Posts tagged 'Monetary Policy'

How would a Fed rate hike affect consumers?

We don’t really understand how changes in the level of short-term interest rates affect things we actually care about, such as growth and employment. There are too many moving parts and leaps of logic required, many of which are based on bogus assumptions about how the world works.

So it’s always nice to find new research into a small piece of the monetary transmission mechanism that’s grounded in facts. Researchers at TransUnion, the credit reporting company, looked at which American consumers would be exposed to an increase in the Federal Reserve’s policy rate corridor and the dollar magnitude of the impact of different tightening paths. We recently had a chance to discuss their findings with Nidhi Verma, who led the project. Read more

Monetary policy: it’s mostly fiscal

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon…Government spending may or may not be inflationary. It clearly will be inflationary if it is financed by creating money, that is, by printing currency or creating bank deposits. If it is financed by taxes or by borrowing from the public, the main effect is that the government spends the funds instead of the taxpayer or instead of the lender or instead of the person who would otherwise have borrowed the funds. Fiscal policy is extremely important in determining what fraction of total national income is spent by government and who bears the burden of that expenditure. By itself, it is not important for inflation.

–Milton Friedman, “The Counter-Revolution in Monetary Theory” (emphasis in original)

Friedman’s idea was radical when he suggested it in 1970, but it has since become boringly mainstream. Nowadays the standard line is that central banks have all the power and (usually) offset the impact of fiscal policy changes.

So it was refreshing to read a speech by Christopher Sims at this year’s Jackson Hole economic symposium suggesting that the common view has things backwards. To the extent central banks have any impact on inflation, it’s by tricking elected officials: Read more

What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate

The conflict between economists and market strategists is one of our favourite theory-versus-practice debates, since both groups try to answer big questions about the allocation of resources.

And in the bumpy years since the global financial crisis, the two groups have had an especially tough time agreeing. That’s why it’s been fascinating to see a mini-debate unfold between economist Brad DeLong and Matt King, Citigroup’s global head of credit products strategy. Read more

Richard Koo’s chart to explain the past 200 years

It may take a few minutes to wrap your head around it, but this chart from Richard Koo, borrowing heavily from the insights of W. Arthur Lewis, is a pretty good framework for understanding the history of the world since the start of the industrial revolution:

For most of human history, technological progress was achingly slow, especially when it came to agricultural productivity. Unable to boost yields, populations couldn’t expand unless additional farmland were brought under cultivation. There were about as many people alive on Earth in the age of Caesar as there were more than a thousand years later. When that finally changed, farmers moved to urban factories and joined the proletariat. Read more

Even lower rates? “Thanks but no thanks” say banks everywhere

Despite popular belief, we take no comfort in the decline in interest rates and argue that it should be viewed as a bad sign.

So says Shyam Rajan of BoAML’s liquidity insight report team, and in so doing echoes the thoughts and sentiments of probably the entire banking industry.

We’ve noted before — channeling Paul Krugman, no less — that zero rates (even more so negative rates) are not a banker’s cup of tea. Indeed, with little capacity to pass negative rates onto customers, the lower for longer scenario compromises hallowed net interest margins, the key source of predictable and sustained revenue for banks. All other services from origination to advisory collect one-off based fees. As great and balance-sheet light as they may be, they’re variable and thus unpredictable, hence inconsistent with the historical reason for buying bank stock. Read more

Rajan, the Fed and the rules of the monetary game

Raghuram Rajan, the luddite at the RBI (for now at least) has been banging on a particular drum for a while.

He told the world — at an IMF conference in Delhi earlier this year — that a system of rules governing the effects of monetary policy (or behaviour, if you will) would be nice. It would be based primarily on spillovers and ranked according to a Green, Orange, Red system familiar to anyone who has ever had a work-review of anything, ever. Green equals good, for those who have understandably repressed previous encounters with this type of system.

In a subsequent paper Rajan put more meat on the bones of his idea and now here it is in handy table form laying out those suggested rules for the monetary game, courtesy of Prachi Mishra, also of the RBI and Rajan’s occasional co-author:  Read more

Markets keep fighting the Fed, will the Fed keep letting them win?

A quick reminder that we’ll be hosting a special edition of Macro Live today at 1:50pm to cover the release of the FOMC statement and subsequent presser.

Back in December 2015, Federal Reserve policymakers expected they would raise the policy interest rate band to 1.25-1.5 per cent by the end of 2016, implying a cumulative increase in short-term rates of 1 percentage point, or four separate decisions to raise rates by 25 basis points. At the time, the prices of overnight index swaps implied an 11 per cent chance this would happen, according to Bloomberg’s WIRP function. Read more

Financial plumbing and the choice of balance sheet(s)

This guest post from Manmohan Singh warns that while QE created excess reserves, removing those reserves from the system will have an important impact on the markets’ financial plumbing – and that will need to be incorporated in monetary policy decision making. Singh is the author of Collateral and Financial Plumbing and a senior economist at the IMF. Views expressed are his own and not of the IMF.

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Expanded central bank balance sheets that silo sizeable holdings of US Treasuries, UK Gilts, Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs), German Bunds and other AAA eurozone collateral have placed central bankers in the midst of market plumbing. It’s now going to be very difficult for them to walk away from that role. Read more

Guest post: Helicopter drop? Just drop the idea

This post is from Gerard MacDonell, an economist at Point72 Asset Management, formerly SAC, from 2004 through 2015…

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With the risk of recession and a return to the zero bound now prominent, there is renewed discussion of the Fed and Treasury coordinating to deliver a helicopter drop of money.

This would not work in the US because the inflationary implications of it would be too dire and because the Fed would predictably renege on its side of the bargain. Here’s why, as I see it. Read more

Is America’s tightening cycle almost over?

A quick reminder that we’ll be hosting a special edition of Macro Live today at 1:55pm to cover the release of the FOMC statement and subsequent presser.

There’s only a 3.4 per cent chance the Federal Reserve will raise rates today, according to Bloomberg’s WIRP function and the prices of overnight index swaps.

As recently as the end of December 2015, market prices implied odds of at least one rate hike by tomorrow at more than 40 per cent:

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The Bank of Canada admits easy money can inflate debt bubbles

We want to highlight a speech from the Bank of Canada’s Timothy Lane on Monday. Whilst the conclusions are not particularly new, Lane makes several points that can’t be repeated enough.

Start with his description of how changes in monetary policy affect the economy: Read more

What might the next US recession look like?

Stocks and corporate bonds haven’t been doing so well lately, while the market-implied probability of four Fed rate hikes by the end of this year — the median expectation of policymakers as of December — has plunged below 1 per cent (according to Bloomberg’s WIRP function, anyway). Reasonable people are now starting to wonder whether another downturn is imminent.

Changes in prices could be signalling weakness yet to be captured by the official statistics on employment, output, and incomes. Even if you don’t believe asset prices contain useful information, it’s possible the hit to net wealth could encourage households and businesses to cut spending, thereby leading to recession and job losses.

We can’t answer whether a recession is around the corner, although the probability of another downturn necessarily rises with time since the last one. Instead, we want to lay out some of the main arguments and think through what various downside scenarios might look like. Read more

The Fed may be about to atone for the “mistake” of 1998

History never repeats and most analogies are wrong, but there are some intriguing parallels between the global macro environment in 1997-8 and today.

Back then, the Federal Reserve controversially chose to ease policy, first by refraining from rate hikes anticipated by the markets and then by cutting its target for Fed funds by 75 basis points. Many believe this choice inflated equity prices and encouraged excessive business investment at a time when America’s economy was already running hot. Despite the subsequent fillips of tax cuts, a boom in defence spending, and a housing bubble, the aftermath was a massive decline in employment and painfully slow recovery.

A simple comparison between conditions then and now suggests the Fed’s explicit desire to “normalise” financial conditions may come from a desire to avoid repeating the experiences of the late 1990s. Whether policymakers are right to prioritise the real economic data, which tells us what’s already happened, over the action in the financial markets, which tends to affect what will happen, is anyone’s guess. Read more

Guest post: It really is different this time

In this guest post, Erik Weisman, the chief economist of MFS Investment Management, explains why past Fed hiking cycles aren’t a good guide for predicting what will happen this time.

As the Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates, perhaps as early as the December meeting, many investors are looking at past rate hiking cycles for clues about how markets will react this time. Often we turn to the familiarity and convenience of what we’ve seen in the past to try to predict the future.

But that can make us look in the wrong place – and Fed tightening cycles over the last 30 or so years are simply not a good guidepost for what lies ahead. Read more

Monetary stimulus doesn’t work the way you think it does, redux

Once upon a time people thought central banks could boost business investment by lowering interest rates.

Thus America had its Large-Scale Asset Purchase programmes, which, according to the Fed, lowered longer-term Treasury yields. Again, according to the Fed, part of the appeal of these purchases was the impact they would have on investors with fixed income liabilities. Unable to hit their return targets with safer bonds they would be forced to buy riskier instruments, which, in theory, should improve the flow of credit to businesses and households and therefore spending. Read more

Some Fed thoughts: QE4 and all that

After a considerable period of boredom, trying to figure out America’s central bank has gotten interesting again.

For months, the mid-September meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee was being telegraphed as the most likely start date of the “normalisation” process. Or, to use another bit of central banker-ese, the day when short-term interest rates would begin “liftoff” from the current range of zero to 25 basis points. Read more

Corbyn’s “People’s QE” could actually be a decent idea

If Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader of the UK Labour Party, one positive consequence will be the ensuing discussion of the monetary policy transmission mechanism.

It all started with his presentation on “The Economy in 2020” given on July 22:

The ‘rebalancing’ I have talked about here today means rebalancing away from finance towards the high-growth, sustainable sectors of the future. How do we do this? One option would be for the Bank of England to be given a new mandate to upgrade our economy to invest in new large scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects: Quantitative easing for people instead of banks. Richard Murphy has been one of many economists making that case.

That passage seems to have been mostly ignored until August 3, when Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow chancellor, attacked the policy, which in turn led to a detailed response from the aforementioned Richard Murphy (see also here and here), at which point what seems like the bulk of the British economics commentariat erupted. Just search the internet for “Corbynomics” if you don’t believe us. Read more

When “macroprudential” policy works — and doesn’t

Even if it could identify bubbles, monetary policy is far too blunt a tool for effective use against them.

–Ben Bernanke, October 15, 2002

Policy accommodation—and the expectation that it will persist—is distorting asset prices. Most of this distortion is deliberate and a desirable effect of the stance of policy. We have attempted to lower interest rates below long-term equilibrium rates and to boost asset prices in order to stimulate demand.

–Donald Kohn, March 16, 2004

Kohn’s belief that monetary policy can reinvigorate a weak economy by encouraging people to borrow and spend out of unrealised capital gains is hard to square with Bernanke’s claim that central bankers shouldn’t attempt to restrain excessive risk-taking by raising interest rates. Bernanke reconciles this apparent asymmetry by arguing that “targeted measures…such as financial regulation and supervision” can promote financial stability better than the “blunt” instrument of monetary policy. Read more

Central banking: just when you understand it, it changes

Ask most monetary policymakers how they think about their job and the conversation generally goes like this:

  1. There is “an equilibrium interest rate” that somehow balances out the desires of savers and borrowers
  2. This “equilibrium rate” can be estimated roughly in real time
  3. The role of the central bank is to ensure that actual interest rates align with this theoretical ideal

We don’t really buy any of these points, especially 2) — see our earlier post discussing research by BAML’s Ethan Harris and Goldman’s Jan Hatzius, among others, on the difficulty of determining the “equilibrium” rate at any point in time — so naturally we want to highlight some new papers that reinforce our monetary policy nihilism. Read more

Are our central bankers learning?

Compare and contrast:

Some observers have been arguing that our patience should be wearing thin sooner rather than later. One argument is that policy is very accommodative by historical standards and that many of the reasons for adopting such an accommodative policy no longer pertain. Demand has strengthened substantially, and the threat of pernicious deflation has receded. A second concern is that policy accommodation—and the expectation that it will persist—is distorting asset prices. Most of this distortion is deliberate and a desirable effect of the stance of policy. We have attempted to lower interest rates below long-term equilibrium rates and to boost asset prices in order to stimulate demand… Read more

What’s the right rate? Or, the case for monetary policy nihilism

When it comes to central banking, we tend towards nihilism: the economy is far too complex for any policy rule, but also too complex to be understood by even the most intelligent, well-meaning technocrats. That presents an insurmountable problem for monetary policymakers, who are forever doomed to be fumbling about in the dark rather than smoothing out the vicissitudes of the cycle.

So we were intrigued to read a new paper by, among others, Goldman’s Jan Hatzius and BAML’s Ethan Harris, which was presented on Friday at the Chicago Booth Monetary Policy Forum, that basically agrees with our view. Read more

Did the Fed’s QE actually do anything for the real economy?

Eric Rosengren, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, gave a speech in Frankfurt on Thursday arguing that the Fed’s full employment mandate gave the central bank more flexibility to be aggressive earlier, and that open-ended programmes that are tied to economic targets are more effective than purchases of predetermined size and duration.

Nothing novel there. But his speech also contained, perhaps inadvertently, some interesting arguments that the rounds of bond-buying after the acute phase of the financial crisis did little for the real economy. (We covered the tenuous relationship between asset purchase programmes and inflation here.) Read more

Easy money, housing bubbles, and financial crises

Housing booms are wasteful — and the subsequent busts are deeply destructive. Worse, they have become bigger and more frequent since the 1970s. An important new paper from Oscar Jorda, Moritz Schularick, and Alan Taylor places the blame on structural changes in the financial sector that exacerbate the impact of excessively loose monetary policy.

This is a continuation of earlier research on the drivers of credit booms and their impact on GDP using data from more than a dozen rich countries going back to 1870, which we covered in detail here. For those who don’t want to reread that post, the two important takeaways are, first, that the growth rate in private borrowing during an economic expansion predicts the severity of the subsequent downturn even when there is no financial crisis: Read more

“Duration!” — the ditty of the bond bull

Whilst strolling on a beach in southern California over the holidays, we were inspired to try our hand at songwriting. (The topic may or may not have been partly inspired by our location.) After toying around with our initial idea for a while we managed to produce a few verses and a refrain. Feel free to suggest additional lyrics in the comments. To the tune of Jingle Bells:

Rolling down the curve
With my Eurodollar strips
Making tons of money
‘til the Fed hikes 50 bps! Read more

The kitchen sinksky*

**10.5 per cent to 17 per cent**

Click to enlarge for the Central Bank of Russia’s emergency rate hike at 1am Moscow time — surpassing both the Turkish central bank’s hike in January this year and the Bank of England’s 500bps of moves on one day in 1992. Lamontsky.* Read more

ECB vs Fed stimulus in two charts

CreditSights points out today that changes in gross ECB liquidity provided to the euro area’s banking sector closely track changes in 10 year Bund yields:

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Ireland’s tight-fisted banks

A fascinating chart from Morgan Stanley’s European banking research team caught our eye. See if you can spot the odd one out (click to enlarge):

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The Fed and oil: 2014 is not 2011 in reverse

Back in 2011, inflation climbed above the Fed’s 2 per cent target, but the FOMC resisted the impulse to tighten monetary conditions. Long-run inflation expectations hadn’t risen to worrying levels, and Ben Bernanke perceived that a price spike led by oil was likely to be “transitory”.

No surprise there: he wrote the paper on this very topic. And he was proved right. Read more

What would BoE rate hikes do to UK households?

The Bank of England’s latest quarterly bulletin, released on Monday, contains an interesting article on “the potential impact of higher interest rates on the household sector.”

A few interesting tidbits:

–Raising rates by 2 percentage points would redistribute income “from higher-income to lower-income households”

–But would probably lead to a reduction in spending, since 60 per cent of borrowers would spend less and only 10 per cent of savers would spend more. The BoE estimates that the net effect of a 1 percentage point increase in the Bank Rate would be a reduction “aggregate spending by around 0.5 per cent via a redistribution of income from borrowers to savers.” A 2 percentage point increase would lower spending by 1 per cent. (The total impact on spending could be a bit different, however, since monetary policy works in other ways besides redistributing income from net savers to net borrowers.)

–On the whole, though, UK households are (slightly) less sensitive to increases in interest rates than they were a few years ago Read more

Sweden’s Riksbank responds to the critics

Back in April, Paul Krugman wrote that Swedish post-crisis central banking has been “sadomonetarism in action.” (They had the audacity to modestly raise short-term interest rates in 2010-2011.) The criticism may lead to additional parliamentary oversight of the Riksbank.

So we recommend you read an important new speech from deputy governor Per Jansson that dispels many of the myths surrounding Swedish monetary policy. He makes two basic arguments: Read more