Persistently low inflation, or “lowflation,” is vexing lots of people. According to the recent minutes of policy meetings of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, central banks on both sides of the Atlantic have been trying to identify the causes — but with limited success so far. This complicates monetary policy decisions and undermines the range of institutional solutions that have been proposed by academics. Until this changes, central banks may need to think more holistically about the objectives of monetary policy, including the unintended consequences for future financial stability and growth of being too loose for too long.Four facts stand out in reviewing recent inflation data:Inflation rates have been unusually and persistently low.This is primarily an advanced-country phenomenon.Inflation has not responded to the prolonged pursuit of ultra-low interest rates and huge injections of liquidity by central banks through quantitative easing. This has coincided with a period of notable job creation, especially in the U.S., thereby flattening the “Phillips curve” that plots unemployment and inflation rates.
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