November 24, 2004 The issue addressed in this article is the extent to which monetary policy in Canada should respond to asset-price bubbles. The article concludes that maintaining low and stable consumer price inflation is the best contribution that monetary policy can make to promoting economic and financial stability, even when the economy experiences asset-price bubbles. In extreme circumstances—when an asset-price bubble is well identified and likely to have significant costs to the economy when it bursts—monetary policy might better maintain low and stable consumer price inflation by leaning against a particular bubble even though it may mean that inflation deviates temporarily from its target. Such a strategy might reduce the risk that a crash in asset prices could lead to a recession and to inflation markedly below target in the longer run. The circumstances where this strategy is possible will be rare because economists are far from being able to determine consistently and reliably when leaning against a particular bubble is likely to do more harm than good. Housing-price bubbles should be a greater concern for Canadian monetary policy than equity-price bubbles, since rising housing prices are more likely to reflect excessively easy domestic credit conditions than are equity prices, which are largely determined in global markets.
The authors construct three financial conditions indexes (FCIs) for Canada based on three approaches: an IS-curve-based model, generalized impulse-response functions, and factor analysis.