Convenient prices and price rigidity: cross-sectional evidence
This paper provides cross-sectional evidence of convenient prices--prices that simplify and expedite transactions and thereby reduce the time costs from physically making a transaction. I propose that firms may wish to set convenient prices for items that: (1) are typically purchased with cash; (2) are sold alone or with a few similar items; and (3) are high-traffic transactions, i.e., require queuing or are purchased very frequently. I find broad support for the use of convenient prices in locations where making a rapid transaction is important. Convenience also appears to predominantly ...
Nowcasting U.S. Headline and Core Inflation
Forecasting future inflation and nowcasting contemporaneous inflation are difficult. We propose a new and parsimonious model for nowcasting headline and core inflation in the U.S. price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and the consumer price index (CPI). The model relies on relatively few variables and is tested using real-time data. The model?s nowcasting accuracy improves as information accumulates over the course of a month or quarter, and it easily outperforms a variety of statistical benchmarks. In head-to-head comparisons, the model?s nowcasts of CPI infl ation ...
Inflation: Drivers and Dynamics 2020 Conference Summary
To provide insights into the processes that drive inflationary dynamics, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland holds an annual conference on the topic of inflation: the Inflation: Drivers and Dynamics series. The 2020 installment of the conference was held on May 21-22, 2020. This Commentary summarizes the papers at the conference, which broadly fell into four categories: (1) empirical Phillips curves, (2) networks and Phillips curves, (3) expectations formation, and (4) price-setting behavior and inflation.
Inflation: Drivers and Dynamics 2020 CEBRA Annual Meeting Session Summary
The Cleveland Fed’s Center for Inflation Research sponsored a session on inflation dynamics at the 2020 CEBRA annual meeting. The presentations focused on inflation expectations and firms’ price-setting behavior. This Economic Commentary summarizes the papers presented during the session.
When Might the Federal Funds Rate Lift Off? Computing the Probabilities of Crossing Unemployment and Inflation Thresholds
The Federal Open Market Committee has been providing guidance to help markets anticipate when it will begin raising the federal funds rate target. The most recent guidance suggests that the target will not change at least until after an unemployment or infl ation threshold is breached. We use a forecasting model to estimate when these thresholds are likely to be breached. We also consider how an infl ation fl oor would affect the timing of liftoff.
Alternative methods of solving state-dependent pricing models
We use simulation-based techniques to compare and contrast two methods for solving state-dependent pricing models: discretization, which solves and simulates the model on a grid; and collocation, which relies on Chebyshev polynomials. While both methods produce qualitatively similar results, statistically significant quantitative differences do arise. We present evidence favoring discretization over collocation in this context, given a lack of robustness in the latter.
Consumers and COVID-19: A Real-Time Survey
We summarize the results from an ongoing survey that asks consumers questions related to the recent coronavirus outbreak, including their expectations for how the economy is likely to be affected by the outbreak and how their own behavior has changed in response to it. The survey began in early March, providing a window into how consumers’ responses have evolved in real time since the early days of the acknowledged spread of COVID-19 in the United States. In updating and charting the survey’s findings on the Cleveland Fed’s website going forward, we seek to inform policymakers and ...
The Roles of Price Points and Menu Costs in Price Rigidity
Macroeconomic models often generate nominal price rigidity via menu costs. This paper provides empirical evidence that treating menu costs as a structural explanation for sticky prices may be spurious. Using scanner data, I note two empirical facts: (1) price points, embodied in nine-ending prices, account for approximately two-thirds of prices; and (2) at the conclusion of sales, post-sale prices return to their pre-sale levels more than three-fourths of the time. I construct a model that nests roles for menu costs and price points and estimate model variants. Excluding the two facts yields ...
Consumer debt dynamics:follow the increasers
Consumer debt played a central role in creating the U.S. housing bubble, the ensuing housing downturn, and the Great Recession, and it has been blamed as a factor in the weak subsequent recovery as well. This paper uses micro-level data to decompose consumer debt dynamics by separating the actions of consumer debt increasers and decreasers, and then further decomposing movements into percentage and size margins among the increasers and decreasers. We view such a decomposition as informative for macroeconomic models featuring a central role for consumer debt. Using this framework, we show that ...
A tale of two rigidities: sticky prices in a sticky-information environment
Macroeconomic models with microeconomic foundations face a difficult task: they must be consistent with facts both large and small. This paper proposes a model that combines two strands of the literature on stickiness in order to match both sets of facts. (1) Firms acquire information infrequently, as in Mankiw and Reis (2002), resulting in sticky information. (2) Firms face heterogeneous, fixed menu costs which they must pay to change prices, leading to state-dependent sticky prices at the micro level. I estimate key structural parameters and show that a model of sticky prices in a ...