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Inflation Dynamics When Inflation Is Near Zero


  • The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston or the Federal Reserve System.


We discuss the likely evolution of U.S. inflation in the near and medium terms on the basis of (i) past U.S. experience with very low levels of inflation, (ii) the most recent Japanese experience with negative inflation, and (iii) some preliminary U.S. micro evidence on downward nominal wage rigidity. Our findings question the view that stable long-run inflation expectations and downward nominal wage rigidity will necessarily provide sufficient support to prices to avoid further declines in inflation. We show that an inflation model fitted on Japanese data over the past 20 years, which accounts for both short- and long-run inflation expectations, matches the recent U.S. inflation experience quite well. While the model indicates that U.S. inflation might be subject to a lower bound, it does not rule out a prolonged period of low inflation or even mild deflation going forward. In addition, micro-level data on wages suggest no obvious downward rigidity in the firm's wage bill, downward rigidity in individual wages notwithstanding. As a consequence, downward nominal wage rigidity may not be enough to offset deflationary pressures in the current situation.