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The Information Content of Discount Rate Announcements: What Is Behind the Announcement Effect

A considerable volume of research shows that asset prices respond to changes in the Federal Reserve's discount rate. While several competing hypotheses have been advanced to explain the market's response to discount rate announcements, comparatively little effort has been made to differentiate among alternative hypotheses. The result is an abundance of evidence establishing that asset prices respond to discount rate announcements, but little if any agreement about why markets respond. This article attempts to fill a void in the literature by pointing out how competing hypotheses differ and by constructing tests explicitly designed to differentiate among competing explanations. The evidence suggest that the market's reaction to discount rate changes is purely an announcement effect, i.e., a reaction to new information contained in the announcement, that the direct effect of discount rate changes on market rates is nil, that the announcement effect is invariant to the Federal Reserve's operating procedure and that, generally speaking, changes in the discount rate do not signal a change in monetary policy. The announcement effect appears to vary with both the nature and extent of the information that the announcement of a discount rate change is believed to contain.

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