Monthly Archives: January 2013

Adam Posen’s attack on the management and culture of the Bank of England may be the strongest yet, but it is by no means the first – and won’t be the last – criticism of a persistent and dismaying lack of robust governance at the UK central bank.

What is astonishing is that despite countless warnings – three independent reviews, several newspaper editorials and sundry MPs’ warnings – the central charge that the governor is over-mighty and under-governed still stands.

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Michael Steen

What could be worse in the eyes of a central banker than money counterfeiting? Well, killing people, even if judicially mandated, seems to be the answer. Germany’s Bundesbank on Thursday beat a hasty retreat from plans to send experts to Bangladesh next month to help combat a recent spate of money forgers. Read more

Getty Images

If a close confidant had asked Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, a year ago which City institutions he would like to take down a peg or two, the answer might well have been: Goldman Sachs and Barclays.

It has happened more by accident and opportunism than by express design, but during the past six months, the governor has duly hit those banks where it hurts. Read more

Developing countries should not be tempted to stimulate their economies this year in the face of weak growth, the World Bank warned on Wednesday even though the world faces another challenging year.

In forecasts that suggest 2013 will see only marginally stronger growth than last year, the Bank recommends that poor and middle-income countries concentrate on fundamental drivers of prosperity rather than attempt a quick fix.

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Claire Jones

It seems Sir Mervyn King's eyebrows speak volumes. Image by Getty

The eyebrows of the governor of the Bank of England could become a force to be reckoned with once more.

In the days before the Basel rules, an eyebrow raised by the top man at the Bank — which was then chief financial regulator — supposedly put a stop to any misbehaviour by the banks.

It took slightly more than a raised eyebrow today. But just hours after Sir Mervyn King described Goldman Sachs’ plan to defer bonuses to avoid the 50 per cent top rate of income tax as “disappointing”, the US investment bank backed down. Read more

The Bank of England. Getty Images

The Bank of England has reaffirmed its plans to tackle housing bubbles by raising lenders’ capital requirements, rather than banning borrowers from taking out certain types of mortgages.

The BoE’s interim Financial Policy Committee, the body set up to safeguard the stability of the financial system, on Monday said it would aim to reduce “exuberance” in the housing market by raising so-called “sectoral capital requirements” that make lenders hold more capital against certain types of loans.

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Chris Giles

Having written rather outspoken columns about conceptual errors in the Retail Prices Index and criticising the UK statistical authorities for ducking the challenge of rectifying these errors, quite a few people have asked for some numeric examples about the scale of the problem so they can understand better how it arises.

(People who want the real gory detail should look at professor Erwin Diewert’s report)

The first thing to note is that contrary to well-intentioned explainers such as this one from the BBC, or the otherwise-rather-good editorial in today’s Times newspaper, the problem in the calculation of the RPI is not to do with the difference between geometric averages and arithmetic averages. It is really about the deficiencies of one particular arithmetic average, the Carli index.

Don’t just believe me, play with this spreadsheet, (Price indices). I will also help you to use it with a few worked examples. The worked examples are extremes, but they serve to show the important biases of different ways of calculating inflation. Read more

By Gillian Tett

Four years ago, Zoltan Pozsar helped change how policy makers visualise the financial world when he worked with colleagues at the New York Federal Reserve to create a gigantic wall map of shadow banking. Astonishingly, it was the first time anyone had laid out these financial flows in detailed, graphic form. And by doing that, the NY Fed researchers showed why the sector mattered – and why policy makers needed to rethink how the financial ecosystem did (or did not) work.

Now Pozsar has left the NY Fed and teamed up with Paul McCulley, the former investment luminary of Pimco (and the man who coined that phrase “shadow banking”) to tackle another issue. But this time, it is not securitisation they want to “map” – but “helicopter money”, or quantitative easing.

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Claire Jones

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank. Image by DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank. Image by DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images.

Hello and welcome to today’s live blog for European Central Bank president Mario Draghi’s first press conference of 2013.

Mr Draghi will begin speaking at 13.30. All times are UK time.

 

 

14.40 The live blog is now closed.

14.38 The ECB president struck a very upbeat tone at today’s presser.

Mr Draghi is clearly delighted with the recent developments in financial markets (see 13.46), though he warned against complacency on the part of governments and added that we were yet to see any signs of an economic recovery.

Because markets were a lot more positive, the governing council was unanimous in deciding to hold rates and no-one even bothered to discuss the option of a cut, which now looks unlikely to happen in the coming months.

14.30 The questions end. Recap to follow.

14.28 Contagion is now working in the eurozone’s favour. “There is a positive contagion when things go well and that’s what’s in play now,” he says.

Despite the recent progress made, however, Draghi say DON’T relax. Which is all well and good, but it doesn’t make for a decent t-shirt does it?

He urges governments to keep up the good work and continue to implement structural reforms.

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By Gavyn Davies

The macroeconomic debate is now buzzing about “political dominance” over the central banks, under which elected politicians force central bankers to take actions they would not choose to take, if left to their own devices [1]. This is clearly what is happening in Japan, where the incoming Shinzo Abe government is not only imposing a new inflation target on the Bank of Japan (which is legitimate), but is changing the leadership of the central bank to ensure that the BoJ adopts policies compliant with the fiscal regime. This is not just political dominance, it is fiscal dominance, where monetary policy is subordinated to the decisions of those who set budgetary policy.

There have also been some early signs of political or fiscal dominance emerging elsewhere, notably in the use of the ECB balance sheet to finance cross-border financial support operations in the eurozone, and the “coupon raid” conducted by the UK Treasury on the Bank of England. Many investors have concluded that there is now an inevitable trend in place that will overthrow central bank independence throughout the developed world, allowing politicians to expand fiscal policy, while simultaneously inflating away the burden of public debt.

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