The Great Debate UK
–Darren Williams is Senior European Economist at AllianceBernstein. The opinions expressed are his own.–
Disappointing April data suggest that the European Central Bank is set to cut the refinancing rate at Thursday’s Council meeting. This is likely to have limited economic impact but could encourage expectations of more creative policy action later, helping to take some upward pressure off the euro.
At its last Council meeting in April, the ECB said it stood “ready to act” after delivering a downbeat message on the euro-area economy. Since then, most of the survey data have tended to confirm the message delivered in March: that improved figures at the turn of the year were a false dawn and that the recession is likely to extend into the second quarter. With few indications that the economy is about to emerge from its protracted slumber and inflation pressures dormant, there is now a compelling case for an easing of monetary policy.
The good news is that most ECB Council members probably agree, making a 25 basis point reduction in the refinancing rate likely at Thursday’s meeting. The bad news is that these Council members also seem to think that a rate cut won’t make much difference. Why?
It is past time for monetary policy to be doing more to support recovery. The Jackson Hole conference has come and gone, and no shortage of excuses was provided for central banks to hold their fire — even though most economists acknowledged the grim outlook for the advanced economies.
Too much attention has been paid, however, to the failings of fiscal policies and to the shortfall from effects of earlier quantitative easing. Further asset purchases by the G7 central banks are needed to check not just a downturn, but the lasting erosion of productive capacity and of debt sustainability — especially when even justified fiscal and financial consolidation is undercutting short-term recovery. Easier monetary policy will increase the odds of other policies improving, and those policies’ effectiveness when they do.
This Thursday, Turkey's new central bank governor Erdem Basci will chair his first monetary policy meeting. What can we expect from the man who is seen now as the architect of the country's novel monetary policy? Most analysts predict there will be no change this month to interest rates and banks' reserve requirement ratios. But could the bank, which shocked markets with an out-of-the-blue rate cut in December and a big further rise in short-term RRRs last month, throw another curveball?
ING Bank is among those which believes the central bank could again surprise markets this week. Using Turkish banks' net off-balance sheet currency positions as a proxy, ING analyst Sengul Dagdeviren reckons short-term capital inflows are on the rise again. Banks' net off-balance sheet FX positions had halved between Nov 5 to March 4 to just over $12 billion, as the central bank drastically widened the gap between the overnight borrowing and lending rates -- a move that discouraged short-term swap positions. But these positions have risen back over $21 billion in the month to 8 April, Dagdeviren says, noting this coincides with a 5 percent gain in the Turkish lira against the dollar.
As we’ve noted extensively, economists often get it wrong. Leaving aside their collective failure to recognise an impending global recession, you might recall a shock interest rate hike from the Bank of England in January 2007.
This was another event that almost every economist polled by Reuters failed to spot, and there are signs that four years on, economists might be setting themselves up for a similar shock.
Whenever he approaches a bend, an F1 driver has to make a fine judgment: brake too soon and he loses vital momentum, too late and he risks losing control altogether, with possibly fatal consequences.
For the past year, the MPC has been getting closer to the bend – the point at which it will have to raise interest rates – so, as each month passes without a touch on the brakes, the balance of risk changes as the danger of losing control of inflation increases.
from The Great Debate:
In 1987, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher whipped up a firestorm of criticism from her opponents on the left when she told a magazine reporter that "there is no such thing as society", only individual men and women, and families.
The interpretation of those comments remains fiercely controversial. From the context it is not certain the prime minister was clear what she was trying to say.
“Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.” – the words of a wise Roman thinker (or was it a Greek central banker?). At any rate, the gods certainly seem to have no benevolent intentions with regard to this country, judging by the statements coming from the Bank of England, in particular the calls for another round of quantitative easing from one member of the Monetary Policy Committee and the cry of “Spend, spend, spend” from another.
The view emerging from the Bank and the Monetary Policy Committee is that the country is in the grip of a slow-growth recession, facing the threat of Japanese-style deflation and a double-dip recession, and that this grim situation requires near-zero interest rates, supported by QE2 if necessary, in order to restore consumption and lending (including mortgages) to pre-crisis levels.
from The Great Debate:
-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own. --
Commodity prices exhibit a strong cyclical component -- though it can be masked when producers are carrying a lot of excess capacity.
The attached chart shows the real price of various commodity baskets (Jan 1980=100) overlaid by U.S. interest rates (discount rate, later funds target), and the business cycle (NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee).
-Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own. -
Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s speech this week was well timed insofar as it has nipped in the bud a growing fear that inflation in the UK could be lurching higher.
- Jane Foley is research director at Forex.com. The opinions expressed are her own.-
The pound has started the year on a negative note. Ongoing concerns over the budget deficit, an impending general election, the prospect that the Bank of England (BoE) may yet increase quantitative easing (QE) and a drop in consumer confidence are all clouding the outlook.