominal income targeting.
The central bank establishes a target level or growth rate of nominal economic activity within a currency zone (usually a single country) for a given period without adjusting for price level changes (inflation/deflation). Policy is loosened or tightened as needed to hit the target. Since the goal is to hit the target for the coming period, some method of forecasting the default value of the target must be devised to serve as the baseline that indicates the direction and magnitude of policy change required to change the outcome to match that target.
One such mechanism is conventional economic forecasting. The central bank's forecast, that of some reified econometric model or an average of a group of forecasts prepared by independent groups are examples of such forecasts. Another approach is to create a futures market for the target and adjust policy until the market predicts that the target will be met.
Level targeting vs rate targeting
When supply or demand shocks or policy errors push NGDP growth above or below the target, market monetarists argue that the bank should target the level rather than the rate of growth of NGDP. With level targeting if a recession pushes NGDP to 2% for one year, the bank adds the shortfall to the next year's target to return the economy to trend growth. The name for this policy is NGTP level targeting (NGDPLT). The rate targeting alternative, which targets a constant growth rate per period allows growth to drift lower or higher over time than implied by straightforward compound growth, because each period's target growth depends on the nominal income in the prior only.
Monetary policy that ensures a NGDP target is met by definition avoids recessions in nominal terms, and by maintaining aggregate demand softens recessions in real terms. A US target of five percent growth is often recommended with the expectation that it would on average comprise three percent real growth (the historical average growth rate during the so-called Great Moderation) and two percent inflation (as currently targeted by the US Federal Reserve. An alternative target of three percent was proposed with the expectation of nominal growth mirroring the real growth rate, and zero average inflation. This lower target has the potential downside of being deflationary if real growth exceeds the three percent target, implying deflation. However, any nominal target could conceivably be either deflationary - or inflationary - if real growth sharply deviated from expectations in either direction.
where and are the wage and price level respectively. is a productivity shock. And , and d is positive. In an equilibrium state, the labour demand and supply become equal to each other, which yields
where is the market clearing level. Then consider the expected market clearing level of the wage:
Substituting into the labour demand equation, we write it as:
Since output is expressed as
it turns out that it becomes:
Immediately we have
and that yields
This equation says that a negative productivity shock of, say, 5 percent is cancelled out by the increase in the price level of 5 percent, provided that the money wage is fixed. If we consider the full information level of output , which is obtained by setting , then we have
Then the deviation of output from its full information level becomes:
Introducing as , we obtain the following formula:
Macroeconomic stabilisation policy aims at minimising the variance of , and this formula suggests that if , that is , then the nominal income targeting eliminates the divergence of real output from its full information equilibrium. It is therefore concluded that nominal income targets are optimal under the condition of inelastic labour supply.
Central bank discussion
As of 2011, it was claimed that the Bank of England might be targeting nominal income and not inflation (at least in the short term), as inflation was greater than one percent above its target, and income was growing at nearly five percent.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the pioneer of inflation targeting, responded directly to a Scott Sumner report on Income targeting, stating "The Reserve Bank said that nominal GDP targeting was a complex, technical approach to monetary policy. GDP was subject to large revisions, making policy difficult to communicate."
- A developing country needs to follow a credible economic policy with which it can survive.
- The IMF often tells a developing country to target its inflation rate, but inflation targeting makes it difficult for the country to handle an adverse supply shock or a terms-of-trade shock, because monetary expansion increases the prices of imported goods. If a country targets its inflation rate when it suffers negative supply shocks, its real GDP becomes volatile.
- Negative supply shocks are more common in developing countries, because their economies are more vulnerable natural disasters, social unrest and unrelated policy errors. Terms-of-trade shocks such as oil price increases and commodity export price decreases have greater effects because they represent larger fractions of the economy. India is regularly subject to supply shocks, such as good or bad monsoons.
Countries that target NGDP, Frankel argued have more flexibility in dealing with such shocks.
Market monetarists are skeptical of traditional monetarism's use of monetary aggregates as policy variables and prefer to use forward-looking markets. They advocate a nominal income target as a monetary policy rule because it simultaneously addresses prices and growth.
Proponents contend that national income targeting would reduce positive and negative fluctuations in economic growth. In recovery from a recession, market monetarists believe concerns over inflation are unjustified and policy should instead focus on returning the economy to a normal growth path. Conversely, in an inflationary environment, it provides a glide path to stability without overreacting. Similarly, such a targeting policy can help the economy accommodate both positive and negative supply shocks, while minimizing collateral damage.
The leading proponent was Scott Sumner, with his blog "The Money Illusion." Supporters included Lars Christensen, blogging at "The Market Monetarist", Marcus Nunes at "Historinhas" David Glasner at "Uneasy Money", Josh Hendrickson at "The Everyday Economist", David Beckworth at "Macro and Other Market Musings" and Bill Woolsey at "Monetary Freedom."
Australian economist John Quiggin supports nominal income targeting, on the basis that "A system of nominal GDP targeting would maintain or enhance the transparency associated with a system based on stated targets, while restoring the balance missing from a monetary policy based solely on the goal of price stability." Supporters of nominal income targeting often self-identify as market monetarists, although market monetarism encompasses more than nominal income targeting.
Charles L. Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said in July 2012 that "nominal income level targeting is an appropriate policy choice" because of what he claimed was its "safeguard against an unreasonable increase in inflation." However, "recognizing the difficult nature of that policy approach," he also suggested a "more modest proposal" of "a conditional approach, whereby the federal funds rate is not increased until the unemployment rate falls below 7 percent, at least, or until inflation rises above 3 percent over the medium term."
Few academic publications analyze nominal income targeting, although it has been shown that similar monetary policy performs better than real income targeting during a crisis.
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- GDI is thought to be a more accurate measure
- J. Meade, The Economic Journal, Vol. 88, No. 351, 423-435 (1978)
- Nominal GDP targeting, Left, Right? Jeffrey Frankel, Project Syndicate, May 2, 2013
- Nominal income targets: an old wine in a new bottle Charlie Bean, Speech at the Institute for Economic Affairs Conference on the State of the Economy, London, Bank of England, 27 Feb 2013
- Changing target Should the Fed target nominal GDP? Title: Changing target Publication: The Economist Publisher: The Economist Newspaper Limited Date: Aug 27, 2011
- Sumner 2011
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- C. Bean, The Economic Journal, Vol 93, No 372, (1983)
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- Why a NGDP (Nominal Gross Domestic Product) Level Target Trumps a Price Level Target
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- Romer, Christina D. (October 29, 2011). "Dear Ben: It’s Time for Your Volcker Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
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