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.
Jean-Pierre Landau, 02 December 2014
Morris Goldstein, 18 November 2014
Results from last month’s EU-wide stress test are reassuring, especially for countries at Europe’s core. This column warns against a rosy interpretation. The test relies on risk-weighted measures of bank capital ratios that have been shown to be less predictive of bank failure than unweighted leverage ratios – a metric already adopted by the US Fed and Bank of England. In addition, many experts recommend much higher leverage ratios than currently required. The ECB must do more to fix undercapitalisation.
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”.
Christian Daude, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 01 September 2014
Central banks’ exchange rate interventions are typically attributed to precautionary, prudential, or mercantilist motives. This column documents the prevalence of an alternative motive – that of stabilising the exchange rate – in emerging markets, where, despite heavy intervention, the Global Crisis saw important deviations of the real exchange rate from its equilibrium value. Exchange rate intervention is shown to be effective, but more so at containing appreciations than depreciations.
Pierre-Cyrille Hautcoeur, Angelo Riva, Eugene White, 02 July 2014
The key challenge for lenders of last resort is to ameliorate financial crises without encouraging excessive risk-taking. This column discusses the lessons from the Banque de France’s successful handling of the crisis of 1889. Recognising its systemic importance, the Banque provided an emergency loan to the insolvent Comptoir d’Escompte. Banks that shared responsibility for the crisis were forced to guarantee the losses, which were ultimately recouped by large fines – notably on the Comptoir’s board of directors. This appears to have reduced moral hazard – there were no financial crises in France for 25 years.
Michael Bordo, 21 March 2014
Since 2007, there has been a buildup of TARGET imbalances within the Eurosystem – growing liabilities of national central banks in the periphery matched by growing claims of central banks in the core. This column argues that, rather than signalling the collapse of the monetary system – as was the case for Bretton Woods between 1968 and 1971 – these TARGET imbalances represent a successful institutional innovation that prevented a repeat of the US payments crisis of 1933.
Donato Masciandaro, Francesco Passarelli, 21 December 2013
During the Great Moderation, central banks focused on price stability, and independence was seen as crucial to limit inflation bias. Since the Global Financial Crisis, emergency support measures for banks, and central banks’ increasing involvement in supervision, have called central bank independence into question. This column argues that the literature has overlooked the distributional effects of the tradeoff between monetary and financial stability. In a political economy framework, heterogeneity in voters’ portfolios can cause the degree of central bank independence to differ from the social optimum.
The Editors, 20 December 2013
Maintaining financial stability is a major concern and central banks have been increasingly involved in assuring it. This column introduces a CEPR Policy Insight written by Italy’s central bank governor on the post-Crisis role of central banks in financial regulation and supervision.
Harold James, 08 October 2013
The global nature of the recent financial crisis required a coordinated response from central banks. After the fall of Lehman Brothers, several of them simultaneously reduced their policy rates, and the Fed extended dollar swap lines to its overseas counterparts. However, the second phase of the crisis has put increasing strain on international cooperation. This column presents two explanations. First, the Eurozone crisis threatens the solvency of governments, thus creating conflict over who will pay the costs of maintaining financial stability. Second, unconventional monetary policy has had spillover effects in developing countries.
Espen Henriksen, Finn Kydland, Roman Šustek, 02 October 2013
The monetary policy for Eurozone members is one-size-fits-all in an economic area rife with economic differences. Does this really make a difference? This column argues that even if each EZ member state had a fully independent monetary authority, monetary policies would likely still appear highly synchronised across EZ members.
Márcio Garcia, 25 September 2013
The recent reversal of capital flows to emerging markets raises the question of whether and how to intervene in currency markets. Brazil’s central bank has intervened heavily, spending more than $50 billion and promising to double that by the end of the year. However, almost all of that intervention has taken place in onshore derivative markets that settle in real. This column argues that such interventions can be effective, but that central banks must stand ready to use their foreign-exchange reserves if necessary.
Spencer Dale, James Talbot, 13 September 2013
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has recently provided some explicit forward guidance regarding the future conduct of monetary policy in the UK. This column by the Bank's Chief economist explains how the MPC designed its forward guidance to respond to the unprecedented challenges facing the UK economy and argues that forward guidance allows the MPC to explore the scope for economic expansion without putting price and financial stability at risk.
Edwin Truman, 10 September 2013
Should we expect more global financial crises? This column argues that we should. Global financial crises are far from being a thing of the past because they are often caused by buildups of excessive domestic and foreign debt. To successfully address them and to limit negative spillovers, we need coordinated actions that prevent a contraction in global liquidity. Unless we establish this more robust, coordinated global financial safety net centred on central banks (which is where the money is), we may end up being incapable of addressing inevitable future crises.
Jeffrey Chwieroth, Jon Danielsson, 06 September 2013
Central banks frequently lead the macroprudential policy implementation. The hope is that their credibility in conquering inflation might rub off on macroprudential policy. This column argues the opposite. The fuzziness of the macroprudential agenda and the interplay of political pressures may undermine monetary policy.
Michael Burda, 15 July 2013
Eurozone national central banks that take a national perspective risk politicising the ECB’s monetary policy. This column argues that this is a significant risk that should be overcome with a fundamental overhaul of the Eurosystem. A central element would be to take the ‘national’ out of the EZ’s national central banks. Just as US regional Fed banks encompass more than one US state, EZ ‘national’ central banks area of responsibility should be redrawn along economic geography lines rather than nation lines. An example of such a proposal is provided.
Otaviano Canuto, Matheus Cavallari, 21 May 2013
The global financial crisis has shattered the confidence of many established principles of monetary policy and financial supervision. This column argues that the two should not remain separate, and maps out the major challenges faced by their complementary implementation.
Marco Annunziata, 12 February 2013
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.
David Miles, 17 January 2013
There is a view that banks are using more equity capital – and relatively less debt – to finance the assets they hold, creating substantial costs so great as to make more capital unfeasible. This column argues that these costs are exaggerated, but that the benefits of having banks that are far more robust are likely to be large. The argument that equity capital is costly is more an admittance that banks cannot convince people to provide finance in the knowledge that their returns will inevitably share in the downside and the upside. Worryingly, it is as if banks cannot play by the same rules as other enterprises in a capitalist economy. After all, capitalists are supposed to use capital.
Nicolas Magud, Evridiki Tsounta, 16 January 2013
The ‘neutral’ rate is the real interest that is consistent with stable inflation and narrow output gaps. This column discusses the various estimation techniques and presents estimates for a range of Latin American nations. No methodology is fully correct: central banks must still make a subjective judgement, but econometrics can significantly help to inform it.
Markus K Brunnermeier, Hans Gersbach, 20 December 2012
As governments and the EU wring their hands over banking reform, a fragile system remains in place. This column argues that the ECB’s current role undermines its independence. What the Eurozone needs to reduce undue forbearance - while preserving the ECB's independence - is a ‘diarchy’ in which both a newly built Restructuring Authority and the ECB have the power to trigger bank-restructuring.