August 16, 2012 The consumer price index (CPI) is the most commonly used measure to track changes in the overall level of prices. Since it departs from a true cost-of-living index, the CPI is subject to four types of measurement bias—commodity substitution, outlet substitution, new goods and quality adjustment. The author updates previous Bank of Canada estimates of measurement bias in the Canadian CPI by examining these four sources of potential bias. He finds the total measurement bias over the 2005–11 period to be about 0.5 percentage point per year, consistent with the Bank’s earlier findings. Slightly more than half of this bias is caused by the fixed nature of the CPI basket of goods and services.
August 16, 2012 An important channel in the transmission of monetary policy is the relationship between the short-term policy rate and long-term interest rates. Using a new term-structure model, the authors show that the variation in long-term interest rates over time consists of two components: one representing investor expectations of future policy rates, and another reflecting a term-structure risk premium that compensates investors for holding a risky asset. The time variation in the term-structure risk premium is countercyclical and largely determined by global macroeconomic conditions. As a result, long-term rates are pushed up during recessions and down during times of expansion. This is an important phenomenon that central banks need to take into account when using short-term rates as a policy tool.