Central Bank Balance Sheet Policies Without Rational Expectations

Luigi Iovino, Bocconi University, CEPR, IGIER and Dmitriy Sergeyev, Bocconi University, CEPR, IGIER

We study the effects of central bank balance sheet policies—namely, quantitative easing and foreign exchange interventions—in a model where people form expectations through an iterative level-k thinking process. We emphasize two main theoretical results. First, under a broad set of conditions, central bank interventions are effective under level-k thinking, while they are neutral in the rational expectations equilibrium. Second, when preferences exhibit constant relative risk aversion, asset purchases increase aggregate output if they target assets with pro-cyclical returns but reduce it if asset returns are counter-cyclical. Finally, we empirically show that forecast errors about future asset prices are predictable by balance sheet interventions, a property that differentiates our channel from popular alternatives, such as portfolio-balance and signaling channels.