For all of the incessant talk from market trading desks on how economic forecasters are hopelessly off track on just about everything, their collective thinking on the subtleties of Fed policy near a potentially historic turning point has been well worth listening to.
Sweden’s Riksbank left its negative interest rate steady at -0.35 percent on Wednesday and increased its bond purchase programme by another 65 billion crowns (just under 7 billion euros). It also said it could cut rates again if needed.
For the European Central Bank, digging deeper into quantitative easing may be the only policy option left, now that growth in bank lending to businesses is stalling again.
Swapping Frankfurt for the milder climes of the Med, ECB policy-makers meeting in the Maltese capital Valletta today are expected to keep the door open for more monetary stimulus but stop short of giving it, awaiting more evidence on the outlook for euro zone inflation. The Bank has got some outside help recently in the form of a slight rebound in oil prices, while the expected delay in the Fed’s rate hike also buys it some time. Yet the growth outlook is still poor – witness the German Finance Ministry’s overnight assessment of the impact of China’s slowdown on the euro zone’s top economy – and the euro is still a bit too strong for the ECB’s liking. December’s publication of the ECB’s staff forecasts may be the moment when the arguments for action become louder.
After months of speculation and delay, the chances the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates this year are only 60 percent, according to Goldman Sachs chief U.S. economist Jan Hatzius.
China GDP releases are starting to look like near-perfect landings each and every time, in all kinds of weather conditions and visibility.