The inflation targeting framework that Canada introduced in 1991 has played a significant role in the exceptional economic performance that the country has experienced in recent years. Understanding the factors that have contributed to the success of the current inflation-targeting framework, and investigating the various ways in which it might be improved in the future, are an important part of the Bank of Canada's medium-term research program.
Ambler describes three new channels through which inflation affects economic welfare in New Keynesian models. These channels were absent from traditional analyses and may have caused researchers to underestimate the costs associated with variable inflation, even at relatively low levels of inflation. The article concludes with a preliminary assessment of the quantitative importance of the new channels and their significance for monetary policy.
Gosselin examines and reports on the various factors that contribute to successful inflation targeting. Using a panel of 21 inflation-targeting countries over the period 1990Q1-2007Q2, Gosselin finds that the ability of central banks to hit their targets varies considerably. Some of these differences can be explained by exchange rate fluctuations, fiscal deficits, and differences in financial development. Others are explained by differences in the targeting framework itself and the manner in which it is implemented.
One of the most important factors that must be considered if countries are thinking about lowering the target level of inflation much below 2 per cent is the zero interest bound. Targeting inflation rates that are too low, the authors note, may restrict the ability of monetary policy to respond to economic shocks by limiting the amount by which interest rates can be eased.
Coletti and Lalonde compare inflation targeting and price-level targeting in the context of a small open economy subject to sizable terms-of-trade shocks. The authors summarize recent research that compares the ability of price-level targeting and inflation targeting to stabilize the macroeconomy when confronted with shocks similar to those experienced by Canada in recent years. Their preliminary results suggest that price-level targeting may represent a feasible alternative to traditional inflation targeting. Their article also provides insight into the direction of current research in this area at the Bank.