spencer dale

Claire Jones

Last Friday the FT’s economics editor Chris Giles took issue with the use of “the Niesr chart”, so-called because of its frequent publication by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, to show what’s happening with the UK economy.

Chris argued that the Niesr chart, which shows that — in GDP terms — the current recession is the longest and the deepest since the 1930s, “may well be showing us irrelevant nonsense”.

Though output is now almost 4 per cent below where it was in 2008, the latest employment figures – out today – show that there are more jobs around today than before the crisis began. And this, Chris argued, meant that neither the Niesr chart nor the employment data should be used alone to illustrate what has happened to the UK economy in recent years.

External Monetary Policy Committee member Ben Broadbent has some sympathy with this view. In a speech today, Mr Broadbent argued that, because of the disparity between what the output figures and the jobs data tell us, policy makers “may be less confident than usual” about whether the origins of a change in the GDP result from a supply shock (which monetary policy can do little about) or weak demand (which monetary policy is supposed to address). 

Chris Giles

Here is a prediction. Now the Federal Reserve has moved towards publishing explicit interest rate forecasts, the Bank of England will follow suit. Moreover, it will happen sometime after June 2013.

The reason for my prediction isn’t as simple as the fact that central banks are assiduous followers of fashion, even though they are. But that the more forward-thinking officials in the Bank believe in increasing transparency and have a rather less cynical view of the British public and media than the current governor, Sir Mervyn King.

As Robin pointed out in his post on Tuesday, the Bank of England’s current forecasts have some advantages. By forecasting growth and inflation on the basis of two assumptions for monetary policy (constant policy and market expectations of interest rates), the growth and inflation forecasts are consistent with the assumptions for monetary policy. If inflation is forecast to be lower than target at a two to three year policy horizon, the implication is clearly that monetary policy is likely to loosen and vice-versa.  

Claire Jones

Spencer Dale, the Bank of England’s chief economist, was at Bloomberg’s London headquarters on Tuesday to deliver a talk that attempted to de-bunk a few myths circulating about quantitative easing.

The highlights of Mr Dale’s speech are covered here by the FT’s economics correspondent Norma Cohen.

However, there was also much that was of interest in the Q&A that followed.   

Chris Giles

At less charitable moments, I have described the Bank of England’s attitude towards “credit easing” as akin to belligerent buck-passing. By burying a 2009 agreement with government to buy private sector assets and investigate ways to increase the availability of credit to the corporate sector, the Bank was putting purity before pragmatism, I argued.

Having listened to subsequent Bank explanations of its attitude towards credit easing, it appears that the Bank is actually taking a leaf out of the book of the Bundesbank and the European Central Bank, showing it to be a true believer in Ordnungspolitik – the German concept of order and playing by the rules, which has no direct English translation, but was brilliantly explained by Ralph Atkins last year

Claire Jones

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The key event in next week’s calendar is the Federal Open Market Committee’s policy meeting, which Ben Bernanke announced at Jackson Hole would be a longer-than-usual two-day affair. 

Chris Giles

In a speech titled “MPC in the dock” this morning, Spencer Dale, Bank of England’s chief economist, provides both the best defence of the Bank of England’s monetary policy stance I have read in a long time and a much more coherent explanation of recent poor UK economic performance than the Office for Budget Responsibility in yesterday’s Budget.

The title shows the pressure the Bank finds itself in and Dale’s embrace of humility rather than the usual hubris is welcome. When Bank officials – and the governor in particular – take a leaf out of their chief economist’s book and stop saying they have nothing to learn and they have been entirely consistent, people will be much more willing to listen to their argument.

Mr Dale was clear that inflation was set in the UK and not imported, as many MPC members have recently suggested. He was honest that he probably would have voted for different monetary policy had he had better information about the coming price shocks rather than taking the absurd stance the governor took that of course he would not have done anything differently. He pointed out where the MPC was learning from its mistakes, particularly on the issue of import price pass through.

To summarise the speech Mr Dale posed four clear questions.