“Mensch tracht, und Gott lacht” – what’s the best guidance on monetary policy?
David Miles 22 October 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”.
“Mensch tracht, und Gott lacht” is a Yiddish proverb – men plan and God laughs. Woody Allen puts the same thought this way: “If you want to make God laugh tell him about your plans”. Some people might see these words as a fitting epitaph for forward guidance on monetary policy. The Bank of England has certainly faced a good deal of criticism for the guidance that it has recently been giving, as has the Federal Reserve in the US.
forward guidance, unconventional monetary policy, monetary policy, Central Banks, central bank communication, interest rates, uncertainty
Where danger lurks
Olivier Blanchard 03 October 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.
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, mainstream US macroeconomics had taken an increasingly benign view of economic fluctuations in output and employment. The crisis has made it clear that this view was wrong and that there is a need for a deep reassessment.
The benign view reflected both factors internal to economics and an external economic environment that for years seemed indeed increasingly benign.
Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
macroeconomics, global crisis, great moderation, rational expectations, nonlinearities, fluctuations, business cycle, monetary policy, inflation, bank runs, deposit insurance, sudden stops, capital flows, liquidity, maturity mismatch, zero lower bound, liquidity trap, capital requirements, credit constraints, precautionary savings, housing boom, Credit crunch, unconventional monetary policy, fiscal policy, sovereign default, diabolical loop, deflation, debt deflation, financial regulation, regulatory arbitrage, DSGE models
Is the ECB doing QE?
Charles Wyplosz 12 September 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.
The 4 September announcement by Chairman Mario Draghi has been greeted with enthusiasm by the markets and the media. It has been long awaited, and many believe that the ECB has finally delivered. This is not sure. The ECB intends to buy large amounts of securities backed by bank lending to households (mortgages) and to firms.
Exchange rates Financial markets Monetary policy
quantitative easing, QE, monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, ECB, securitisation, bank lending, Europe, eurozone, Subprime, stress tests, deleveraging, recapitalisation, depreciation, exchange rates, euro, central banking
Quantifying the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases
Karl Walentin 11 September 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.
Central banks have used various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the financial crisis yet the debate continues regarding their efficiency. This column attempts to shed light on the ‘bang for the buck’, or the macroeconomic effects, of one such unconventional monetary policy – the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchases of mortgage-backed securities employed during the Fed’s QE1 and QE3 programs.
Global crisis Monetary policy
monetary policy, unconventional monetary policy, large-scale asset purchases, central banking, financial crisis, Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, mortgage-backed securities, term premia, zero lower bound, interest rates, US, UK, Sweden, mortgages, global crisis
To exit the Great Recession, central banks must adapt their policies and models
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang 10 September 2014
During the Great Moderation, inflation targeting with some form of Taylor rule became the norm at central banks. This column argues that the Global Crisis called for a new approach, and that the divergence in macroeconomic performance since then between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Eurozone on the other, is partly attributable to monetary policy differences. The ECB’s model of the economy worked well during the Great Moderation, but is ill suited to understanding the Great Recession.
“Practical men…are usually the slaves…[of] some academic scribbler of a few years back” – John Maynard Keynes.
For monetary policy to be most effective, Michael Woodford emphasised the crucial importance of managing expectations. For this purpose, he advocated that central banks adopt explicit rules for setting interest rates to check inflation and recession, and went on to note that:
Global crisis Macroeconomic policy Monetary policy
Taylor rule, forward guidance, great moderation, global crisis, Great Recession, quantitative easing, DSGE models, expectations, tapering, US, UK, Europe, eurozone, ECB, Bank of England, central banking, IMF, unconventional monetary policy
Publish or be damned – or why central banks need to say more about the path of their policy rates
Richard Barwell, Jagjit Chadha 31 August 2014
In the wake of the crisis, forward guidance has become a prominent tool of monetary policy. This column argues that central banks should go a step further, communicating to the public the internal policy debate that goes into monetary policy formation – especially regarding uncertainty. Since policy is determined contingent on a range of possible outcomes, forward guidance would become more effective by explicitly communicating how policy would respond along this uncertain path.
The central banking community has made significant steps to improve its communication strategy since the days of myth and mystique criticised by Alan Blinder in 1998:
“Greater openness is not a popular case in central banking circles, where mystery is sometimes argued to be essential to effective monetary policy…[but] a more open central bank, by contrast, naturally conditions expectations by providing the markets with information about its own view of the fundamental forces guiding monetary policy.”
Bank of England, forward guidance, unconventional monetary policy
Identifying and quantifying monetary policy transmission through bank balance sheets
Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa 09 August 2014
In the wake of the Global Crisis, several central banks have adopted unconventional monetary policies. This column presents new evidence from Japan on the transmission of monetary policy through banks’ balance sheets. Overall, the evidence suggests that bank net worth affects loan supply, that the effect depends on monetary policy and economic growth, and that this bank balance sheet channel has a significant impact on firms’ financing and investment. Exiting from unconventional monetary policies when bank balance sheets are weak could thus have a severe adverse impact on investment.
How does monetary policy affect firm activities? While there is long-standing literature on this issue, the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is currently attracting renewed attention. The reason is that many central banks – including the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan – have introduced unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing and credit easing in the wake of the Global Crisis, and sooner or later will have to exit from these policies.
Financial markets Global crisis Monetary policy
monetary policy, Japan, global crisis, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, balance sheets, financial accelerator, credit easing, bank lending channel
What are the macroeconomic effects of asset purchases?
Martin Weale, Tomasz Wieladek 10 June 2014
After reducing their policy rates close to zero in response to the global financial crisis, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve began purchasing assets. This column assesses the effect of these asset purchases on output and inflation. In line with previous studies, the authors find that asset purchase announcements are associated with increases in both output and inflation in both countries. They also find that quantitative easing had a larger impact on UK inflation, which suggests that the UK Phillips curve is steeper.
After policy rates fell close to zero in response to the global financial crisis of 2008-09, the scope for further conventional monetary policy easing was exhausted. As a result, both the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve embarked on large-scale asset purchases of government and financial securities (see Figures 1 and 2).
inflation, Federal Reserve, Phillips curve, Bank of England, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, output
Unconventional monetary policy normalisation and emerging-market capital flows
Andrew Burns, Mizuho Kida, Jamus Lim, Sanket Mohapatra, Marc Stocker 21 January 2014
The Federal Reserve has begun to ‘taper’ its programme of quantitative easing. The ‘taper tantrum’ that followed the announcement of tapering in May 2013 suggests that the normalisation of rich countries’ unconventional monetary policies may lead to capital outflows and currency depreciations in emerging markets. This column presents the results of recent World Bank research into these effects. In the baseline scenario, the unwinding of QE is predicted to reduce capital inflows by about 10%, or 0.6% of developing-country GDP by 2016. However, if markets react abruptly, capital flows could decline by as much as 80% for several months.
Quantitative easing (QE), which started in 2008, swelled the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet to an unprecedented $3.4 trillion. In May 2013, the Fed announced that it would evaluate the possibility of a reversal of its unconventional monetary policies – QE in particular .
The event, which has come to be known as ‘tapering’, prompted a sharp, negative response from financial markets (the so-called ‘taper tantrum’):
Financial markets International finance Monetary policy
Federal Reserve, quantitative easing, unconventional monetary policy, tapering
Overcoming the obstacles to international macro policy coordination is hard
Olivier Blanchard, Jonathan D Ostry, Atish R Ghosh 20 December 2013
The world has just been through a period of unprecedented macro policy activism. More is set to come as central banks exit unconventional policies, governments fix their fiscal positions, and financial regulations are reformed. These national policies have undeniable international spillovers. This column argues that the setting is ripe for more cooperation and suggests some ways forward, even if international macro policy coordination may continue to be heard about more often than it is seen.
International policy coordination is like the Loch Ness monster – much discussed but rarely seen. Going back over the decades, and even further in history to the period between the two world wars, coordination efforts have been episodic.
Coordination seems to occur spontaneously in turbulent periods, when the world faces the prospect of some calamitous outcome and the key players are seeking to avoid cascading negative spillovers. In quieter times coordination is rarer, though not unheard of – the Louvre and Plaza accords are examples.
spillovers, fiscal consolidation, financial regulation, policy coordination, unconventional monetary policy, currency war