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from Breakingviews:

Just ditch forward guidance

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Central banks’ forward guidance provides modest gains with significant risks. That judgment, already common among economists, has just received an authoritative endorsement from the Bank for International Settlements. The implication is that this policy experiment should be abandoned.

Andrew Filardo and Boris Hofmann, both senior economists from the Basel-based organisation, do not draw that conclusion explicitly. Their paper summarises what has been learned about official commitments to keep policy interest rates stable for an announced period or until a key economic variable crosses an announced threshold. It has the blandness typical of quasi-official documents.

However, the facts are marshalled clearly. The large central banks which have tried to use explicit guidance to guide and calm markets have had modest and diminishing success, with some signs that financial market volatility and sensitivity actually increases when the economic news goes better than planned.

from MacroScope:

Japan-style deflation in Europe getting harder to dismiss

To most people, the idea of falling prices sounds like a good thing. But it poses serious economic and financial risks - just ask the Japanese, who only now finally have the upper hand in a 20-year battle to drag their economy out of deflation.

That front is shifting westward, to the euro zone.

Deflation tempts consumers to postpone spending and businesses to delay investment because they expect prices to be lower in the future. This slows growth and puts upward pressure on unemployment. It also increases the real debt burden of debtors, from consumers to companies to governments.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Behind the wave of market anxiety

What has caused the sudden anxiety attack that overwhelmed financial markets after the New Year? We may find out the answer at 8.30 on Friday morning, Eastern Standard Time.

Almost all agree that the market turmoil has been linked to alarming events in several emerging economies -- including Turkey, Thailand, Argentina and Ukraine -- that has spilled over into concerns about more important economies, such as China, Russia, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil.

from MacroScope:

A week before emerging-market turmoil, a prescient exchange on just how much the Fed cares

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The last seven days has been a glaring example of fallout from the cross-border carry trade. That's the sort of trade, well known in currency markets, where investors borrow funds in low-rate countries and invest them in higher-rate ones. Some $4 trillion is estimated to have flooded into emerging markets since the 2008 financial crisis to profit off the ultra accommodate policies of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Now that central banks in developed economies are looking to reverse course and eventually raise rates, that carry trade is unraveling fast, resulting in the brutal sell-off in emerging markets such as Turkey and Argentina over the last week.

The Fed's decision on Wednesday to keep cutting its stimulus effectively ignores the turmoil in such developing countries. And while the Fed may well be right not to overreact, it makes one wonder just how much attention major central banks pay to the carry trade and its global effects -- and it brings to mind a prescient exchange between some of the brightest lights of western economics, just a week before emerging markets were to run off the rails.

from MacroScope:

Shock now clearly trumps transparency in central bank policymaking

The days of guided monetary policy, telegraphed by central banks and priced in by markets in advance, are probably coming to an end if recent decisions around the world are any guide.

From Turkey, which hiked its overnight lending rate by an astonishing 425 basis points in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, to India which delivered a surprise repo rate hike a day earlier, central banks are increasingly looking to "shock and awe" markets into submission with their policy decisions.

from Breakingviews:

ECB might be the most effective big central bank

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Of the world’s three most important central banks, which one is doing the best job? Of course, it’s too early to tell - the distinguished economist Alan Blinder may now regret describing Alan Greenspan as “the greatest central banker who ever lived” in 2005. But there’s a good case that the European Central Bank under Mario Draghi deserves the prize.

from Breakingviews:

Monetary policy similarity outweighs divergence

By Edward Hadas

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The policies of the world’s major central banks are about to diverge. That matters far more to financial markets than to the real economy.

from Global Investing:

Watanabes shop for Brazilian real, Mexican peso

Are Mr and Mrs Watanabe preparing to return to emerging markets in a big way?

Mom and pop Japanese investors, collectively been dubbed the Watanabes, last month snapped up a large volume of uridashi bonds (bonds in foreign currencies marketed to small-time Japanese investors),  and sales of Brazilian real uridashi rose last month to the highest since July 2010, Barclays analysts say, citing official data.

Just to remind ourselves, the Watanabes have made a name for themselves as canny players of the interest rate arbitrage between the yen and various high-yield currencies. The real was a red-hot favourite and their frantic uridashi purchases in 2007 and 2009-2011 was partly behind Brazil's decision to slap curbs on incoming capital. Their ardour has cooled in the past two years but the trade is far from dead.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

After initial promise, Japan’s new economy risks backsliding

At a time when economic optimism is growing and stock markets are hitting new highs almost daily, it is worth asking what could go wrong for the global economy in the year or two ahead. The standard response, now that a war with Iran or a euro breakup is off the agenda, is that some kind of new financial bubble could be about to burst in the U.S. But a very different, and rather more plausible, threat is looming on the other side of the world.

Japan is the world’s third-biggest economy, with national output roughly equal to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece combined. This year, Japan has become, very unusually, a leader in terms of financial prosperity and economic growth. According to the latest IMF forecasts, Japan’s 2 percent growth rate in 2013 will be the fastest among the G7 countries, easily outpacing the next strongest economies, Canada and the U.S., each with 1.6 percent growth. Japan’s stock market has gained 70 percent since last December, far exceeding the 25 percent bull market on Wall Street, and Japan’s corporate profits are projected to increase by 17 percent, according to Consensus Economics, compared with the paltry gains of 3 to 4 percent in Germany and the U.S.

from MacroScope:

A question of liquidity

The Federal Reserve’s decision to keep printing dollars at an unchanged rate, mirrored by the Bank of Japan sticking with its massive stimulus programme, should have surprised nobody.

But markets seem marginally discomfited, interpreting the Fed’s statement as sounding a little less alarmed about the state of the U.S. recovery than some had expected and maybe hastening Taper Day. European stocks are expected to pull back from a five-year high but this is really the financial equivalent of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin”. The Fed’s message was little changed bar removing a reference to tighter financing conditions.

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