Interest rates have been extremely low since the Global Crisis. This column surveys the recent debate over whether they will remain low, or return to normal. While an unequivocal answer is not possible, the evidence suggests a significant decline in average real rates – perhaps to as low as 1%.
John C. Williams, Thursday, November 26, 2015 - 00:00
James D. Hamilton, Ethan Harris, Jan Hatzius, Kenneth D. West, Sunday, November 15, 2015 - 00:00
No-one is sure what the Fed’s long-delayed nominal interest rate hikes will bring, and there has been much speculation on what the equilibrium rate might look like when the Fed acts. This column argues that it would be foolish to attempt to pin down a precise value for the steady-state real rate. A better approach is to predict the plausible range of values, and evidence suggests that the equilibrium rate will range from a little above zero up to 2%.
Athanasios Orphanides, Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 00:00
There is generally consensus among macroeconomists that monetary policy works best when it is systematic. Following the financial crisis, the US Federal Reserve shifted from long-term, systematic policy to short-term goals targeting unemployment. This column argues that, while these were appropriate in the aftermath of the downturn, such policy accommodations have been pursued for too long since. The need for a somewhat accommodative policy cannot be used to defend the current non-systematic policy and excessive emphasis on short-term employment gains.
Matthew Jaremski, David C. Wheelock, Sunday, October 25, 2015 - 00:00
The US’s Federal Reserve System was established more than a century ago as a confederation of 12 regional districts. The selection of cities for each region’s Reserve Bank disproportionately favoured the Northeast and the state of Missouri, a fact that remains controversial to this day. This column describes how the existing banking infrastructure and population density at the time, guided the selection of these cities. Modern communication technology has reduced the need for physical proximity between Reserve and commercial banks. Debates about rezoning the Federal districts should therefore focus on the distribution of monetary policymaking authority.
David Martinez-Miera, Rafael Repullo, Monday, October 12, 2015 - 00:00
Discussions on the connection between the level of interest rates, incentives to search for yield, and financial stability have been prominent over the last ten years or so. More recently, Larry Summers argued in his 2014 secular stagnation address that the decline in the real interest rates would be expected to increase financial instability. This column addresses the challenging issue of providing an explanation for the connection between these phenomena. An increase in the supply of savings that reduces equilibrium real rates can be associated with an increase in the risk of the banking system. This link can explain the emergence of endogenous boom and bust cycles.
Athanasios Orphanides, Friday, December 5, 2014 - 00:00
Pelin Ilbas, Øistein Røisland, Tommy Sveen, Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 00:00
Economists everywhere recognise the Taylor rule’s importance in monetary policymakers’ decisions. But exactly how important is it? This column aims to analyse the Taylor rule’s influence on US monetary policy by estimating the policy preferences of the Fed. There is a high degree of reluctance to let the interest rate deviate from the Taylor rule and, contrary to the literature and current policy debates, it seems large deviations from the Taylor rule between 2001 and 2006 were in fact due to negative demand-side shocks. During this period, there is in fact no evidence to support the notion of a decreased weight on the Taylor rule.
Marco Annunziata, Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 00:00
Economists and policymakers are increasingly concerned that central-bank independence is being threatened. This column argues that central banks are not losing their independence, but that their room for manoeuvre is being eroded by a lack of structural reforms and fiscal adjustment. The financial crisis has caused mission creep, pushing central banks well beyond their comfort zones and as the time comes to pull back, independent monetary policy could still be powerless against fiscal dominance.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, Guntram Wolff, Thursday, May 3, 2012 - 00:00
The ECB has managed a massive expansion of its balance sheet with long-term refinancing operations. This has been called the equivalent of quantitative easing, as done by the Fed and the Bank of England. This column thus argues that the main obstacle for the ECB is not tight limits on the purchase of government bonds. Rather, it is the absence of a banking and fiscal union and the heterogeneity within the Eurozone that reduces the effectiveness of the ECB instruments.
Thomas J. Sargent, Martin Ellison, Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - 00:00
The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee has been criticised for making forecasts that are inferior to Federal Reserve staff forecasts. This column argues that FOMC forecasts are worst-case scenarios used to inform policy decisions, rather than best estimates of future events. It says that FOMC forecasts are a rational response to doubts about the staff’s model.
Willem Buiter, Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - 00:00
The last column in this series on fiscal aspects of central banking reviews the differences in fiscal backing for the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve, and the European Central Bank.
Willem Buiter, Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - 00:00
The second of this four-column series on fiscal aspects of central banking discusses the institutional constraints on quantitative easing. It argues that the ECB can and should engage in quantitative easing since its independence gives it a credible non-inflationary exit strategy. The Fed, however, seems heading for a bout of inflation stemming from Congressional pressure. Buiter argues that the Bank of England’s situation lies between.
Charles Wyplosz, Sunday, July 20, 2008 - 00:00
Should taxpayers bail out the banking system? One of the world’s leading international macroeconomists contrasts the Larry Summers “don’t-scare-off-the-investors” pro-bailout view with the Willem Buiter “they-ran-into-a wall-with-eyes-wide-open” anti-bailout view. He concludes that either way, taxpayers are always the losers. The best policy makers can do is to be merciless with shareholders and gentle with bank customers.
Mika Widgrén, Monday, February 25, 2008 - 00:00
The Fed’s policy changes seem nimble compared to the ECB’s. Here one of Europe’s leading analysts of voting mechanisms argues that the ECB’s institutional design accounts for the difference. Forthcoming ECB reforms are unlikely to alleviate the problem.
Stephen Cecchetti, Wednesday, August 15, 2007 - 00:00
A revised and updated version of the 13 August column on the basic how's and why's of what the Fed has been doing to calm financial markets.
Axel Leijonhufvud, Monday, June 25, 2007 - 00:00
An expansionary monetary policy and an historical conjuncture that happens to produce no inflation will lead to asset price inflation and deterioration of credit. At some stage, central banks will have to mop the liquidity or see inflation do it for them.