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International Financial Aggregation and Index Number Theory: A Chronological Half-Century Empirical Overview

Barnett, William A. and Chauvet, Marcelle (2008): International Financial Aggregation and Index Number Theory: A Chronological Half-Century Empirical Overview.

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Abstract

This paper comprises a survey of a half century of research on international monetary aggregate data. We argue that since monetary assets began yielding interest, the simple sum monetary aggregates have had no foundations in economic theory and have sequentially produced one source of misunderstanding after another. The bad data produced by simple sum aggregation have contaminated research in monetary economics, have resulted in needless “paradoxes,” and have produced decades of misunderstandings in international monetary economics research and policy. While better data, based correctly on index number theory and aggregation theory, now exist, the official central bank data most commonly used have not improved in most parts of the world. While aggregation theoretic monetary aggregates exist for internal use at the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and many other central banks throughout the world, the only central banks that currently make aggregation theoretic monetary aggregates available to the public are the Bank of England and the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. No other area of economics has been so seriously damaged by data unrelated to valid index number and aggregation theory. In this paper we chronologically review the past research in this area and connect the data errors with the resulting policy and inference errors. Future research on monetary aggregation and policy can most advantageously focus on extensions to exchange rate risk and its implications for multilateral aggregation over monetary asset portfolios containing assets denominated in more than one currency. The relevant theory for multilateral aggregation with exchange rate risk has been derived by Barnett (2007) and Barnett and Wu (2005).

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