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The Bank for International Settlements’ call last month for the world’s central bankers to hurry up and raise interest rates has reignited the debate over how to explain – and tackle – the financial and economic turmoil that has persisted over the past six years. Read more
The European Central Bank has revealed the details of arguably the most important element of the package of extraordinary monetary policy measures it unveiled last month to rid the eurozone of the threat of deflation.
On Thursday, the ECB announced exactly how its targeted longer-term refinancing operation, or the TLTRO, will work. Earlier forward guidance that rates were likely to remain on hold until the end of 2016 was watered down by Mario Draghi, ECB president, possibly in the hope that this would raise the take-up of the TLTRO funds.
Mr Draghi also revealed that banks would be able to borrow up to €1trn from the central bank, should they smash targets, or benchmarks, set by the ECB. Lenders are already able to borrow an initial amount of $400bn in two auctions, scheduled for September and December. The €400bn figure corresponds to 7 per cent of their lending books to businesses and households, excluding mortgage loans. Read more
Last month, students from four continents joined forces to call for reform of the economics curriculum.
In an open letter, the students said they wanted their courses to delve into a wider range of economics theories and methodologies than the standard neo-classical model that dominates undergraduate teaching, and to learn more about the implications of policy-making.
Speaking to those students was a heartening experience – all of them struck me as extremely thoughtful and articulate. Their desire for reform seemed driven by a curiosity about the world and what economics could do to improve it.
Throughout its campaign to convince everyone that the eurozone is not about to fall into deflation, the European Central Bank has drawn a distinction between two different sorts of episodes of falling prices.
The first involves a short period during which prices fall. In its monthly bulletin, published on Thursday, the ECB tries to define it, not as deflation, but as “negative annual inflation”. In the ECB’s view, a few months of falling prices will do little long-term damage to the economy. Indeed, the eurozone has already experienced this sort of deflation in the autumn of 2009.
The more dangerous sort of deflation, which the bulletin labels “outright deflation”, can, however, cause lasting pain. If what Mr Draghi has recently dubbed a “pernicious negative spiral”, triggered by ever weaker demand, was to emerge, all hope of the currency bloc’s economy returning to health anytime soon would be shot.
So how can you tell one from the other? Read more
It’s crunch time for the European Central Bank. After more than six months of jawboning, pretty much every seasoned ECB watcher thinks the governing council is finally going to ease monetary policy on Thursday.
Disappointing growth, worryingly weak inflation, and the rise of anti-establishment parties in the European Parliamentary elections have only added to the sense that rate-setters must do something to stave off the threat of deflation and help stimulate lending in the real economy. What can we expect from the ECB and how will it work? Read more
Lithuania looks set to become the 19th member of the euro in January 2015 having met all the requirements demanded by the European Commission. Were the Baltic state to join the single currency, as is widely expected, that would trigger a big change in the way the European Central Bank’s governing council votes on monetary policy. Read more
The European Central Bank is not exactly renowned for stoking inflation. At 0.7 per cent, price pressures are now less than half its target of below but close to 2 per cent — something that the governing council has done nothing to correct over the past six months.
That did not stop Paul Krugman today telling the ECB to raise its target even higher. The Princeton professor was standing only meters away from Mario Draghi, in Sintra at an event that the eurozone’s monetary authority hopes to become its own version of the US Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole.
As hard sells go, this is right up there. Read more
Economics students from 19 countries have united to call for change in the way the subject is taught.
The students, which include members of the Post-Crash Economics Society at the University of Manchester, are from 42 groups spread across four continents.
Like the Post-Crash Economics Society, the groups are keen for universities to teach a wider range of theories and methodologies than those now on offer at most economics departments.
This from their open letter:
We are dissatisfied with the dramatic narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place over the last couple of decades. This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research.
For those who have followed the scrap between Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and his counterparts at the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve on the ill-effects of Fed tapering, Benoît Cœuré’s thoughtful speech today is worth a read.
In Mr Rajan’s view, the way the Fed conducts its monetary policy is irresponsible. The US central bank acts merely on the basis of national interest, with scant regard for the ramifications of mass dollar printing in a world where the dollar remains the dominant reserve currency.
These attacks have usually been parried with remarks that central banks such as the Fed (and, given its role as issuer of the only other real reserve currency, the ECB) have little choice but to act within the national interest given the scope of their mandates. From Mr Coeure’s boss Mario Draghi earlier this year:
Draghi: Mr Rajan is really an excellent economist. What one would have to demonstrate to speak of selfishness is the following. One would have to show that monetary policy actions within the United States, the ECB and so on were decided for reasons other than for the sake of the mandate and that, as a result, they were harmful to other countries. As I said, the priority for all of us is compliance with our mandate, which for us is maintaining price stability and for the Federal Reserve Board is the dual mandate.
Mr Cœuré’s speech is interesting as, while he does not go so far as to side with Mr Rajan, he is not so intellectually dishonest as to say that all is fine with the pre-crisis orthodoxy. In short, this said that if everyone just sticks to their inflation targeting mandate and flexible exchange rates everything will be just great. Read more
Undergraduate economics teaching has taken a (deserved) bashing since the crisis from some high-profile names in academia and officialdom. And, most importantly, the students themselves.
Among those leading the reform effort is an impressive group at the University of Manchester, the Post-Crash Economics Society. Today it has published a manifesto that is well worth a read for anyone with the slightest interest in why the discipline failed so spectacularly to spot the financial crisis.
The manifesto is all the more important as the group’s attempts to install an optional course on alternative theories on financial crises on the undergraduate syllabus were rejected earlier this month. The bashing, it appears, has not been bruising enough to trigger root-and-branch reform of the way economics is taught. Read more
One of the most important financial events of this year is the European Central Bank’s Asset Quality Review. The review is the opening act in the central bank’s health check of the eurozone’s biggest lenders, which goes by the glamorous title of the Comprehensive Assessment.
The ECB today published details of the second phase of its AQR, which will see national regulators, under the scrutiny of the ECB, scour the balance sheets of the region’s 128 biggest lenders to see what’s lurking in the darkest parts of their loan books. Unlike most earlier exercises, the exercise will focus on those murkiest of corners — what are known as lenders’ Level 3 assets.
Here’s a quick Q&A on what that entails. Read more
Forward guidance is central banking’s latest fad. Since the nadir of the crisis, all four of the major central banks have adopted their own version of it.
But is this fashion for keeps? That depends on whether the policy works.
Guidance involves saying what you’re going to do, before doing it. This, central banks hope, will temper markets’ uncertainty about what happens to interest rates.
Whether it works or not, then, depends on how much markets trust policy makers to do what they say they’re going to do. If investors think policy makers are lying, or central banks lose credibility by reneging on their pledges, then the guidance could harm reputations for a long time to come.
So does it work? According to a paper, published by the Bank for International Settlements today, it does. Well, sort of.
Yet the research also flags that if forward guidance does succeed, it could end up doing more harm than good. Read more
Mario Draghi has warned that, though unlikely, Europe’s fledgling economic recovery could be derailed by the turmoil in Ukraine.
While the direct financial and trade linkages between the European Union and Ukraine are small, the ECB president told lawmakers in Brussels yesterday that the geopolitical dimensions of the tensions could have a strength that goes beyond mere statistics on capital and current accounts.
One of the most important economic aspects of those geopolitical dimensions is the supply of Russian gas to the EU.
The EU’s reliance on Russia has dwindled over the past decade, but it still matters. The relationship still accounts for 30 per cent of all gas imported into the bloc and when Gazprom cut off Ukraine in 2009, the disruption to energy supplies hit the EU hard. And though the EU is now less reliant on receiving its gas via this route, there’s no way of Russia using the gas button against the Ukraine without it having some impact on the rest of Europe.
The popularity of this tweet by Reuters’ Jamie McGeever highlights the interest this geopolitical dimension has received:
Europe's dependency on Gazprom for its gas. It's pretty high: pic.twitter.com/VvXLZYzNx8
— Jamie McGeever (@ReutersJamie) March 4, 2014
But there are good reasons to bet against Russia turning off the gas tap, regardless of whether or not one believes relations with the EU are the direst since the Cold War. Read more
January’s eurozone inflation number, out earlier on Monday, showed price pressures in the currency bloc are not quite as subdued as first feared, registering 0.8 per cent – a touch higher than Eurostat’s initial estimate of 0.7 per cent.
It’s hardly a game changer: inflation is still less than half the 2 per cent target. But the slightly better figure will reduce pressure on the European Central Bank a little after it faced renewed calls to ease policy following the release of the flash estimate.
However, the detail of this morning’s release suggest disinflationary pressures might be even worse than feared. This excellent chart from Marchel Alexandrovich of Jefferies International shows why: Read more
European Central Bank presidents, current and former, are renowned for their fondness to “never pre-commit”. Even when the ECB opted to jump on the forward guidance bandwagon, it did so in a much more halfhearted way than its counterparts.
However, a few months ago Mario Draghi made quite a firm pledge to tell us by the end of the autumn how the ECB intended to go about producing an “account” of the governing council’s policy deliberations. Will Mr Draghi end up breaking his promise? Read more
Jackson Hole, the nearest thing on the central banking calendar to Davos, is upon us again, with some of the world’s most senior monetary officials set to head out to the upmarket Wyoming resort over the next few days.
Unlike the annual bash in the Swiss Alps, however, Jackson Hole, which kicks off on Thursday evening and closes on Saturday night, is usually a bit more than a talking shop. Of late, it has been the venue of choice for Fed chair Ben Bernanke to offer clues on where policy is heading.
But, while tapering looks like it is almost upon us, those hoping for more detail on the pace at which the US central bank will slow its asset purchases will not get it from Bernanke this weekend. Read more
1. Wednesday’s inflation report press conference has been billed as a massive day for the MPC, in particular the new governor Mark Carney. Why?
The Bank of England is set to unveil a framework for what is known in central bank parlance as forward guidance. That involves telling markets -and the public – that central bank cash will remain ultra-cheap until the economy returns to rude health.
It would be one of the most substantial changes to the UK’s monetary policy framework since the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee became independent in 1997.
It is also Carney’s big idea to lift the UK economy out of the doldrums and into what he has termed “escape velocity”. Others interpret this as a self-sustaining recovery.
However, while Carney is a fan of guidance, the rest of the MPC might take some convincing. Four of its current members, including deputy governor Charlie Bean and chief economist Spencer Dale, have spoken out against forward guidance in the past. Read more
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