US Interest Rates
So what he’s saying is, the Fed will raise rates at some point and it won’t be a very long time from now. But he’s not saying it’s going to be in a week or a month or a couple of months. Right. OK.
In the absence of concrete policy plans from the incoming Republican administration, and a sense of how those might play with the respective caucuses (caucusi?) in the House and Senate, the easy assumption is the Federal government will spend more on bridges and roads and/or cut taxes. But history suggests Trump can act in unpredictable ways.
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.
The Fed sure seems to be getting comfortable with the idea of acting as a centralised counterparty for collateral transactions. It’s unclear whether the market’s quite as enamored with the idea. This year’s Jackson Hole conference was on monetary policy implementation, which often serves as a shorthand for the following questions: how should the Fed control interest rates, and how big of a role should it play in financial markets? While the topic seems arcane, it’s important to understand how thoroughly the Fed has changed its approach to controlling interest rates (and through that, its relationship with markets). The topic isn’t just for technocrats — the debate now is over whether that change should be a permanent one.
Janet Yellen opened the festivities at this year’s Jackson Hole economic symposium by musing on what central bankers had learned since the crisis and how they can deal with future recessions in a world where interest rates are far lower than in the past. Unsurprisingly, bond-buying and “forward guidance” featured prominently in Yellen’s narrative of successful new tools. (On the other hand, scholars have estimated the combined impact of these measures was an unemployment rate a mere 0.13 percentage points below where it would have been using purely conventional instruments.)
Central bankers in Europe have been thinking a lot about The Death of Banks lately. Not so much in the US. There’s good reason for that, of course. Europe has been bleeding out banks with negative rates, so policy makers there have become painfully aware of the banks’ role implementing monetary policy. The US Federal Reserve, on the other hand, has been keeping banks alive with a steady drip of interest on excess reserves, or IOER, to control rates in a financial system awash with liquidity. The Fed’s releasing a policy statement today (we understand if you forgot about that in the heli-frenzy before the BoJ on Friday). Of course, keeping banks on life support with IOER doesn’t help net interest margins. NIM is a key measure of bank profitability. It’s also closely tied to the US yield curve — which is unfortunate for banks, because that sucker has been positively steamrolled lately by the combination of low yields abroad, low inflation expectations and rising US policy rates.
This is a guest post from Richard Koo, chief economist of the Nomura Research Institute and, amongst many other things, author of “The Holy Grail of Macroeconomics, Lessons from Japan’s Great Recession”, which lays out his balance sheet recession thesis in detail. The post is an updated extract from his most recent note for Nomura and reproduced here, with his permission, for your arguing pleasure… The US, the UK, Japan, and Europe all implemented quantitative easing (QE) policies, but the understanding of how those policies work apparently differs greatly from country to country, leading to very different outcomes. With the US economy doing better than the rest, there has been some debate in Europe as to why that is the case.
Even people who don’t normally find money markets interesting (we’ve heard such baffling types exist) might pause to consider a number like this: $160 trillion. That’s the notional outstanding value of US dollar financial products currently indexed to the London Interbank Offering Rate, or Libor — you remember, that rate survey that was awkwardly riggable.
By David Beckworth An increasing number of observers believe that the United State is inching closer to a recession. They see the stock market rout, plummeting oil prices, and falling inflation expectations as an ominous sign for the economy. Some also worry that the Fed’s raising of interest rates in December may have gotten ahead of the recovery. They fear this tightening of monetary policy could intensify these other dire developments and be the tipping point that pushes the economy into recession.
Imagine someone told you about a country where real output per person is at an all-time high and growing at an increasingly rapid pace, its employment rate is at the highest level in decades, the country’s housing sector is on fire, and its current account surplus is about 6 per cent of GDP. In the absence of other information, would you say this country should be: If you answered yes to the above questions, congratulations! You’ve just described the behaviour of the Sveriges Riksbank. From their policy announcement on Thursday (our emphasis):
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.
Who leads whom in the interest rate market? Or as Eugene Fama asked it in a paper in 2013, does the Fed really control interest rates? The University of Chicago economist’s work concluded that there are a lot of forces affecting rates, where the Fed is only one small part. In fact — as this Chicago Booth comic illustration of the entire debate neatly summarises – his research concluded that up to 83 per cent of the Fed’s target rate is influenced by other short-term rates in the market.
As the Fed begins its crucial two-day meeting, Harbinger O’Doom has been delivering his prognostications on the effect of a rise in interest rates. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by City editor Jonathan Guthrie, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can