Inflation

Macroeconomists have understood for a long time that inflation expectations are an important determinant of inflation. But those who argue that interest rates must be raised today in order to keep inflation expectations down have forgotten why these expectations matter in the first place. Read more

There is a widespread perception that quantitative easing is synonymous with increasing the money supply. But it is more than that. Read more

By Richard Robb

What should investors in developed countries worry about — inflation or deflation? Evidence from the past two decades suggests the answer is “neither.” Progress in monetary policy may have rid the world of price instability once and for all; like smallpox, Germany military aggression or the spread of orthodox Marxism, inflation could well turn out to be last century’s problem.

As recently as the 1990s, France, UK and Italy pegged exchange rates. The US and UK targeted money supply in the late 1970s and early 1980s, while the Bundesbank targeted Germany’s money supply right up until monetary union. Read more

By Paul De Grauwe

The recent decline of the dollar against major currencies such as the euro and the Japanese yen has been spectacular. Even more spectacular, but often forgotten, is the long run decline of the dollar against the major currencies in the world. Since 1960 the dollar lost two thirds of its value against the Japanese yen, the Swiss franc and the German mark (since 1999 the euro).

The long-term decline of the dollar appears to be quite surprising especially considering that at least since the early 1990s the US has been seen to produce superior economic results, ie a higher productivity growth than most of Europe and Japan with more or less the same rates of inflation. Yet despite the appearance of superior economic performance the dollar has gone on losing value against currencies of countries deemed to have an inferior economic system. Where does this paradox come from? Read more

By Roger E. A. Farmer

According to a widely-held consensus view, the world is slowly emerging from the Great Recession of 2008. Growth in China is projected to top 8 per cent in 2009. Australia raised the interest rate on the Australian dollar last week and the US and UK economies are showing signs that unemployment growth has slowed even though the unemployment rates in both countries are very high. Sometime soon, perhaps in the spring of 2010, perhaps earlier, the Fed, the European Central Bank, and the Bank of England are likely to respond to the perceived global recovery by reducing the sizes of their balance sheets and raising interest rates on overnight loans. Read more

op

Did inflation targeting fail? Central banks have mostly escaped blame for the crisis. Do they deserve to do so?

Just over five years ago, Ben Bernanke, now chairman of the Federal Reserve, gave a speech on the “Great Moderation” – the declining volatility of inflation and output over the previous two decades. In this he emphasised the beneficial role of improved monetary policy. Central bankers felt proud of themselves. Pride went before a fall. Today, they are struggling with the deepest recession since the 1930s, a banking system on government life-support and the danger of deflation. How can it have gone so wrong? Read more

By Francis M. Bator 

Shoring up lenders, unclogging lending, even direct action to limit the slide in house prices, will no longer suffice to prevent a severe recession. Only public or private spending on output will prevent spiralling cutbacks in production, jobs and incomes.

Action to boost spending should be temporary, phased out as the economy recovers. But it should be large enough to make a difference. It takes about $500bn growth in total spending each year just to keep unemployment rates and capacity utilization constant. Each extra percent of unemployment costs $250bn-300bn per year in lost pre-tax wages and profits.

Here are two examples of fiscal action that would be easy to implement, quick to boost spending, and unusual enough to make timely reversal credible. Read more