Roosevelt staged a regime shift—by which I mean he had a very dramatic change in policy. A month after his inauguration, he took the United States off the gold standard, which had been the basis for our monetary operations since the late 1800s. Then the Treasury, not the Fed, used the revalued gold stock and the gold that flowed in as means to increase the U.S. money supply by about 10 percent per year.
This regime shift had a powerful effect on expectations. Figure 5 shows stock prices, which can tell us about expectations of future growth, and a measure of expected inflation. In each panel, I have drawn in a line at March 1933, just before the dramatic change in policy. Stock prices surged instantly, suggesting that expectations of future growth improved dramatically. And price expectations also switched radically. These estimates were derived by James Hamilton, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, who backed out estimates of inflation expectations from commodity futures prices in the early 1930s. Hamilton finds that people went from expecting deflation of close to 10 percent a year early in 1933 to expecting inflation of 3 percent just a few months later.