By Bilal Hafeez 19-09-2019
In: top-picks, Other

Top Picks: Monetary Policy & Inflation


19th October

Negative interest rates might be actually a good thing after all. Recent work by San Fran Fed shows they have stimulated economies.

The Cash Hoarding Puzzle and the Rising Global Demand for Cash (VOX) Demand for cash has been rising, despite the increased access to cashless payments.Finds monetary easing and aging population as main incentives for cash hoarding.

The Ownership of Central Banks (Bank Underground) Looks at the impact of public vs private ownership of Central Banks globally and finds that it makes little difference if the overarching aims are clear. Most, such as the BoE are wholly owned by the public sector, but in the US, Japan and Switzerland, there is a private shareholding.

Yield Curve Responses to Introducing Negative Policy Rates (San Francisco Fed) Studies the experience of five countries that introduced negative interest rates to see their impact on the economy. Finds that negative rates are effective in lowering yields of all maturities and effectively shifts the whole yield curve downwards, offering effective stimulus.

12th October

Worries are emerging around the nearing end of the cycle – and the possibility that the usual tools won’t work to revive it. More and more academic work is exploring unconventional policy and offers some comfort that it’s likely to work while policy-makers keep pushing for more easing.

Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Why the Answer to the Inflation Puzzle Matters (Brookings) Janet Yellen explains persistent low inflation and a flattened Philips Curve. She sees plenty of room for stimulating the economy and stoking wage gains without significant inflation.

Emergency Liquidity Injections (Reserve Bank of Australia) Compares the effectiveness of different methods of emergency liquidity injections in the banking system. Secured lending via repo seems best since it curbs fire sales and reduces incentive for liquidity risk-taking. Asset purchases aren’t as effective since banks aren’t required to commit future income as collateral.

Unconventional Monetary Policy Tools: A Cross-Country Analysis (BIS) Offers evidence that supports the use of unconventional monetary policy (negative rates, asset purchase programmes, forward guidance) in dealing with a downturn. Side effects such as overdependence on Central Bank funding and compressed rate margins are likely.

4th October

Everyone is worried about the structural challenges facing the Eurozone – it might be the eventual loser from the trade war. The US continues to face the “reserve currency curse” – the trade war could just be a mechanism to lose such status. It might just prove best to be a small economy, steer away from controversy and enjoy control over your policymaking.

Mario Draghi: Stabilisation Policies in a Monetary Union (BIS) Mario Draghi discusses whether the eurozone has increased its ability to stabilise macroeconomic shocks given that crisis has lasted in the region much longer than in other developed regions. The key matters are stabilisation across countries and stabilisation over the cycle.

Are Europe’s Economic Prospects Brighter Than They Appear?(Project Syndicate) Europe is the real loser from the US-China trade wars. The region is still extremely vulnerable to collateral damage, it always has the wrong policy response and is torn by internal political shocks (think Italy). Long-term prospects are brighter, however, driven by aggressive easing.

Nixon Shock, the Reserve Currency Curse, and a Pending Dollar Crisis(Mish Talk) The trade wars are just a hidden mechanism for the US to get rid of the “reserve currency curse”. No one seems to want to hold the World’s reserve currency and are working hard to ensure it stays that way. The EU and Japan have negative rates, China does not float the Yuan but props up corrupt SOEs, and Germany punishes the rest of the EU.

The Curse of Size (Econlib) Size matters – smaller countries have the choice to devalue their currency or go into negative rate territory without much attention and are free to control inflation. Argues that he creation of the euro made the world more susceptible to deflationary traps.

Unconventional Monetary Policy Operations: The Upside for Central Bank Balance Sheet Risks (Orduna, Schwaab) Finds that in exceptional circumstances, a central bank can remove illiquidity-related credit risk from parts of its balance sheet by extending the scale of its operations.

28th September

Threats to Central Bank Independence: High-Frequency Identification with Twitter (Bianchi, Kung, Kind) Academic paper finds that Trump tweets demanding the Fed cut rates does impact market pricing. Cumulatively, his tweets have lowered market expectations of Fed policy rate by 10bps.

Consumers Price Beliefs, Central Bank Communication, and Inflation Dynamics (Bank of Japan) Argues that prolonged periods of low inflation make the central bank’s inflation target less relevant for consumers. Instead, targeting price level (rather than the change in prices – inflation) would have more impact.

Credit Easing Versus Quantitative Easing: Evidence from Corporate and Government Bond Purchase Programs (Bank of England) BoE finds that buying corporate bonds was more effective than QE in reducing credit spreads, especially for higher-rated bonds.

Zero Lower Bound Risk according to Option Prices (San Fran Fed) Fed uses option prices and finds market has 24% probability that Fed policy rates will hit lower bound by end-2021.

New Weapons for the ECB (Project Syndicate) Former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, argues that the ECB’s current toolkit will only lead to further right-wing populism as economic stagnation continues. Instead, he argues for the creation of “ECB conversion bonds” which effectively converts up to 60% of a country’s debt to low yielding bonds at ECB rates. This would allow for fiscal stimulus. Instead, he argues for the creation of “ECB conversion bonds” which effectively converts up to 60% of a country’s debt to low yielding bonds at ECB rates. This would allow for fiscal stimulus.

20th September

There’s so much criticism of monetary policy these days – much of it justified. One of the toughest criticisms is that it is leading to more monopolies. Aside from this, there is a role for more macro-pru policy and changes in the goals of policy.

Jerome Powell’s Dilemma (Project Syndicate) Top economists Carmen and Vincent argue that Powell is helping Trump get re-elected by neutralising the negative impacts of Trump’s trade policy.

Macroprudential Policy Could Have Reduced Imbalances in The Euro Area (VOX) Academics argue that country-specific macropru policy, such as adjusting LTV values for mortgages, are more affective in reducing Euro imbalances rather than ECB policy.

Could Ultra-Low Interest Rates Be Contractionary? (Project Syndicate) House of Debt authors Mian and Sufi and Princeton Prof Ernest Liu argue that big companies disportionately benefit from low rates and drive out competition. This reduces productivity and growth.

Hitting the Elusive Inflation Target (Chicago Fed) Argues that part of US’ inflation undershoot has been due to its symmetric inflation target. Allowing inflation overshoots is instead a better approach.

13th September

What Happens if Trump Tries to Fire Fed Chair Jerome Powell? (Brookings) It’s a bit more complicated than you think. Essentially, Trump would need cause (“inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.) to remove him. Powell could sue if he felt it was unfair.

Did Dudley Do Right? (Project Syndicate) Prof Barry Eichengreen makes the case for the Fed and other central banks to make public their concerns about the policies of the government.

SNB – Between A Rock and a Hard Place (Pictet) Argues for more Swiss FX intervention to keep CHF weak, rather than rate cuts.

6th September

Central Banking’s Bankrupt Narrative (Project Syndicate, 4 min read) Prof Roger Farmer argues that aside from monetary policy not working, fiscal policy will also be ineffective. Instead, he argues that recessions are caused by asset market crashes and so policy should focus on that.

Estimating the economic impact of a wealth tax (Brookings, 3 min read) Makes the case for a wealth tax on the top 0.1% of Americans (see chart). Argues that it is more likely to work compared to other attempts in Europe which had a broader target. This is gathering support from various Democrat Presidential candidate.

Negative Interest Rates and Inflation Expectations in Japan (San Fran Fed, 8 min read) They find that inflation expectations actually fell after the BoJ introduced negative rates in 2016. They warn against cutting rates below zero.

Do Monetary Policy Announcements Shift Household Expectations? (Dallas Fed, working paper) They find Fed policy rate move surprises DO impact households’ economic confidence, but surprises on forward guidance and QE DO NOT. This questions the efficacy of unconventional policy.

ECB corporate QE and the loan supply to bank-dependent firms (ECB, working paper) – The central bank finds that corporate QE did increase bank lending. This suggests the ECB will restart such programmes soon.