The Risk of Deflation

Research Area: Monetary Policy
Researcher: Stefan Gerlach
Date: Jan 2009

This background paper considers how large the risk of deflation may be and discusses what policy can do to reduce it. It is organized as follows. Section 2 defines deflation and discusses downward nominal wage rigidities and the zero lower bound on interest rates. While these factors are frequently seen as two reasons why deflation can be associated with very poor economic outcomes, they should not be overemphasized. Section 3 looks at the current situation. Inflation expectations and forecasts in the subset of economies we look at (the euro area, the UK and the US) are positive, indicating that deflation is not expected. This does not imply that the current concerns of deflation are unwarranted, only that the public expects the central bank to be successful in avoiding deflation. The section also looks at the evolution of headline and “core” inflation, focusing on data from the US and the euro area. Section 4 reviews how monetary and fiscal policy can be conducted to ensure that deflation is avoided. Section 5 briefly discusses special issues arising in emerging market economies. Finally, Section 6 offers some conclusions. An Appendix discusses deflation episodes in the period 1882-1939.

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