Research Discussion Paper – RDP 2013-09 Terms of Trade Shocks and Incomplete Information Abstract

The terms of trade are subject to both permanent and transitory shocks. Particularly for commodity-producing small open economies, it is sometimes argued that the inability of agents to determine which of these shocks are permanent and which are transitory leads to more macroeconomic volatility than would be the case if agents had perfect information about the persistence of these shocks. I set up a small open economy model in which agents have imperfect information about the persistence of terms of trade shocks and estimate the parameters of the model using Australian data. The results point to the existence of large informational frictions. In fact, agents' beliefs about the future path of the terms of trade following transitory and permanent shocks are almost identical. However, the results also suggest that incomplete information causes agents to respond more cautiously to terms of trade shocks. Consequently, consumption, output and the trade balance are less volatile under incomplete information than they are under full information.

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