Central banks

By Roman Olearchyk and Lindsay Whipp

Ukraine’s economy and Kiev’s financial position were deteriorating rapidly even before the political crisis gripped the country last year. But as the interim government grapples with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, spreading separatist unrest in the east and gas bills that will almost double, Kiev is slipping closer towards financial breaking point. The government is awaiting a multibillion dollar loan International Monetary Fund and on Monday night the central bank raised key interest rates as it embarks on reform of the way it conducts its monetary policy. Read more

Emily Cadman

ECB president Mario Draghi started his monthly press conference shortly after 1.30 GMT. Earlier, as expected, the ECB left rates on hold. Follow the questions and reaction live here with capital markets editor Ralph Atkins and Emily Cadman

 

Robin Harding

For the last three years, there has been no breakfast for journalists on the opening day of Jackson Hole, while we write up a dramatic, market-moving speech by Ben Bernanke. It’s a more sedate start this year with a thoroughly wonkish paper by Stanford’s Robert Hall.

There is not much new in it on policy. It starts with a fairly straightforward rundown on why the economy got into such a mess when interest rates hit zero after the financial crisis, and it ends by agreeing with last year’s paper by Michael Woodford on what to do with monetary policy (QE doesn’t work, you need commitments about future policy, not just guidance).

The meat of Mr Hall’s paper is about why inflation did not fall much after the crisis despite high levels of unemployment. This has been a surprise during the last few years: unemployment has not driven down wages in a way that led to deflation. Read more

Hello and welcome to our live blog on the European Central Bank’s press conference. The central bank did what markets expected and kept rates on hold. But ECB president Mario Draghi might offer some clues on what’s to come from the central bank in the months ahead and investors will also be looking for any comments on whether the ECB might start publishing the minutes from its governing council meetings. Draghi is due to begin speaking at 13.30 UK time.

By Claire Jones and Lindsay Whipp

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Michael Steen

Graffiti outside the ECB's future headquarters. (Getty)

Could the European Central Bank be learning a thing or two about managing the message? Ahead of Thursday’s interest rate-setting meeting, when policymakers will want to do nothing more than say “we’re holding steady”, it looks like the bank may come up with an eye-catching announcement to give everyone something to write about.

That something is the long-running and vexed question of why the bank that loves to tell you how transparent it is (well, at certain times, once you’ve cleared security and as long as you understand no quotes should be used from this conversation) keeps the minutes of its governing council meetings secret for 30 years. The practice makes it an outlier – the Federal Reserve, Bank of England and Bank of Japan all publish minutes of their monetary policy meetings within a month of the meeting that they cover. Read more

Michael Steen

Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president, pulled off the feat of sounding incredibly doveish today while keeping rates on hold and actually making sure his room for manoeuvre remains as wide as possible. Here are five quick takeaways from the press conference following this month’s meeting: Read more

Michael Steen

Last week anti-capitalist protesters outside the European Central Bank were dominating (at least the local) news in Frankfurt, this week it was the turn of the policymakers inside the building. The ECB is keeping its rates on hold at 0.5 per cent and Mario Draghi, president, has been quizzed on where the eurozone is headed.

The ECB staff’s quarterly economic forecasts have been tweaked, so this year’s contraction is greater than previously forecast at 0.6 per cent and next year’s growth forecast creeps up to 1.1 per cent (but then a year is a long, long time in economic forecasting.)

What else have we learnt? Read more

Hello and welcome to the FT’s live blog on the European Central Bank’s rate decision and press conference. All eyes on Thursday are on the ECB and what it has left in its tool kit as gloomy data throws further doubt on the recession-bound eurozone economy.

Many economists are expecting what would largely be a symbolic cut in interest rates. The governing council’s vote is due at 12.45 (BST) and ECB President Mario Draghi will meet the press at half past one.

By Claire Jones and Lindsay Whipp. All times are UK time.

 

Robin Harding

Goldman Sachs is still the Fed’s favourite counterparty for buying and selling Treasuries – or at least it was in the first quarter of 2011. The data comes out two years in arrears and we are now at the period when $600bn of QE2 purchases were in progress.

Goldman got twice as much of that business as anybody else, which is mildly embarrassing for the New York Fed, but reflects the pecking order in the Treasury market. If you know what happened to Citi’s business during that period then please explain in comments. 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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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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Almost a year ago to the day, the European Central Bank averted financial disaster in the eurozone by offering banks an unlimited injection of cheap three-year cash. Hundreds of banks participated in the ECB’s loan programme and by March about €1tn had been pumped into the banking system via two tranches of the ECB’s longer-term refinancing operations.

The LTRO sugar hit was deemed a success, avoiding a liquidity squeeze, temporarily lifting markets and encouraging a flurry of bond issuance in January and February. But as eurozone worries resurfaced, it was Mario Draghi’s pledge in July to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro followed by the ECB’s September offer to buy up the debt of ailing governments via so-called outright monetary transactions that changed the tone of markets.

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Riad Salameh, Lebanon’s central bank governor, talks to the FT’s capital markets correspondent Robin Wigglesworth about how the unrest in Syria has affected the investor and the consumer in Lebanon.

Ingram Pinn

To understand Ben Bernanke, it helps to set aside the ubiquitous pictures of today’s 59-year-old: the controlled beard, the pristine shirts, the worn-down weary look. Instead, search for a snap of the freshly minted graduate who gazes from the pages of the 1975 Harvard yearbook. Unlike the other young men pictured alongside him, Mr Bernanke sports no tie and no blazer. He has a loud checked shirt, long hair and a tremendous, rebellious handlebar moustache.

The moustache may be gone, but the US Federal Reserve chairman remains a rebel – and the world is better off for it. The Financial Times has already crowned its man of the year: Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president. But my pick for silver medal is Mr Bernanke. The fact that he is sometimes pilloried only underlines his fortitude. Read more

Claire Jones

IMF data to include Australian dollars. Getty

It is often forgotten that central banks are major players in global capital markets. At the last count, monetary authorities held reserves worth $10.5tn, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Most of this stockpile is thought to be invested in “safe” assets, such as government bonds of highly-rated sovereigns and gold. But, while some of the more open monetary authorities, such as the Swiss National Bank, provide some information about the currency composition of their reserves and asset allocation, most of the big reserves holders, located in Asia, don’t.

Not a lot is known about what’s held in central banks’ coffers. This matters because changes in central bank reserve managers’ behaviour can endanger financial stabilityRead more

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

BoJ easing

The Bank of Japan looks set to ease policy next Tuesday, with most expecting a ¥10trn expansion of its quantitative easing programme, which will take the size of the programme to ¥90trn. Read more

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

The Federal Open Market Committee meets on Tuesday to set monetary policy for the coming month and a half. The committee votes on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s the FT’s US economics editor Robin Harding on what to expect: Read more

Michael Steen

According to the Maradona theory of monetary policy, as outlined by Sir Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, a central bank can let expectations that it will act – rather than actual action – do the work for it.

The theory is being tested right now by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, as his controversial “outright monetary transactions” bond-buying programme is forced to sit on the benches until the prime candidate for help, Spain, applies to the EU’s bailout fund.

As a quick reminder, the Maradona theory refers to the 1986 World Cup quarter final between England and Argentina. Diego Maradona scored a celebrated goal with a run from near the halfway line in which he beat five England players by, er, running in a straight line. Read more

Michael Steen

The dust has yet to settle on the Bundesbank’s fight with the ECB over bond-buying, but this has not stopped Germany’s central bank from taking on another heavyweight global financial institution: the International Monetary Fund.

BuBa’s monthly report, published on Monday, includes a whole chapter entitled: “The IMF in a changed global environment.” It becomes clear fairly quickly that eyebrows are being raised in Frankfurt at some elements of the IMF’s stance in the eurozone sovereign debt crisis, where the Fund has taken on its own lending and acted as a member of the “troika” of IMF, ECB and European Commission officials advising on bailouts.

“By taking on excessive risks, the IMF would gradually transform from a liquidity-providing mechanism into a lending institution,” the bank says on the first page of its 15-page discussion. “Such a transformation would neither accord with the legal and institutional provisions of the IMF agreement, nor with the fund’s financing mechanism or its risk control functions.” Read more

Michael Steen

There is, in these troubled days for the eurozone, arguably a hint of Ozymandias-in-reverse about the enormous new €1bn headquarters that the ECB is building for itself on the eastern edge of Frankfurt.

The risk is not so much that a traveller will one day find “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” in a desert, but rather a vast and shiny glass-and-steel tower block near the river Main with no one in it. At least that might be the suspicion of those who think the euro may not last long enough to see the moving vans arrive from the centre of town in 2014, where the ECB now has its offices. Read more