The most newsy point from NY Fed president William Dudley’s speech today was his call for a change in exit strategy, urging the central bank to reinvest in its mortgage portfolio. But there was a lot more going on in the speech: Mr Dudley put a dovish spin on the Fed’s inflation target. He said bank regulation may be driving down neutral interest rates, and he put markets on notice that how they price bonds will decide how the Fed changes interest rates.
(1) Inflation is coming
Mr Dudley’s tone on inflation was different to the isn’t-it-worringly-low type of remarks that Fed officials have tended to make recently. Instead, he expects inflation to head upwards, and seemed to be testing arguments for why Fed policy should not react.
“With respect to the outlook for prices, I think that inflation will drift upwards over the next year, getting closer to the FOMC’s 2 percent objective for the personal consumption expenditure deflator . . . That said, I see little prospect of inflation climbing sharply over the next year or two. There still are considerable margins of excess capacity available in the economy—especially in the labor market—that should moderate price pressures.”
Mark Carney, the incoming governor of the Bank of England, was grilled by MPs and his ECB counterpart Mario Draghi faced awkward questions. By Tom Burgis, Ben Fenton and Lina Saigol in London with contributions from FT correspondents. All times are GMT.
Officials I have spoken to since venting my anger at the raid on the government’s quantitative easing surplus have struck a decidedly disappointed tone. It was a shame I didn’t understand that there was no trickery involved; it was a pity I could not see that the move was standard practice in public sector liability management; and it was sad I had questioned whether the the Treasury’s move, which itself eased monetary conditions, undermined the Bank of England’s operational independence to set monetary policy.
While I have convinced a sizable majority of readers, I note that some people are swallowing these lines without much challenge. Here I will deal with trickery and liability management. In the next post, I will turn to monetary policy. Simon Ward of Henderson Global Investors is the latest to say that anything other than treating temporary profits from QE as government revenue “would be out-of-line with the treatment of other future government liabilities”.
After the surprise news today that annual inflation fell to a two-and-a-half year low of 2.8 per cent in May, analysts now increasingly expect the Monetary Policy Committee to announce more quantitative easing on 5 July.
Following Sir Mervyn’s Mansion House address last Thursday, it has largely been a case of when — not if — the MPC would plump for more money printing. But before today’s inflation number, analysts were split on whether more QE would come in July, or in August.
Now, the majority expect further asset purchases to come sooner rather than later. Here’s what economists are saying:
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Hopes for joint central bank action mounted on Friday ahead of Sunday’s Greek election. Will the central banks deliver?
Adam Posen’s brief flirtation with the Monetary Policy Committee majority is well and truly over.
At the MPC’s April and May votes, Mr Posen left David Miles as the only member voting for more quantitative easing.
That is unlikely to be the case at next month’s vote, however. In a speech delivered this afternoon, Mr Posen not only calls for more money printing, but also for the Bank to spend the cash on assets other than gilts – an idea that the governor and other Bank staffers have fiercely objected to on the grounds that it would hinder Threadneedle Street’s independence.
Elements of the argument are not new — Mr Posen in September called for the Bank to branch out from buying gilts and do more to spur lending to smaller businesses. Again, he is dismissive of the view that doing more impacts a central bank’s credibility.
But there are also significant differences in today’s speech from what Mr Posen had to say in the autumn.
Vincent Reinhart of Morgan Stanley has a fascinating note out today which reverse engineers US forecasts from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook to answer questions about headwinds to demand, the effectiveness of unconventional Fed policy and the potential growth rate.
His chart on the effectiveness of Fed policy is particularly neat. Essentially, he plots annual long-term real interest rates against short-term real interest rates for the years from 1980 to 2007, draws a regression line, and then adds on dots for 2008 to 2011.
Commuters pass the Bank of England. Image by Getty
As expected, the Bank of England today kept interest rates on hold at 0.5% and opted not to print more money.
Analysts’ attention has long focussed on the Monetary Policy Committee’s May meeting; it was always more likely to hold off on plumping for more quantitative easing until then. However, its far from certain whether the MPC will opt for further asset purchases on 10 May.
Here are a few of the factors that are likely to sway the MPC’s decision on whether it adds its the £325bn-worth of asset purchases.