Deflation is the economic topic where the current Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Shalom Bernanke has got his nickname. We have been following the evolution of inflation in the USA for many years since predicted (2005) that a deflationary period should start in 2012. So, it is instructive to compare the tools proposed by the Fed's chairman and actual situation. The most recent statement from the FRB on deflation was in the speech on October 15.
... The significant moderation in price increases has been widespread across many categories of spending, as is evident from various measures that exclude the most extreme price movements in each period. For example, the so-called trimmed mean consumer price index (NYSEARCA:CPI) has risen by only 0.9 percent over the past 12 months, and a related measure, the median CPI, has increased by only 0.5 percent over the same period.2
... With long-run inflation expectations stable and with substantial resource slack continuing to restrain cost pressures, it seems likely that inflation trends will remain subdued for some time.
The longer-run inflation projections in the SEP indicate that FOMC participants generally judge the mandate-consistent inflation rate to be about 2 percent or a bit below. In contrast, as I noted earlier, recent readings on underlying inflation have been approximately 1 percent. Thus, in effect, inflation is running at rates that are too low relative to the levels that the Committee judges to be most consistent with the Federal Reserve's dual mandate in the longer run. In particular, at current rates of inflation, the constraint imposed by the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates is too tight (the short-term real interest rate is too high, given the state of the economy), and the risk of deflation is higher than desirable. Given that monetary policy works with a lag, the more relevant question is whether this situation is forecast to continue. In light of the recent decline in inflation, the degree of slack in the economy, and the relative stability of inflation expectations, it is reasonable to forecast that underlying inflation--setting aside the inevitable short-run volatility--will be less than the mandate-consistent inflation rate for some time. Of course, forecasts of inflation, as of other key economic variables, are uncertain and must be regularly updated with the arrival of new information.
Given the Committee's objectives, there would appear--all else being equal--to be a case for further action. However, as I indicated earlier, one of the implications of a low-inflation environment is that policy is more likely to be constrained by the fact that nominal interest rates cannot be reduced below zero. Indeed, the Federal Reserve reduced its target for the federal funds rate to a range of 0 to 25 basis points almost two years ago, in December 2008. Further policy accommodation is certainly possible even with the overnight interest rate at zero, but nonconventional policies have costs and limitations that must be taken into account in judging whether and how aggressively they should be used ...
So, the problem of approacing price deflation now is a big one. To implememnt a helicopter technology is not so easy.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.