Daily Archives: December 10, 2010

Robin Harding

The NY Fed has announced its tentative schedule for bond purchases through to mid-January. The Desk plans to buy $105bn in Treasury securities. Two observations:

(1) It’s a little less than expected. The $75bn related to QE2 is unchanged, but the schedule includes only $30bn for reinvestment of mortgage prepayments, less than the $35bn a month predicted as of the beginning of November. That suggests the rise in 10-year rates is already affecting the NY Fed’s forecast of mortgage prepayments. I’m trying to find out a bit more about this but with an FOMC meeting next week I doubt the FRBNY will be especially forthcoming. Read more

Both the Federal Reserve and the ECB are now purchasing government debt in large scale. Yet neither of them seem at all eager to admit that they are doing anything unconventional with their monetary policy. In fact, some of the recent statements by both Ben Bernanke and Jean-Claude Trichet are not as straightforward and transparent as they might have been.

In the US, this is probably because of the risk that Congress might actually intervene to stop the Fed from “printing money”. Therefore the Fed has started to make narrow technical arguments which obfuscate what it is really doing. In Europe, the ECB has a strong historical dislike of monetising government deficits, and fears that quantitative easing might be declared contrary to their legal obligations. Therefore they draw very fine distinctions between their actions and US-style QE. In the long run I think that both central banks would be better advised to tell it exactly as it is.

Mr Bernanke has recently claimed that the Fed’s current policy should not be described as “quantitative easing”, a claim I disputed in this earlier post. Over the weekend, he defended the Fed on the grounds that the central bank was not printing money, which has been the accusation levelled at him by many of his Republican critics. Is Mr Bernanke’s claim accurate? Read more

A new game has been launched by the ECB – and apparently even the San Francisco Fed is tweeting about it. If you thought “monetary policy” and “game” couldn’t be sensibly strung together in a sentence, think again. The game – available in 22 languages – asks you to alter the interest rate to keep inflation stable, showing various other indicators too. There seem to be different scenarios behind the programme, as sometimes inflation stays stubbornly high, and other times it trends steadily towards deflation. (Yes, I have played it several times; and yes, only once did I achieve this gold star.)

Another game – on inflation – is available. Apparently it is equally as fun, though I can’t get it to work on firefox or internet explorer. Perhaps the games are simply oversubscribed from economists needing a little Friday fun….

China’s biggest banks will need to place 19 per cent of their deposits with their central bank from December 20. The People’s Bank of China has raised the depository reserve requirement by 50bp for the third time in five weeks, and the sixth time this year. Presumably – though this is not detailed in the release – the reserve requirement for China’s small- and medium- sized banks will be 17 per cent.

No reason was given for the move, which will mop up excess cash in the system and dampen inflation. An alternative tightening move – to raise interest rates – has not been taken since October 20. The last two reserve-requirement raises were effective November 16 and 29.

European Central Bank action to calm tensions in eurozone bond markets must remain firmly controlled, otherwise the euro’s monetary guardian risks “losing everything we have”, one of its most ­senior policymakers has warned.

Mario Draghi, Italy’s central bank governor, says in an interview with the Financial Times that large-scale purchases of government bonds could threaten the ECB’s freedom to act without political interference and break European Union rules. Read more