Fed’s fund’s rate

It is widely believed that the Fed controls the federal funds rate by altering the degree of pressure in the reserve market through open market operations when it changes its target for the funds rate. Recently, however, several analysts have suggested that the Fed need not conduct open market operations to change the funds rate. Rather, they argue it is sufficient that the Fed indicate its desire for the funds rate. This paper notes that there is yet a third alternative, the interest-rate-smoothing hypothesis, that suggests that the Fed does not move rates per se but, rather, smooths the transition of rates to the new equilibrium required by economic shocks. This paper tests the open market and open mouth alternatives using a methodology first used by Cook and Hahn [Journal of Monetary Economics (1989a) 331]. Finding no evidence that either open market operations or open mouth operations can account for the close relationship between the funds rate and the funds rate target, a variety of evidence consistent with the interest-rate-smoothing hypothesis is considered.


The results suggest that many changes in the Fed’s funds rate target are an endogenous response to economic events and suggest that an alternative way to identify exogenous changes in policy is to identify exogenous changes in the Fed’s funds rate target.

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