Archive for September 2012
Monetary policy is the secret ingredient to bringing down debt ratios
Sep 29th 2012 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] POLITICIANS across the rich world are quarrelling over how to deal with public debt. Yet the most important actors in the drama may be unelected central bankers, according to a study by the International Monetary Fund, published in its latest economic outlook. The IMF looked at 26 episodes since 1875 when debt topped 100% of GDP, to determine how those ratios got back down.
Growth, spending cuts and tax increases did their bit, but the make-or-break factor was monetary policy. Low or falling nominal interest rates and inflation were crucial to reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio. When interest rates were high and deflation rife, consolidation failed. This is mildly positive news for America and Britain, whose central banks are determined to keep monetary policy easy as austerity bites. But it suggests a bleak future for countries locked into the monetary straitjacket of the euro, in the absence of easier monetary policy by the European Central Bank. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ben Bernanke has done his bit to help the American economy. Now the politicians must do theirs
Sep 22nd 2012 | from the print edition
EVEN by the standards of a weak recovery, America’s economy has looked frail lately. Growth has sunk below 2%. Unemployment is stuck above 8%. Factory activity seems to be shrinking. Yet there is no mistaking the green shoots of optimism, in particular on Wall Street: the stockmarket has hit its highest level since 2007. Consumer confidence is edging up, and along with it approval of Barack Obama, raising his odds of re-election even before Mitt Romney’s gaffes (see article).
Give credit to central bankers and their printing presses for the improving mood. Read the rest of this entry »
Sep 13th 2012, 21:11 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
[Greg Ip] Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve reached a crossroads. It had lowered short-term interest rates to zero and promised to keep them there until 2013, and then 2014. It had undertaken multiple rounds of bond purchases to lower long-term interest rates. Yet the recovery was actually losing steam; unemployment had stopped falling. Was there anything left to try?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. Read the rest of this entry »
Central bankers wonder why success eludes them
Sep 8th 2012 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] IMAGINE that the world’s best specialists in a particular disease have convened to study a serious and intractable case. They offer competing diagnoses and treatments. Yet preying on their minds is a discomfiting fact: nothing they have done has worked, and they don’t know why. That sums up the atmosphere at the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, convened by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and attended by central bankers and economists from around the world*. Near the end Donald Kohn, who retired in 2010 after 40 years with the Fed, asked: “What’s holding the economy back [despite] such accommodative monetary policy for so long?” There was no lack of theories. But, as Mr Kohn admitted, none is entirely satisfying. Read the rest of this entry »
Sep 6th 2012, 15:23 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
SINCE the euro crisis erupted, the European Central Bank has been torn between its legal and philosophical aversion to financing governments and its duty as lender of last resort. Today, it appears to have reconciled the two, erring on the side of the latter.
At the end of its governing council meeting today, the ECB announced the much-anticipated details of how it would resume intervening in the region’s government bond markets. Using its newly christened Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT), it will buy sovereign bonds of one- to three-year maturity, provided the issuing country has agreed to a fiscal adjustment programme with either the European Financial Stability Facility, or its successor, the European Stability Mechanism. Read the rest of this entry »