Taylor rule and New Zealand interest rates (OCR) at 8%

The Taylor Rule is a specific policy rule for fixing interest rates proposed by the Stanford University economist John Taylor. The rule is a formula for setting interest rates depending on changes in the inflation rate and economic growth.

A simplified formula is: r = p + 0.5y + 0.5 (p – 2) + 2
r = the short term interest rate in percentage terms per annum.
p = the rate of inflation over the previous four quarters.
y = the difference between real GDP from potential output.
This assumes that target inflation is 2% and equilibrium real interest rate is 2%

Taylor argued that when:

  • Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) = Potential Gross Domestic Product
  • Inflation = its target rate of 2%,
  • Federal Funds Rate (FFR) should be 4% (that is a 2% real interest rate).

If the real GDP rises 1% above potential GDP, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.
If inflation rises 1% above its target rate of 2%, then the FFR should be raised by 1.5%.
He stated that the real interest rates should be 1.5 times the inflation rate.

This rule has been suggested as one that could be adopted by other central banks – ECB, Bank of England, etc for setting official cash rates. However, the rule does embody an arbitrary 2% inflation target rather than, say 3% or 4%, and it may need to be amended to embody alternative inflation targets at different times or by different central banks. The advantages of having such as explicit interest rate rule is that its very transparency can create better conditions for business decisions and can help shape business people’s and consumers’ expectations. Central banks prefer to maintain an air of intelligent discretion over the conduct of their policies than to follow rules, but to some extent they do unwittingly follow a Taylor rule. This makes the rule a useful benchmark against which actual policies can be judged.

New Zealand and the Taylor rule
When the Taylor Rule is applied to the New Zealand economy it suggests an optimal, OCR of more than 8% – see graphic from live gross domestic product (GDP) tracker. A rate as high as this would do significant damage to the economy even if inflation did get down to the 2% target for inflation. Households and businesses would find it particularly hard with incomes being squeezed. An OCR of this level would have an unwieldly impact on households and businesses, squeezing incomes. 

Criticisms of Taylor rule
The theory assumes that only the central bank can affect the equilibrium real rate of interest and there is a closed economy with households that have identical consumption patterns and the same declining marginal utility. However, an economy is a much more intricate machine which aims to allocate scarce resources to satisfy the utility of economic agents such as individuals, firms and government. The dominant model for many years has been “Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium” (DSGE) and it takes all the characteristics of an individual (this person is typically called the representative agent) which is then cloned and taken to represent the typical person in an economy. These agents make supposedly perfect decisions by optimising, working out the kinds of mathematical problems in an instant. This almost rules out any fluctuations in the natural rate that might arise from alterations in how individuals discount the future, from how consumption preferences may differ among individuals or alter over time for one individual, or from differences in the distribution of wealth.

Source: Live GDP tracker

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Yellen’s Taylor Rule suggest Fed Funds rate of 1.33%.

From her Jackson Hole speech US Fed Chair Janet Yellen used the Taylor Rule to suggest that the Fed Funds rate today should already be around 1.33% – currently at 0.50%. She also used the Taylor rule to explain how US interest rates should have been negative after the Global Financial Crisis. This same rule suggests that the rate should already have been 1.25% in June – see Chart below.

Taylor Rule

Source: National Australia Bank: Australian Markets Weekly – 5th September

What is the The Taylor Rule?

This is a specific policy rule for fixing interest rates proposed by the Stanford University economist John Taylor. Taylor argued that when:

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) = Potential Gross Domestic Product and

Inflation = its target rate of 2%, then the Federal Funds Rate (FFR) should be 4% (that is a 2% real interest rate).

If the real GDP rises 1% above potential GDP, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.

If inflation rises 1% above its target rate of 2%, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.

This rule has been suggested as one that could be adopted by other central banks – ECB, Bank of England, etc for setting official cash rates. However, the rule does embody an arbitrary 2% inflation target rather than, say 3% or 4%, and it may need to be amended to embody alternative inflation targets at different times or by different central banks. The advantages of having such as explicit interest rate rule is that its very transparency can create better conditions for business decisions and can help shape business people’s and consumers’ expectations. Central banks prefer to maintain an air of intelligent discretion over the conduct of their policies than to follow rules, but to some extent they do unwittingly follow a Taylor rule. This makes the rule a useful benchmark against which actual policies can be judged.

Reserve Bank of Australia likely to ease cash rate

With continued global weakness the RBA is becoming increasingly worried about the prospects for the Australian economy. According to the National Bank of Australia there are 3 factors that the RBA are concerned with:


1. Although house prices are stabilising there are some sectors of the economy that remain in a depressed state – residential construction has a record low capacity utilisation (see graph).
2. A tightening of state and federal fiscal policy has meant that there is less aggregate demand in the economy.
3. The high value of the AUS$ affects the competitiveness of exports. However business now see the high AUS$ as permanent rather than cyclical. This is important as the RBA is not expecting lower rates to significantly lower the AUS$ but rather is trying to offset some of the economic damage to the economy.

It could be that a rate cut by the RBA is an insurance policy in an environment where inflation appears stable. The graph below looks at the RBA Cash Rate and the Taylor Rule.

The Taylor Rule

This is a specific policy rule for fixing interest rates proposed by the Stanford University economist John Taylor. Taylor argued that when:

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) = Potential Gross Domestic Product and
Inflation = its target rate of 2%,

then the Federal Funds Rate (FFR) should be 4% (that is a 2% real interest rate).

If the real GDP rises 1% above potential GDP, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.
If inflation rises 1% above its target rate of 2%, then the FFR should be raised by 0.5%.

This rule has been suggested as one that could be adopted by other central banks – ECB, Bank of England, etc for setting official cash rates. However, the rule does embody an arbitrary 2% inflation target rather than, say 3% or 4%, and it may need to be amended to embody alternative inflation targets at different times or by different central banks. The advantages of having such as explicit interest rate rule is that its very transparency can create better conditions for business decisions and can help shape business people’s and consumers’ expectations. Central banks prefer to maintain an air of intelligent discretion over the conduct of their policies than to follow rules, but to some extent they do unwittingly follow a Taylor rule. This makes the rule a useful benchmark against which actual policies can be judged.