Housing played a major role in the Global Crisis, and some worry that the ultra-low interest rate environment is inflating new housing bubbles. Using 140 years of data from 14 advanced economies, this column provides a quantitative measure of the financial stability risks that stem from extended periods of ultra-low interest rates. The historical insights suggest that the potentially destabilising by-products of easy money must be taken seriously and weighed carefully against the stimulus benefits. Macroeconomic stabilisation policy has implications for financial stability, and vice versa. Resolving this dichotomy requires central banks greater use of macroprudential tools.
Òscar Jordà, Moritz Schularick, Alan Taylor, Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Plamen Iossifov, Jiří Podpiera, Monday, February 16, 2015
The ongoing, synchronised disinflation across Europe raises the question of whether non-Eurozone EU countries are affected by the undershooting of the Eurozone inflation target, by other global factors, or by synchronised domestic, real sector developments. This column argues that falling world food and energy prices have been the main disinflationary driver. However, countries with more rigid exchange-rate regimes and/or higher shares of foreign value added in domestic demand have also been affected by disinflationary spillovers from the Eurozone.
Sebastian Edwards, Wednesday, February 4, 2015
The conventional ‘trilemma’ view is that countries that allow free capital flows can still pursue independent monetary policies as long as they allow flexible exchange rates. This column examines the pass-through of Federal Reserve interest rates to policy rates in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. The author concludes that, to the extent that central banks take into account other central banks’ policies, there will be ‘policy contagion’ and that, even under flexible rates, monetary policy will not be fully independent.
Dirk Niepelt, Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.
Philippe Andrade, Richard Crump, Stefano Eusepi, Emanuel Moench, Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Expectations are critical for macroeconomics and financial markets. But the expectation-formation process is not well understood. This column discusses some empirical characteristics of forecast disagreement from professional forecasters in the US, and discusses the ‘information frictions’ that underlie the heterogeneity of expectations.
Jean-Pierre Landau, Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Kristina Morkunaite, Felix Huefner, Thursday, November 27, 2014
The post-Crisis G7 economies have suffered weak business investment despite record low interest rates and the favourable financial positions of corporates. Some consider this the ‘new normal’ arising from secular, supply-side forces that have contributed to declining potential growth rates. This column argues that structural factors alone are not sufficient to explain the current weakness in investment rates. There is thus room for positive surprise if companies realise the pent-up investment demand.
Alberto Cavallo, Guillermo Crucas, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Monday, November 10, 2014
Although central banks have a natural desire to influence household inflation expectations, there is no consensus on how these expectations are formed or the best ways to influence them. This column presents evidence from a series of survey experiments conducted in a low-inflation context (the US) and a high-inflation context (Argentina). The authors find that dispersion in household expectations can be explained by the cost of acquiring and interpreting inflation statistics, and by the use of inaccurate memories about price changes of specific products. They also provide recommendations for central bank communication strategies.
Eric T Swanson , Saturday, November 8, 2014
In December 2008, the Fed lowered the federal funds rate to essentially zero and has kept it there since then. This column argues that, contrary to traditional macroeconomic thinking, monetary policy has not been severely constrained by the zero bound until mid-2011. The results imply that the Fed could have done more to ease monetary policy between 2009 and 2011. These findings could also help explain why the fiscal stimulus package adopted in 2009 did not bring the expected success.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, Friday, November 7, 2014
A triple-dip recession in the Eurozone is now a distinct possibility. This column argues that additional monetary stimulus is unlikely to be effective, that the scope for further fiscal stimulus is limited, and that some structural reforms may actually hurt growth in the short run by adding to disinflationary pressures in a liquidity trap. The author advocates using tax incentives and tighter regulations to encourage firms to replace environmentally inefficient capital.
Dennis Reinhardt, Cameron McLoughlin, Ludovic Gauvin, Wednesday, November 5, 2014
In the aftermath of the Global Crisis, policymakers and academics alike discussed how uncertainty surrounding macroeconomic policymaking has impacted domestic investment. At the same time, concerns regarding the spillover impact of monetary policy in advanced economies on emerging market economies featured strongly in the international policy debate. This column draws the two debates together, and examines how policy uncertainty in advanced economies has spilled over to emerging markets via portfolio capital flows. It finds remarkable differences in the spillover effects of EU vs. US policy uncertainty.
Mickey Levy, Monday, November 3, 2014
The Fed is stretching out its zero interest-rate policy waiting for labour market improvements. As unemployment fell the emphasis shifted to wages, which are an even more problematic measure of economic conditions. Basing monetary policy on a notoriously long cyclical laggard is prone to policy mistakes. This column argues that moving up rate hikes would be wise and prudent.
Charles A.E. Goodhart, Philipp Erfurth, Monday, November 3, 2014
There has been a long-term downward trend in labour’s share of national income, depressing both demand and inflation, and thus prompting ever more expansionary monetary policies. This column argues that, while understandable in a short-term business cycle context, this has exacerbated longer-term trends, increasing inequality and financial distortions. Perhaps the most fundamental problem has been over-reliance on debt finance. The authors propose policies to raise the share of equity finance in housing markets; such reforms could be extended to other sectors of the economy.
Jagjit Chadha, Sunday, November 2, 2014
The impact of the stock and maturity of government debt on longer-term bond yields matters for monetary policy. This column assesses the magnitude and relative importance of overall bond supply and maturity effects on longer-term US Treasury interest rates using data from 1976 to 2008. Both factors have a significant impact on both forwards and term premia, but maturity of public debt appears to matter more. The results have implications for exit from unconventional policies, and also for the links between monetary and fiscal policy and debt management.
David Miles, Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Many central banks embrace forward guidance by announcing expected interest rate paths. But how likely it is that actual rates will be close to expected ones? This column argues that quantifying such uncertainty poses great difficulties. Precise probability statements in a world of uncertainty (not just risk) can be misleading. It might be better to rely on qualitative guidance such as: “Interest rate rises will probably be gradual and likely to be to a level below the old normal”.
Hugh Rockoff, Saturday, October 4, 2014
World War I profoundly altered the structure of the US economy and its role in the world economy. However, this column argues that the US learnt the wrong lessons from the war, partly because a halo of victory surrounded wartime policies and personalities. The methods used for dealing with shortages during the war were simply inappropriate for dealing with the Great Depression, and American isolationism in the 1930s had devastating consequences for world peace.
Olivier Blanchard, Friday, October 3, 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Roberto Perotti, Saturday, September 13, 2014
There is a growing consensus that austerity is contributing to the Eurozone’s macroeconomic malaise, but also that spending cuts are needed in the long run to achieve fiscal sustainability. Some commentators have advocated a temporary tax cut financed by unsterilised ECB purchases of long-term public debt, accompanied by a commitment to future spending cuts. This column argues that such commitments are simply not credible – especially given the moral hazard problem created by central bank monetisation of debts.
Charles Wyplosz, Friday, September 12, 2014
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
Karl Walentin, Thursday, September 11, 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.