Bank of Japan

Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you to track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit www.ft.com/nbe

Bernanke goes back to school

Ben Bernanke, Fed chairman, next week delivers the first two of four lectures to undergraduates at the George Washington University School of Business. Read more

Claire Jones

As most suspected, the Bank of Japan did little today to step up its fight against deflation.

Bar some tinkering with its special lending facilities, the BoJ kept policy on hold with the size of its asset purchase programme remaining at Y65tn.

However, there are signs that the central bank could do some proper easing in the coming months.

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Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit www.ft.com/nbe

FOMC/ BoJ votes

The Federal Open Market Committee and the Bank of Japan’s policy board both vote on Tuesday. Will either panel back a change in course?  Read more

Claire Jones

If there was ever any doubt that the Bank of Japan’s adoption of an inflation “goal” owed everything to political pressure and nothing to economic theory, then it was removed  by Masaaki Shirakawa.

The BoJ’s “goal”, announced last Tuesday, was seen by some as a sign that the central bank would step up its fight against deflation.

However, to others, the central bank’s odd take on inflation targeting always looked more like a move to appease a Diet intent on reining in the central bank’s independence than a genuine change in the BoJ’s thinking on monetary policy.

It was an impression that the BoJ governor did little to dispel in comments made late last week, which signalled that the central bank stance on deflation will be little changed. Read more

Fifteen years ago, a little-known tragedy hit the Bank of Japan. In the mid 1990s – or during the early stages of Japan’s banking crisis – BoJ officials decided to use some of the central bank’s own yen to prop up a failing finance company, in a desperate effort to paper over problems and buy time.

But the company went bust, and the money was lost, creating a hole in the BoJ balance sheet for the first time since the second world war. Haunted by shame, the senior official in charge committed suicide, in a move that has left scars on the collective psyche of central banks’ leadership that last, even today.

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Claire Jones

Central banks are nothing if not dedicated followers of fashion. Less than a month after the Federal Reserve opted for an explicit inflation target, the Bank of Japan has followed suit.

However, the BoJ’s adoption of an inflation target probably owes more to political pressure than the whims of its central bankers; unlike Ben Bernanke, BoJ governor Masaaki Shirakawa has never been a proponent of the framework.

And this perhaps explains why the BoJ has been more original than most on how it plans to target inflation.  Read more

Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit www.ft.com/nbe

Inflation Report

The Bank of England’s Inflation Report is out on Wednesday, and with it the Monetary Policy Committee’s eagerly awaited forecast for inflation. Read more

Gavyn Davies logo for central bank liquidity seriesLast week, in the first of a series of blogs on the use of the central bank printing press, I argued that the deliberate decision to increase the monetary base several fold in the US, the eurozone and the UK is an almost unprecedented event in the history of economic policy. Only in Japan, in the early 2000s, has anything like this been seen before.

In this blog, the second in the series, I ask whether this remarkable injection in central bank liquidity is destined to result in rising global inflation in coming years.

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In economic policy nowadays, the unthinkable suddenly becomes the inevitable, without pausing for long in the realm of the improbable. (See this piece in The Economist.) Nowhere has this been more true than in central banking, where the recent huge expansion in the size of balance sheets would have seemed inconceivable as recently as 4 years ago.

Markets have not only accepted this use of the printing press with equanimity, they have become increasingly dependent upon it. Most economists are also very relaxed about it, frequently describing it either as  inconsequential, or even as entirely irrelevant. But how can a policy intervention which has underwritten the liquidity of the entire western banking system be described as irrelevant?

I do not share the alarmist view that an explosion in central bank liabilities must inevitably lead to higher inflation. That basic monetarist link has already been shown to be invalid, at least over short periods, and at least when a liquidity trap is in operation. However, the recent use of central bank balance sheets has been so unusual and potentially so profound that the underlying economics deserves much more careful examination than it has been receiving lately. I intend to do this in a series of blogs in coming weeks. In this, the first in the series, I will ask how we reached the current predicament.

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Claire Jones

Our week ahead email helps you track the most important events in central banking. To see all of our emails and alerts visit www.ft.com/nbe

SNB results

Friday sees the publication of the Swiss National Bank’s preliminary results for 2011. Not usually the most headline-grabbing of events granted. But given the record loss of Sfr20.8bn for 201o and the pressure that its chairman has found himself under, it is bound to make the news on this occasion.

Will the central bank report a profit? Read more