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.
Bank set for a grilling on QE2
Bank governor Sir Mervyn King and his deputy Charlie Bean, have been called before parliament’s Treasury Select Committee on Tuesday to explain why the MPC launched a fresh round of asset purchases this month.
This from the FT’s beyondbrics blog:
The Reserve Bank of India on Friday raised its repo rate – the rate at which the central bank lends to commercial banks – by 25 basis points to 8.25 per cent. The move was widely expected by economists, though some predicted a pause after weak industrial production figures earlier this week.
India’s is the first big EM central bank to buck the recent trend of monetary loosening among emerging markets in the face of a slowing global economy.
This from the Reserve Bank of India’s statement:
This from the FT’s Rahul Jacob in New Delhi and James Fontanella-Khan in Mumbai:
India’s central bank has raised interest rates by a higher than expected 50 basis points, signalling its determination to battle persistent high inflation.
India’s central bank has upped its campaign against inflation, raising rates by half a percentage point, twice previous rate rises. This is the first half point rate rise since 2008 (see chart).
The move comes despite “signs of moderating growth” in the economy, which shows how worried the Bank is about inflation. Strong consumer demand in the country has aggravated the global issue of rising commodity prices, adding to domestic inflationary pressures. That strong demand, in turn, has probably been encouraged by relatively low rates. Indeed, according to the Bank:
…demand has been strong enough to allow significant pass-through of input price increases. Importantly, this is happening even as there are visible signs of moderating growth, particularly in capital goods production and investment spending, suggesting that cumulative monetary actions are beginning to have an impact on demand [emphasis ours]
High and rising inflation has prompted a quarter point rate rise from the Reserve Bank of India, effective immediately. The move was largely expected. Both the repo and reverse repo rates are affected, now standing at 6.75 and 5.75 per cent, respectively.
Annual inflation rose to 8.31 per cent in February, against a target of 4-4.5 per cent. “The underlying inflationary pressures have accentuated, even as risks to growth are emerging,” said the Bank in a statement. “Risks to inflation remain clearly on the upside.”
In addition to food and energy related price pressure, inflationary risks are heightened by growing demand.
Higher interest rates might be on their way in India if oil prices remain high, according to the central bank. Events in Egypt could drive up oil prices and impact monetary policy, the deputy governor has said.
“A whole set of events unfolded in the Middle East which are starting to have an impact on oil prices and that is something we didn’t anticipate at the time of making the policy announcement on January 25,” Subir Gokarn said on Sunday. “It is going to have an impact on our thinking, on our actions going forward.” Rates were raised 25bp on January 25. Mr Gokarn’s comments suggest that with hindsight the Bank might have raised them further.
India’s Reserve Bank has raised rates to tackle inflation, while extending bank liquidity measures due to expire next week. The repo and reverse repo rates stand 25bp higher at 6.5 and 5.5 per cent, respectively, while easing measures are extended to April 8.
The rate rise was prompted by recent price rises. “Inflationary tendencies are clearly visible,” said governor Duvvuri Subbarao in the statement. “Inflation is the dominant concern… the reversal in [its] direction is striking.” The strength of his words make a 25bp rate rise seem insignificant.
But given global inflationary pressures from food and fuel, India’s December figure was not so dramatic. Viewed historically, annual wholesale price rises of 8.4 per cent still fit into the downward trend seen since April of last year, when inflation was running at 11 per cent. It is too early to say whether December’s figure is the start of a sharp increase in inflation – and today’s decision should make that a little less likely.
Despite the tightening measure, the RBI also announced today that it would alter and extend easing measures
Thailand, Indonesia and India have all made bullish noises of late, suggesting they may raise rates in the near future.
Indonesia’s central bank governor said today that it remained vigilant against rising inflationary pressures, which is good to know from a bank that has been keeping at least one eye firmly on growth. Consumer price inflation rose to 6.96 per cent in the year to December, against a 2011 target of 5 per cent +/- 1 per cent. The central bank has kept rates at their post-crisis low of 6.5 per cent to drive growth via commercial loans, Reuters reports. The IMF has called on the country to raise rates, which recently cut import duties on food to try to dampen price rises.
India is expected to raise rates next Tuesday, January 25. A “vast majority” of
Liquidity measures are given their own paragraph in today’s monetary policy announcement from the Reserve Bank of India, as tempering inflation allowed the central bank to hold rates. The (temporary) end to the Bank’s rate normalisation programme was expected after the governor gave a strong hint last month.
“The extent of [liquidity] tightness has been beyond the comfort level of the Reserve Bank,” said the statement, which announced two liquidity injection measures. There has been a cash crunch in the banking sector since at least early November, when the RBI extended temporary easing measures.
The first measure, which has been used temporarily before, is to reduce the amount banks have to keep with the central bank. The statutory liquidity ratio will be permanently reduced from 25 to 24 per cent with effect from December 18. The last time this was done, one estimate equated the reduction to an additional 45,000 crore Rs ($10bn) liquidity.
The second measure