This paper was completed while Mikhail Oet was at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The authors are indebted to [Charles T. Carlstrom], Joseph Haubrich, José Dorich, and the anonymous reviewer for constructive guidance. The authors are grateful to Stephen J. Ong, Marco Lombardi, Saeed Zaman, Edward S. Knotek II, Filippo Occhino, James B. Thomson, Mark Schweitzer, Canyon Bosler, Helen Irvin, Gurnain Pasricha, Egemen Eren, Hubert Gabrishch, and Richard Boland for valuable input. They are thankful to John M. Dooley for excellent research assistance. In addition, they would like to thank Amanda Janosko, Tim Bianco, Adam Kassir, Maya Shumyatcher, Mingyi He, and Richard Turner for assistance in content analysis. The authors also benefitted from the suggestions of the participants in the 49th Annual Conference of the Canadian Economic Association (Toronto, May 29–31, 2015); the IRMC conference on “The Safety of the Financial System—From Idiosyncratic to Systemic Risk” (Warsaw, June 23–24, 2014); the 4th International Conference of the Financial Engineering and Banking Society on “Global Trends in Financial Intermediation, Financial Markets, and Financial Modelling” (Guildford, June 2–23, 2014); the 6th International IFABS Conference on “Alternative Futures for Global Banking: Competition, Regulation and Reform” (Lisbon, June 18–20, 2014); and the 12th INFINITI Conference on International Finance (Prato, June 9–10, 2014). This paper represents the views of the individual authors and is not to be considered as the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

The Taylor rule presents a traditional approach to guiding and evaluating contemporary monetary policy as a function of inflation and economic slack. While the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve (Fed) include price stability and long-run growth, its mission has grown to include financial stability. Surprisingly, the question of whether financial stability ought to be considered as an element of monetary policy is hotly contested. This study aims to determine whether policymakers’ discussions of financial stability and other factors systematically explain deviations of observed policy rates from the rates implied by the Taylor rule. To this end, we conduct content analysis of the Fed’s monetary policy discussions to discover actual topics that enter into policy. We offer two main findings: First, discussion themes extracted from released Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes provide explanatory power beyond standard Taylor rule variables. Second, additional explanatory power is provided by a tri-mandate policy rule that accounts for changes in the economic and financial system as moderated by the evolving preferences of the policymakers. We show that a discussion-based thematic model with financial stability dominates Taylor-type rules during normal times. Moreover, the tri-mandate policy model with financial stability dominates Taylor-type rules in zero lower bound conditions. Taken together, these findings reveal that financial stability has mattered to the Fed continuously and remains critical in setting monetary policy in zero lower bound.

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