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Price stability is a goal of monetary and fiscal policy aiming to support sustainable rates of economic activity. Policy is set to maintain a very low rate of "inflation or "deflation. Although this is a goal of most "central banks, not many banks achieve this.["citation needed] For example, the "European Central Bank (ECB) describes price stability as a year-on-year increase in the "Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the "Euro area of below 2%. However, by referring to “an increase in the HICP of below 2%” the ECB makes clear that not only persistent inflation above 2% but also deflation (i.e. a persistent decrease of the general price level) are inconsistent with the goal of price stability.[1]

In the United States, the "Federal Reserve Act (as amended in 1977) directs the "Federal Reserve to pursue policies promoting “maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.”[2] The Fed long ago determined that the best way to meet those mandates is to target a rate of inflation of around 2%; in 2011 it officially adopted a 2% annual increase in the "personal consumption expenditures price index (often called PCE inflation) as the target.[3] Since the mid-trend 1990s, the Federal Reserve's measure of the inflation trend averaged 1.7%, a mere 0.3% shy of the "Federal Open Market Committee’s 2% target for overall PCE inflation. Trend inflation as measured by the price index of core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) – that is, excluding food and energy – has fluctuated between 1.2% and 2.3% over the past 20 years.[4]

In managing the rate of inflation or deflation, information and expectations play an important role, as explained by "Jeffrey Lacker, President of the "Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond: "If people expect inflation to erode the future value of money, they will rationally place a lower value on money today. This principle applies equally well to the price-setting behavior of firms. If a firm expects the general level of prices to rise by 3 percent over the coming year, it will take into account the expected increase in the costs of inputs and the prices of substitutes when setting its own prices today."[5]

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