Daily Archives: January 19, 2010

Simone Baribeau

Researchers at the SF Federal Reserve Bank published a report today arguing that, in serious downturns (but not in normal times), the beleaguered Phillips curve proves useful. The Phillips curve, of course, shows an inverse relationship between employment and inflation – a concept which garnered increased scepticism, inside and outside the FOMC, over the past few decades as researchers struggled to find empirical evidence showing the link.

But, the researchers say, now that we’re in a deep recession, the Phillips curve is, again, useful. “Our findings suggest that the high level of the unemployment rate over the past year likely contributed to the substantial declines in the inflation rate, as the Phillips curve would predict,” the researchers wrote. Read more

Simone Baribeau

Ben Bernanke, chariman of the Federal Reserve, joined the chorus of those calling for a closer look into the Fed’s actions in the AIG bail-out. In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, he today wrote,

“To afford the public the most complete possible understanding of our decisions and actions in this matter, and to provide a comprehensive response to questions that have been raised by members of Congress, the Federal Reserve would welcome a full review by GAO of all aspects of our involvement in the extension of credit to AIG.”

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Was I pretty much spot on earlier when I predicted Mervyn King would be far from complacent about inflation’s rise to 2.9 per cent in December, would blame one-off factors and the weak economy would keep inflation in check?

Judge for yourselves. But what I certainly got wrong was my prediction that he would say he was never complacent about rising prices. That passage was entirely missing from his speech. The following passage is the closest I have ever heard an official say, “now is the time for complacency”. Read more

Journalists tend to like big numbers, but small ones will do when there seems to be a trend. China and Taiwan are both ‘tightening’ policy, says Business World. Fair play on China: the central bank has again raised the yield on its one-year bills, compounding a number of tightening measures. But Taiwan? Taiwan has raised the overnight interbank lending rate by 0.8 of a basis point. (A basis point is 0.01 per cent.)

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Update (January 20): Enquiry will be led by central bank governor and ‘wise’ man (or woman)

Ireland’s government will hold an enquiry this year into a banking crisis that left the country’s financial system in a “fragile” state, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said. Read more

Canada’s central bank has maintained its overnight borrowing rate at 0.25 per cent, as expected, and reaffirmed its commitment to keep rates at this level until the middle of this year. Also unchanged are the bank rate, at 0.5 per cent, and the deposit rate at 0.25 per cent.

The Bank of Canada forecasts growth of 2.9 per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent in 2011, having contracted by an estimated 2.5 per cent in 2009. The previous growth forecast in October suggested a 2.4 per cent contraction in 2009, 3.0 per cent growth in 2010 and 3.3 per cent growth in 2011. Read more

… in the short-term, at least.

Moody’s has confirmed its current A2 bond rating for Greece in light of the Stability and Growth Programme, submitted to the European Commission last week. Read more

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has excluded 17 tobacco producers from its $450bn portfolio for ethical reasons, the government said today. “The divestment of shares in these companies has now been completed,” the finance ministry said.

The central bank-managed Government Pension Fund follows ethical guidelines set by the government and in the past has excluded companies that produce nuclear arms or cluster munitions, damage the environment or abuse human rights or workers’ rights. Read more

Iraq’s central bank governor, Sinan al-Shibibi, told Reuters rates are likely to fall below their current 7 per cent, depending on inflation. “Probably they are going to be lower than 7 percent. But of course this will depend on inflation vis-a-vis growth.” he said. “We’ll have to monitor very closely.” The central bank dropped its policy rate to 7 per cent from 9 per cent last June in line with a fall in inflation. The official interest rate in Iraq is more of a guide to bank rates than a direct monetary mechanism as the banking sector is small and capital markets are undeveloped (from Reuters). Other rates include 5.2 per cent on 6-month bills and 5 per cent on 7-day deposits.

India’s central bank said on Tuesday it was permitting the introduction of currency futures in euro, yen, and pound sterling with immediate effect. Prior to this, the Reserve Bank of India had only allowed
currency futures trading in dollar-rupee contracts. (From Reuters)

Sri Lanka has shelved plans to allow the free flow of foreign currency into and out of the country following political upset over the plan. Sri Lankan central bank governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said over the weekend that the plans were now on hold until after the Presidential election, scheduled for January 26, 2010.

The central bank, which yesterday kept its rates on hold, said on January 4 that it would allow the free flow of foreign exchange, so anyone could send money in or out, or set up foreign bank accounts. Read more

Everyone knew inflation would jump in December. The City expected the annual rate to rise from 1.9 per cent in November to 2.6 per cent in December. The actual figure: 2.9 per cent. Ouch.

Mervyn King, Bank governor, is giving a speech this evening in Exeter, where I am sure he will touch on the issue. I predict  - and I have no inside knowledge – that he will insist the Bank is far from complacent about the inflation surge, but will explain the rise away as the result of a series of extraordinary and temporary factors. The weakness of the economy is likely to keep inflation in check, he will say. We shall see at 1900 GMT when he speaks. He may well signal the end of the active phase of quantitative easing, but not link that to today’s inflation news. Read more

Robin Harding

For the first time since the data series began in 2004, more Japanese people expect prices to be lower in a year’s time than flat or higher.

The data is part of the survey of consumer confidence by Japan’s cabinet office Read more

China’s central bank has raised the yield on one-year government debt to 1.9264 per cent, significantly above forecasts, which were in the  1.84 – 1.89 per cent range. The People’s Bank of China auctioned 24 billion yuan ($3.5 bn) of one-year bills at 1.9264 per cent, up 8 basis points from last week’s level of 1.8434 per cent.

The rapid yield increase shows quicker-than-expected tightening from the Chinese central bank. Increasing the yield makes debt more attractive to investors, taking more money out of the system and into the central bank. “The central bank wants to lock up funds for a longer period because of concerns of the risk in inflation in the longer term,” a trader at a major Chinese bank in Shanghai told Reuters. Read more