We’ve spilt a fair few pixels on the potential limits of negative rates and proposals to get around the pesky zero lower bound. Citi’s Buiter has weighed in on this for some time and has done so again on Thursday.
We present three practical ways to eliminate the ELB: i) abolish currency, ii) tax currency or iii) remove the fixed exchange rate between zero-interest cash currency and central bank reserves/deposits denominated in a virtual currency.
There’s more in the usual place for those who want it but, for now we thought we might just pull out his list of disadvantages to getting rid of cash Read more
Regarding how low negative interest rates can go, Paul Krugman wrote a couple of weeks ago that:
When central banks push interest rates on government debt below zero, the effective lower bound is the return on cash held by people who would otherwise be holding that government debt — not people looking to expand their checking accounts. So the liquidity advantages of bank deposits over cash in a vault are pretty much irrelevant. It’s all about the cost of storage.
On the potential death of that long awaited negative deposit rate, interesting thoughts from HSBC’s Steven Major below if sovereign quantitative easing does eventually raise its head in Europe.
But first, a necessary nod to QE skepticism from Peter Stella:
Rather amazingly, a crude quantitative measure of ECB stimulus—the sum of refinancing operations and securities held for monetary policy purposes—peaked the very month of Dr. Draghi’s [whatever it takes] speech. Those who are now seeking QE apparently believe that, despite the inverse correlation between quantitative stimulus and actual results, an increase in the size of the ECB balance sheet will lead to an outcome superior to that associated with the increase in policy “size” evident above during the 14 months prior to the Draghi speech. During that time, the sum of ECB monetary operations instruments expanded by 168 percent without any discernible palliative impact on markets. So if the definition of insanity is repeatedly trying the same behavior and expecting different results, the market would appear slightly insane. Or perhaps it is simply guilty of failing to fully comprehend the complexity of monetary operations, and more specifically, which monetary medicines work and which do not.
Just in case Draghi actually, finally, opts for negative rates later today and puts us all out of our misery, Deutsche Bank’s George Saravelos has taken a stab at how big a hit the euro would take (with our emphasis in the last paragraph): Read more
Or, why it’s nuts out there
In this series we have thus far presented the economic argument for the introduction of “free money”, whether it be via the rise of private market virtual units or central-bank dropped bundles of helicopter money.
The question which arises, however, is what does it mean when anyone in an economy can self-create money and have it respected without the need for national guarantees? The answer, presumably, is that there is such a shortage of money relative to output that the system flourishes with every virtual unit that’s created by the system — i.e. there is more risk in hoarding output than in distributing it.
And more specifically, that there’s a greater benefit in creating money “no strings attached” than with conditionality attached to it in the form of bank credit money. Read more
We promised at the end of our previous post that we would qualify the economic case for the introduction of “free money” with some direct references to Willem Buiter, Citi chief economist and former BoE MPC member.
So here follow some of his observations on all things “money” during a liquidity trap, as plucked from his papers on seigniorage, the nature of irredeemable fiat money, numerairology and the use of virtual currencies to break through the ZLB from the last decade or so. Read more
In a previous post we presented research by Willem Buiter, Citi chief economist and former BoE MPC member, which he conducted in the mid 2000s, into whether virtual currencies could be a useful mechanism for breaking through the zero-lower bound.
The idea in many ways represents an evolved form of QE, in which differentiable units from dollars are pumped into the economy, inducing an effective negative interest rate on dollars due to the fact that there is less of the new currency in circulation than the established one. Seen from this light, the recent rise of private virtual currencies could can be seen as amounting to the market’s own endogenous version of QE. Read more
Here’s a crazy thought to start the New Year year with. What if virtual currencies were born less of an organic anti-government peoples’ movement and more of extreme unconventional monetary policy by the state? The ultimate central bank Jedi mind trick if you will, which takes easing to levels that conventional policy just cannot go.
But even if it’s not a plan hatched directly by monetary bodies to serve the interests of the state, there’s still a strong argument to be made that virtual currencies could be doing the Fed, the BoE and even the ECB a big favour. Read more
Yup, we’re back here again. Here’s how Credit Suisse ranks the ECB’s options if, or when, the increasingly dovish governing council decides that more easing is necessary:
The first option comprises exhausting the ECB’s standard policy lever by cutting rates further. We expect this to be the first response if more needs to be done and could be prompted by inflation falling to 0.5% y/y or lower. A further cut in the key policy rate would also entail taking the deposit rate into negative territory.
The Credit Suisse European economics team are growing concerned about Mario Draghi’s disinflation problem:
The ECB meets this week and expectations about what Draghi and team may or may not do seem to be erring towards the non-event side of things.
But, as Beat Siegenthaler at UBS observed in a note on Monday, there still seems to be a lot of confusion about the likelihood and usefulness of negative rates being introduced. A rise in eurozone rates over the past two weeks has only added to the confusion: Read more
Everyone has an open mind about negative rates these days… Swiss National Bank chief Thomas Jordan has said he certainly does following this piece of repeat advice from the International Monetary Fund’s annual report on Switzerland (our emphasis):
The conjuncture of Switzerland may render some of the potential drawbacks [of negative interest rate] less relevant than in other countries. Activity in the interbank market is already very low, as all banks have excess liquidity. Switzerland is experiencing strong credit growth, particularly in the mortgage market. The impact of negative interest rates on mortgage rates depends on the pass-through.
Back in July, 2012 the Danish central bank, Nationalbanken, lowered the deposit rate to -0.2 per cent. Back then we wrote that it was going to be costly for the banks, and that money market rates were going deeper into negative territory. With Draghi’s comments last week, how did that whole negative deposit rate action turn out for Denmark?
Nordea had a note out last week on that very subject. Now, before we move, let’s remember that Danish monetary policy is tailored around the FX peg. The deposit rate was there to assure outflow because of mounting pressure on the EUR/DKK pair. Read more