Quantitative or qualitative forward guidance: Does it matter?

BIS Working Papers

No 742

 

Quantitative or qualitative forward guidance: Does it matter?

by Gunda-Alexandra Detmers, Özer Karagedikli and Richhild Moessner

 

Monetary and Economic Department

May 2018

 

JEL classification: demography, ageing, inflation, monetary policy

Keywords: E31, E52, J11

 

This publication is available on the BIS website (www.bis.org).

 

© Bank for International Settlements 2017. All rights reserved. Brief excerpts may be reproduced or translated provided the source is stated.

ISSN 1020-0959 (print)

ISSN 1682-7678 (online)

 

Quantitative or qualitative forward guidance: Does it matter?

by Gunda-Alexandra Detmers, Özer Karagedikli and Richhild Moessner

 

Abstract

Every monetary policy decision by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) is accompanied by a written statement about the state of the economy and the policy outlook, but only every second decision by a published interest rate forecast. We exploit this di§erence to study the relative ináuences of qualitative and quantitative forward guidance. We Önd that announcements that include an interest rate forecast lead to very similar market reactions across the yield curve as announcements that only include written statements. We interpret our results as implying that central bank communication is important, but that the exact form of that communication is less critical. Our results are also consistent with market participants understanding the conditional nature of the RBNZ interest rate forecasts.

JEL classiÖcation: E43; E44; E52; E58; G12

Key words: Monetary policy, forward guidance, interest rate forecasts


The views expressed here are the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Hungarian National Bank, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and the Bank of International Settlements. We would like to thank Prasanna Gai, Refet G¸rkaynak, Dean Hyslop, Leo Krippner, Anella Munro, Bill Nelson, Eli Remolona, Ole Rummel, Christian Upper and seminar participants at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, De Nederlandsche Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, the Asia PaciÖc Bureau of Financial and Economic Research, and the OFCE Workshop on Empirical Monetary Economics for valuable comments and discussions.

 

 

  1. Introduction

Many central banks provide information about the expected future path of short-term interest rates, forward guidance. However, the form of the information that is commu­nicated varies significantly across central banks. Some central banks communicate the policy outlook by means of brief qualitative statements. Some central banks use state- or date-dependent forward guidance. For example, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when the federal funds rate target reached nearly zero, the FOMC started providing date- and state-dependent forward guidance to provide information about likely future monetary policy. Some central banks on the other hand, such as the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), Norges Bank and Sveriges Riksbank, provide quantitative interest rate forecasts in their communications with the public and financial markets.

The empirical evidence suggests that communication can be an important and pow­erful part of the central bank’s toolkit, since it enables the central bank to manage the expectations of the public and of financial market participants. Central bank communica­tion also has the ability to affect financial market prices, to enhance the predictability of monetary policy decisions, and potentially to help achieve central banks’ macroeconomic objectives. However, as Blinder et al. (2008) argue, the large variation in communica­tion strategies across central banks suggests that a consensus has yet to emerge on what constitutes an optimal communication strategy. One aspect of central bank communi­cation which is still being debated is the value of central banks publishing projections of their expected interest rate path. Bernanke (2004) mentions that central bank com­munication can help inform the public’s expectations of the future course of the policy rate. Rudebusch (2008) argues that this leaves open the question of which kind of central bank communication can best guide the public’s expectations. One particular objection to central banks publishing their interest rate forecasts is the risk that the central banks’ signals about future policy may be misinterpreted as promises of future policy actions.

In this paper, we exploit the difference in the amount of information the RBNZ com­municates with its interest rate decisions to answer the following questions: does the nature of forward guidance matter? More specifically, does it matter for market partici­pants’ perception regarding the future monetary policy stance whether the central bank provides quantitative forward guidance by means of interest rate forecasts, or whether it provides qualitative forward guidance in policy statements? Do market participants infer similar information from both? What is the marginal value of publishing quantitative interest rate forecasts, relative to providing qualitative forward guidance in policy state­ments? Do financial market participants attach a high weight to interest rate forecasts?

Every monetary policy decision by the RBNZ is accompanied by a written statement about the state of the economy and the policy outlook. However, only every second deci­sion includes an interest rate forecast. We exploit this difference in the information content of policy announcements to estimate the marginal contribution of interest rate forecasts to the perceived forward guidance by market participants. This control-treatment ap­proach gives us a better identification of the effects of quantitative interest rate forecasts compared with the earlier literature which analysed the effects of forward guidance on the announcement days with interest rate forecasts.

Although the RBNZ’s forward guidance is usually associated with its novel approach of publishing its forecasts for interest rates, the RBNZ also provides qualitative forward guidance in its policy statements. The RBNZ has made eight interest rate decisions a year, four of which are accompanied by a Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) including a quantitative forecast of short-term interest rates. The other four interest rate decisions on Official Cash Rate (OCR) review days include no interest rate forecasts. All eight decisions include a media release which summarises the current economic conditions, and also talks about the likely future policy outlook.

Our approach differs from earlier studies by exploiting the difference in the way the RBNZ communicates its interest rate decisions on MPS days and OCR review days. This difference provides us with a treatment and control sample to examine the effects of publishing quantitative interest rate forecasts on market interest rates, over and above the effects of implicit and explicit qualitative forward guidance contained in written monetary policy statements. These control and treatment samples also allow us to estimate the effect of qualitative forward guidance, as far as financial market participants’ perceptions are concerned.

We find two main results. First, market participants’ reaction to information about the future course of monetary policy provided on the days of the RBNZ’s monetary policy decisions is very similar on MPS and OCR review days. More specifically, market participants’ interpretation of the RBNZ’s interest rate decisions as measured by a target factor and a path factor have similar statistical properties on MPS and OCR review dates. This finding suggests that quantitative interest rate forecasts are not the only information from which market participants infer forward guidance, and the marginal contribution of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts, over and above that of its qualitative forward guidance, to market participants’ perception of forward guidance is small.

Second, we find that the effects of the path factor on the yield curve are very similar on both MPS and OCR Review days. This is interesting because the quantitative interest rate projections provide information about the future path of interest rates. The results suggest that markets infer similar information from a monetary policy announcement whether or not a quantitative forecast accompanies the announcement and the statement. Our result that qualitative forward guidance has a significant effect on market interest rates in New Zealand is consistent with earlier results for the United States (see eg Gurkaynak et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 2012; Moessner, 2013).

Our results have important implications for central bank communication in the form of forward guidance. Our results suggest that financial markets are able to infer similar forward guidance from different forms of forward guidance, qualitative or quantitative. Moreover, our results are consistent with market participants understanding the condi­tional nature of quantitative interest rate forecasts. If market participants interpreted the quantitative interest rate forecasts as unconditional commitments, we would have ex­pected significantly different statistical properties and effects on the yield curve of the path factor on MPS days than on OCR review days. RBNZ speeches and other communica­tion that have emphasized that the RBNZ’s published interest rate paths are conditional forecasts, not promises, appear to have been well understood by market participants. This result is also consistent with the results of Moessner and Nelson (2008) and Detmers and Nautz (2012) for New Zealand, and with Moessner et al. (2016) and Ahl (2017) for Sweden, who find that the conditionality of the central bank’s interest rate forecasts is understood by market participants. This casts doubt over the concerns raised by some that central bank interest rate forecasts may be interpreted by market participants as unconditional commitments.

Our results on the marginal effect of the interest rate forecasts add to the existing earlier literature. Previous studies, Moessner and Nelson (2008), Ferrero and Secchi (2009) and Detmers and Nautz (2012) for example, only analysed the announcements on MPS days, without distinguishing between the effects of the quantitative interest rate forecasts and the statements. Therefore, their estimates reflected the total influence of both sources of information. Our novel contribution is to use the control-treatment identification to consider separately the effects of just the statements, and of the quantitative forecasts and statements combined.

 

  1. Method

Kuttner (2001) proposed a method for calculating the unexpected component of monetary policy announcements by using short-term interest rate futures. These monetary policy surprises were found to have a significant effect on asset prices (Kuttner, 2001; Bernanke and Kuttner, 2005). However, Gurkaynak et al. (2005) showed that the responses of asset prices to monetary policy surprises may be inadequately described by a single factor proposed by Kuttner, namely the surprise element of monetary policy or the target factor.  They showed for the United States that two factors were needed to adequately capture the responses of asset prices to monetary policy announcements, where the second factor is a path factor that represents the surprise component regarding the future path of monetary policy. This is consistent with the results of Brand et al. (2010) for the euro-area and with Brubakk et al. (2017) for Norway and Sweden, who also find that a second factor representing the future path of monetary policy is required to adequately characterise the responses of asset prices to monetary policy announcements.

2.1 Target and path factors

We use the following approach for estimating the target and path factors for New Zealand, which is approximately equivalent to the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) (see also Gurkaynak, 2005). The target factor, Z1;t, is calculated as the daily change in a very short-term market interest rate in New Zealand, r|, on OCR review days and on MPS days,

Image j4

The path factor, Z2;t, is then estimated as the residual "t of the following regression of the daily change in a market interest rate of longer maturity in New Zealand, r^, on the target factor, according to

Image h9

with the path factor Z2;t set equal to the estimated residual of regression (2), £t, which implies that the path factor is orthogonal to the target factor, as is the case for the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005).

For our benchmark estimation we use the one-month bank bill rate in New Zealand as the very short-term market interest rate, r|, and we use the one-year interest rate swap in New Zealand as.

For robustness, we will also use the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) below to derive the target and path factors, and we will show that our results are robust to using the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005).

  1. Results

3.1 Target and path factors

The descriptive statistics for the target and path factors estimated for the full sample in our benchmark estimation using the one-month bank bill rate and the one-year interest rate swap in equations (1) to (3) are shown in Table 1. We can see that the summary statistics for the path factor are similar on MPS dates and on OCR review dates, with a slightly higher standard deviation of 6.35 basis points on MPS dates, compared with 5.34 basis points on OCR review dates. The maximum and minimum of the path factor are also similar on MPS and OCR review dates, but slightly higher in magnitude on MPS dates. This suggests that the path factor exhibits similar variability whether the monetary policy announcement is accompanied by an interest rate forecast or not. Our results that the path factor has similar statistical properties on MPS and OCR review dates suggests that what market participants infer about the future course of monetary policy from the RBNZ’s decisions is similar on MPS and OCR review days. More specifically, our results suggest that quantitative interest rate forecasts are not the only information from which market participants infer forward guidance in New Zealand, but they also infer forward guidance information from qualitative forward guidance in monetary policy statements, including on OCR review days when no interest rate forecast is published. Moreover, these results suggest that the marginal contribution of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts, over and above that of its qualitative forward guidance in monetary policy statements, to market participants’ perception of forward guidance is small, as reflected in only a slightly higher standard deviation of the path factor on MPS dates.

We can see that the descriptive statistics for the target factor are similar on MPS dates and on OCR review dates, with a slightly higher standard deviation of 7.61 basis points on MPS dates, compared with 6.47 basis points on OCR review dates.

[Table 1 about here]

The RBNZ has provided explicit qualitative forward guidance on several occasions, and some examples are described in the following. On 29 October 2009, the RBNZ kept the policy interest rate unchanged at 2.5 percent, which had been largely expected by financial market participants. However, the last sentence of the RBNZ’s accompanying monetary policy statement mentioned that “[i]n contrast to current market pricing, we see no urgency to begin withdrawing monetary policy stimulus, and we expect to keep the OCR at the current level until the second half of 2010.” This was the first time since the introduction of the publication of interest rate forecasts in 1997 that the RBNZ used explicit qualitative forward guidance on interest rates with reference to a particular date, ie date-based qualitative forward guidance. On 25 July 2013, the RBNZ kept the short­term interest rate at 2.5 percent, which was again anticipated by market participants. The monetary policy press release on this day contained implicit, and explicit date-based, qualitative forward guidance, mentioning that inflation was expected to be moving to­wards the top of the target band over the coming years, and that “[a]lthough removal of monetary stimulus will likely be needed in the future, we expect to keep the OCR unchanged through the end of the year.” On 11 March 2010, the RBNZ again kept the OCR unchanged at 2.5 percent. The interest rate path which the RBNZ published on this day (as it was an MPS day), was very similar to the path published in the previ­ous MPS in December 2009. However, the final sentence in the monetary policy press release stated that the RBNZ “continue[d] to expect to begin removing policy stimulus around the middle of 2010.” This was another example when the RBNZ used explicit date-based qualitative forward guidance. These examples of qualitative forward guidance suggest that the perceived forward guidance, ie what market participants infer about the future stance of monetary policy from the forward guidance, is not only inferred from the publication of interest rate forecasts, but is also inferred from the wording of the mone­tary policy statements, ie from implicit and explicit qualitative forward guidance in those statements.

Such date-based explicit qualitative forward guidance was provided by a number of central banks in the wake of the global financial crisis (Woodford, 2013). In the case of the Bank of Canada, for example, the monetary policy statement on 21 April 2009 mentioned that the policy rate would remain the same beyond one year. In the case of the Federal Reserve, the monetary policy statement on 9 August 2011 for example mentioned that “economic conditions [...] are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through mid-2013.”

3.2 Responses of asset prices

In the previous section we showed that market participants inferred forward guidance on OCR review dates from the monetary policy statements published by the RBNZ, as measured by the estimated path factor on those days, and that the descriptive statistics of this path factor on OCR review days are comparable to those of the path factor estimated on MPS days.

In the following we study the effects of the target and path factors on longer-term market interest rates on MPS and on OCR review days, using the target and path factors estimated over the combined sample of OCR review days and MPS dates. To asses the relative importance of the effects of the path factor on MPS and OCR review days, we estimate the following regression for each maturity j of interest rate swaps,

Image o9

where Ay^ is the daily change in the interest rate swap with a maturity of j years on the day t of the monetary policy announcement, for spot maturities of j = 2, 3, 4, 5,10 years, and for 5-year forward rates 5 years ahead, j = 5/5. DM is a dummy variable taking the value of one on MPS days, and zero otherwise. As above, Z2;t is the estimated path factor on day t, and Z1;t is the estimated target factor on day t.

The results are shown in Table 2, using the path and target factors from the benchmark estimation based on one-month bank bill rates and one-year interest rate swaps. We can see from Table 2 that the path factor is significant for all maturities of the swap rates. The target factor is significant for all the spot maturities of 2 to 10 years, but not for the 5-year/5-year forward swap rate, as would be expected.

We can also see from Table 2 that for all maturities of the swap rates, the coefficient on the interaction term of the dummy variable with the path factor is insignificant, implying that the effect of forward guidance on long-term interest rate swaps is the same whether the forward guidance was issued on MPS days or on OCR review days. The coefficient on the interaction term of the dummy variable with the target factor is also insignificant for all maturities. The precision of the coefficient estimates suggests that the gain from intra-day data may be limited, since the previous literature argued that intra-day data can improve the estimation precision.

[Table 2 about here]

Our finding that the effects of the path factor on the yield curve are very similar on MPS and OCR review days suggests that market participants infer very similar in­formation regarding forward guidance from monetary policy announcements whether or not the RBNZ also publishes quantitative interest rate forecasts. This suggests that the marginal contribution of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts, over and above that of the information in its monetary policy statements, including qualitative forward guidance, to market participants’ perception of forward guidance is small.

Our results also suggest that market participants infer information from the qualitative forward guidance contained in written statements of the RBNZ on OCR review days, which is very similar to the information they infer from the forward guidance on MPS days when statements are accompanied by interest rate forecasts. To our knowledge, our paper is the first study to quantifiy market participants’ perception of the qualitative forward guidance contained in the RBNZ’s monetary policy statements not accompanied by the publication of interest rate forecasts, and finds that it has a significant effect on market interest rates in New Zealand. Our result that qualitative forward guidance has a significant effect on market interest rates in New Zealand is consistent with earlier results for the United States (see eg Gurkaynak et al., 2005; Campbell et al., 2012; Moessner, 2013).

Our results have important implications for central bank communication in the form of forward guidance. Our results are consistent with market participants understanding the conditional nature of quantitative interest rate forecasts, since the marginal effect of publishing interest rate forecasts over and above the effects of providing qualitative forward guidance seems to be small. If market participants interpreted the quantitative interest rate forecasts as unconditional commitments, we would have expected significantly different statistical properties and effects on the yield curve of the path factor on MPS days than on OCR review days. This is consistent with the fact that the RBNZ has emphasized that its published interest rate paths are forecasts, not promises, i.e. they emphasized the conditional nature of their communication about interest rates. For example, the MPS of March 2014 stated that “The Bank’s assessment is that the OCR will need to rise by about 2 percentage points over the next two years for inflation to settle around target.

That assessment is conditional on the economic outlook, and will be re-assessed over time as new data are released and events unfold.” (RBNZ, 2014). This result is also consistent with the results of Moessner and Nelson (2008) and Detmers and Nautz (2012) for New Zealand, and with Moessner et al. (2016) and Ahl (2017) for Sweden, who find that the conditionality of the central bank’s interest rate forecasts was understood by market participants. This casts doubt over the concerns raised by some policymakers that central bank interest rate forecasts may be interpreted by market participants as unconditional commitments. For example, Goodhart (2001) argues that “any indication that the MPC is formally indicating a future specific change in rates (e.g., as driven by a ‘rule’-based formula) would be taken to indicate some degree of commitment.”

We cannot infer from our analysis what the effects of not publishing quantitative interest rate forecasts would be, since the information provided by the publication of the interest rate forecasts could also affect market participants’ interpretation of forward guidance contained in written monetary policy statements.

We argued that one of the shortcomings of the earlier literature that examined the effects of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts on asset prices was a difficulty of separating the effects due to the the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts from the effects due to qualitative forward guidance contained in monetary policy statements published at the same time. We argued that the difference in what the RBNZ communicates on MPS days and OCR review days provides us with clear treatment and control samples. However, given that these are not randomly allocated samples, the question arises whether they are really good treatment and control samples, especially given that monetary policy decisions are not independent. But although monetary policy decisions are not independent of each other, with the current decision of the central bank having strong connections with the last decision, the surprise elements of two subsequent announcements are not necessarily related. Financial markets are forward-looking by nature and financial market prices are influenced by information about future expected events and their likelihood. Asset price theory suggests that all available information is reflected in the current price of an asset. Consequently, market prices should only adjust to the new unexpected information that becomes available.

3.3 Robustness tests

Next, for robustness tests below, we use the one-month OIS rate as r^, and the one- year OIS rate as r£ instead in equations (1) to (3). The advantage of using OIS rates is that they tend to reflect market interest rate expectations better than bank bill rates or interest rate swaps. The disadvantage of using OIS rates is that they are available only for a shorter sample period starting on 11 September 2003 in New Zealand, since the OIS market in New Zealand was only developed later than the bank bill market or the interest rate swap market. Moreover, we also consider the case using one- and six-month bank bill rates as r^ and r£ , respectively, for which data is available for the whole sample period starting in March 1999. Finally, we derive the target and path factors based on the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005), using bank bill rates in New Zealand with maturites up to one year, and we show that our results are robust to using that approach.

3.3.1 Different market interest rates

The descriptive statistics for the target and path factors estimated for the shorter sample in our alternative estimation using the one-month and one-year OIS rates in equations (1) to (3) are shown in Table 3. We can see that the descriptive statistics for the path factor are again similar on MPS dates and on OCR review dates, with a slightly higher standard deviation of 6.62 basis points on MPS dates, compared with 6.44 basis points on OCR review dates. Again, the maximum and minimum of the path factor are somewhat larger in magnitude on MPS dates than on OCR review dates, suggesting that some small additional information may be provided by the quantitative forward guidance published on MPS dates.

[Tables 3 and 4 about here]

The descriptive statistics for the target and path factors estimated for the full sample in our benchmark estimation using the one-month and six-month bank bill rates in equations (1) to (3) are shown in Table 4. We can see that the summary statistics for the path factor are similar on MPS dates and on OCR review dates, with a slightly higher standard deviation of 4.15 basis points on MPS dates, compared with 3.64 basis points on OCR review dates. This suggests again that the path factor exhibits similar variability whether the monetary policy announcement is accompanied by an interest rate forecast or not. The target factor is the same as in our benchmark case. We therefore find that our results presented in the benchmark estimation of Table 1 are robust to using these different market interest rates.

The results for the effects on asset prices using the path and target factors from the estimation based on one-month and one-year OIS rates for the shorter sample starting in September 2003 are shown in Table 5. We can see from Table 5 that for all maturities of the swap rates, the coefficient on the interaction term of the dummy variable with the path factor is again insignificant, again implying that the effect of forward guidance on long-term interest rate swaps is the same whether the forward guidance was issued on MPS days or on OCR review days.

[Table 5 around here]

The results for the effects on asset prices using the path and target factors from the estimation based on one- and six-month bank bill rates are shown in Table 6. We can see from Table 6 that for all maturities of the swap rates, the coeff cient on the interaction term of the dummy variable with the path factor is again insignificant, implying that the effect of forward guidance on long-term interest rate swaps is the same whether the forward guidance was issued on MPS days or on OCR review days.

[Table 6 around here]

We therefore find that our results for the effects of the path factor on asset prices presented in the benchmark estimation of Table 2 are robust to using these different market interest rates.

3.4 Approach based on Gurkaynak et al. (2005)

We also apply the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) to data for New Zealand, and test whether one factor is enough to characterise the responses of asset prices to monetary policy announcements, as described in the following. We test for the number of latent factors, k0, that underpin the responses of asset prices to monetary policy announcements on MPS days and on OCR review days.

Let X be the matrix (of size T X n) of daily changes in New Zealand interest rates with maturity up to one year on the days of the monetary policy announcements. Let F be the unobserved factors that characterise the data matrix X. The first column of X is a proxy for monetary policy surprises, and for our benchmark estimation we use daily changes in the one-month bank bill yield in New Zealand on the days of the monetary policy announcements. For our benchmark estimation, the other asset prices in the X matrix are the changes in New Zealand bank bill rates, which are the yields available for the longest period corresponding to the 90-day bank bill rate which the RBNZ aims to influence. One can write

Image p6

where F is a T X k matrix of unobserved factors (with k < n), A is a k X n matrix of factor loadings, and e is a T X n matrix of white noise disturbances. We test for the number of significant latent factors, k0, to understand how many factors can adequately describe the variation in asset price responses to monetary policy announcements. Fol­lowing Gurkaynak et al. (2005), we use the Cragg and Donald (1997) matrix rank test to test the null hypothesis that X is described by k0 common principal components against the alternative that X is described by k > k0 principal components.

Table 7 reports the results from the Cragg and Donald (1997) rank test applied sep­arately to two samples, the MPS days and the OCR review days. We also conduct the same tests with different types of market interest rates, namely Overnight Indexed Swap (OIS) rates, which are only available from 2003 in New Zealand. The tests strongly reject the hypothesis that a single factor is enough to characterise the responses of asset prices to monetary policy announcements for both samples. This implies that the surprise changes in short-term interest rates are not enough to explain the responses of market in­terest rates to monetary policy announcements in New Zealand. This result is consistent with the findings of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) for the United States, Brand et al. (2010) for the euro-area and with Brubakk et al. (2017) for Norway and Sweden.

The factors we estimated are still statistical concepts, and need to be rotated to allow for a structural interpretation. The unobserved factor matrix F is estimated by using the standard principal components method, using bank bill rates with maturities of up to one year in our benchmark estimation. The two factors we estimated above, F = [Fi ,F2], explain a maximum amount of variation in asset price responses, X. We perform a rotation of the factors to allow for a structural interpretation.

[Table 7 around here]

3.4.1 Factor rotation - structural interpretation of factors

We use the approach proposed by Gurkaynak et al. (2005) to address the issue of a structural interpretation of the factors. This involves performing a rotation of the two factors Fi and F2, resulting in two new factors Z1 and Z2. The new factors Z1 and Z2 are orthogonal to each other and explain the data X in the same way as F1 and F2. The main identifying assumption is that the monetary policy surprise should be correlated with the target factor but not with the path factor, so that the second factor Z2 has no effect on the current interest rate surprise. This identification assumption is consistent with the first factor being a target factor and the second factor being a path (forward guidance) factor.

As Gurkaynak et al. (2005) state, the estimated target factor should be similar to — but not exactly equal to — the measure of monetary policy surprise on monetary policy announcements days derived from the change in a short-term interest rate, which proxies the interest rate that the policymaker tries to influence. The two measures are generally not identical because the factor estimation procedure strips out white noise from the data.

Following Gurkaynak et al. (2005), we check the relationship between these two measures by regressing the monetary policy surprise on the target factor, and find that the target factor is indeed very close to a Kuttner (2001)-type monetary policy surprise with a slope coefficient of 1, and an R2 of 0.99. As a result, to allow for an interpretation of the target factor as the surprise change in the interest rate, we normalize it so that a change of 1 in Zi corresponds to a surprise of 1 basis point in the short-term interest rate. Similarly, to facilitate the interpretation of the second factor, we normalize it so that the effect of the path factor on the one-year interest rate is the same as the effect of the target factor on the same (one-year) interest rate.

Our finding that market participants’ interpretation of the RBNZ’s interest rate de­cisions is characterised by two structural factors on both MPS and OCR review dates, namely a target factor and a path factor, suggests that there is a forward guidance di­mension to the reaction to monetary policy announcements beyond the surprise element embedded in the decision itself. This finding is consistent with the earlier literature for the United States (Gurkaynak et al., 2005), with Brand et al. (2010) for the euro area, and with Brubakk et al. (2017) for Norway and Sweden.

[Table 8 around here]

The results for the summary statistics of the path and target factors based on the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) are shown in Table 8. We can see that the descriptive statistics for the path factor are again similar on MPS dates and on OCR review dates, with a somewhat higher standard deviation of 7.14 basis points on MPS dates, compared with 5.60 basis points on OCR review dates. Again, the maximum and minimum of the path factor are somewhat larger in magnitude on MPS dates than on OCR review dates, suggesting that some small additional information may be provided by the quantitative forward guidance published on MPS dates. Moreover, our results that the path factor has similar statistical properties on MPS and OCR review dates suggests that what market participants infer about the future course of monetary policy from the RBNZ’s decisions is very similar on MPS and OCR review days. More specifically, our results suggest that quantitative interest rate forecasts are not the only information from which market participants infer forward guidance in New Zealand, but they also infer forward guidance information from qualitative forward guidance in monetary policy statements, including on OCR review days when no interest rate forecast is published. Moreover, these results suggest that the marginal contribution of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts, over and above that of its qualitative forward guidance in monetary policy statements, to market participants’ perception of forward guidance is small.

The results for the effects of the path and target factors on interest rate swaps are shown in Table 9. We can see that when using the approach of Gurkaynak et al. (2005) to derive the factors, the path factor again has a significant on interest rate swaps at all maturities. Moreover, the coefficient on the interaction term of the dummy variable with the path factor is again insignificant, implying that the effect of forward guidance on long-term interest rate swaps is again the same whether the forward guidance was issued on MPS days or on OCR review days.

Our result that the additional information provided by the interest rate forecasts on MPS dates is small is therefore robust to using this alternative approach for deriving the path and target factors.

[Table 9 about here]

  1. Conclusions

An important question in the central bank communications literature is whether publish­ing interest rate projections is a better way of conditioning market participants’ expecta­tions than other forms of communication. To shed light on this specific question, we use a ‘quasi-experiment’ from the policy announcements of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ). We use the difference in the information revealed by the RBNZ together with its monetary policy decisions and analyse if the quantative forward guidance is perceived differently than the qualitative forward guidance.

Our results suggest that the marginal contribution of the RBNZ’s interest rate fore­casts, over and above that of its qualitative forward guidance, to market participants’ perception of forward guidance is small. We also find that the effect of the path factor on market interest rates on monetary policy announcement days does not depend on whether the RBNZ also publishes a quantitative interest rate forecast that day.

Our results suggests the presence of a significant qualitative forward guidance element in the RBNZ’s monetary policy statements, beyond the publication of quantitative in­terest rate forecasts. Market participants’ reactions to information from the qualitative forward guidance contained in written statements of the RBNZ on OCR review days are very similar to the reactions to information from both the qualitative forward guidance contained in written statements of the RBNZ and the interest rate forecasts published on MPS dates.

To our knowledge, our paper is the first study to quantify market participants’ per­ceptions of the qualitative forward guidance contained in the RBNZ’s monetary policy statements not accompanied by the publication of interest rate forecasts, and finds that it has a significant effect on market interest rates in New Zealand. Our control-treatment approach also suggests that earlier studies may overstate the effects of publishing inter­est rate forecasts on market prices. Our results of only a small additional effect of the RBNZ’s interest rate forecasts are consistent with market participants understanding the conditional nature of the RBNZ interest rate forecasts, so that concerns that market participants might interpret these forecasts as binding promises seem unwarranted.

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Appendix A: Factor rotation

This section presents the approach for the factor rotation of Gurkaynak et al. (2005), where more details can be found. Define

Image 6q

where the second column of Z is a vector that is associated on average with no change in the current interest rate decision, U is an orthogonal matrix,

Image 9z

where the columns of U are normalised to have unit length (Zi and Z2 have unit variances). The rotated factors are orthogonal to each other,

Image l0

Z2 does not influence the current policy surprise. Let y1 and 72 be the loadings of the monetary policy surprise on F1 and F2, respectively. Then,

Image o5

Image d5

Z1 and Z2 are rescaled so that Z1 moves with the current monetary policy surprise one- for-one, and so that Z2 has the same effect on the one-year ahead future rate as Z1 has on that rate. These conditions are enough for unique identification.

By performing a suitable rotation of these unobserved factors, Gurkaynak et al. (2005) show that the new factors can be given a structural interpretation as a current policy surprise factor (or target factor), corresponding to surprise changes in the policy rate, and a future path of policy factor (or path factor), corresponding to changes in futures rates at horizons of up to one year which are independent of changes in the current policy rate.

Image 9l

Image h4

Image 9o

Image t6