This study explores whether the economic consequences of earthquakes affect the policy interest rate set by the central bank. The direction of this effect is not immediately clear beforehand since earthquakes create a classic monetary policy dilemma: how to accommodate the real shock in the short-run with the objective of anchoring inflation when these two competing objectives demand opposite policy actions. One can therefore argue that the question of whether, and if so, in which direction natural disasters influence monetary policy is ultimately an empirical one. For this purpose, I estimate a dynamic panel model including about 400 major earthquakes from about 85 countries that occurred between 1960 and 2015. The key findings of this study clearly point out that on average the short-run policy interest rate falls in the first year after the earthquake. This result implies that monetary authorities prioritize short-run economic recovery above price stability. However, this interest rate effect is not the same across countries. It turns out that central banks that have a specific policy target, such as a fixed exchange rate, are more likely to raise the interest rate in the period following a disaster to fight the inflationary pressure. In turn, monetary authorities that have much freedom in their policy decisions are more inclined to lower the interest rate to stimulate economic recovery.
- Interest rate setting
- Monetary policy