Economics Working Paper 20108
Abstract: The U.S. economy currently faces a truly extraordinary degree of uncertainty as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the Federal Reserve should begin highlighting alternative scenarios that illustrate key risks to the economic outlook, and those scenarios should inform the Fed’s policy strategy and public communications. We present a set of illustrative scenarios, including a baseline scenario with a rapid but incomplete recovery later this year (an upward-tilting checkmark), a benign scenario in which the rapid dissemination of an effective cure or vaccine generates a rapid v-shaped recovery, and a severely adverse scenario involving extraordinarily high and persistent unemployment and the onset of deflation. Insights into these scenarios can be drawn from key historical episodes, including the Spanish flu, the Great Depression, the end of World War II, and the global financial crisis. We conclude by identifying key challenges that the Federal Reserve will need to address in adjusting its monetary policy and emergency credit facilities under these three alternative scenarios. Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, monetary policy, lender of last resort programs. JEL Codes: E52, E58, N11, N12.