The biggest policy decision of the year? The first U.S. interest rate rise may trump it whenever it comes and the Swiss National Bank has set the bar pretty high but an awful lot hangs on what the European Central Bank comes up with today.
The world’s major central banks have long followed the same general flight path, guided by the economic winds of growth, inflation and financial markets. It has worked pretty well for policymakers in the United States, Europe, Japan, and the United Kingdom: moving together to tighten or loosen monetary policy makes things more predictable for citizens, businesses and investors. It also serves as buffer to any volatile currency movements, at least among developed economies. But six years after the worst recession in decades, this could be the year central bankers split off and – with some risk – go their own way.
More cheap loans to banks was the European Central Bank’s answer to boost bank lending to private businesses in the euro zone. But the latest data show credit growth is still contracting and the best some economists came up with is that at least it’s not as bad as it was a year ago when it was shrinking faster.
It’s been more than two years since euro zone banks increased net lending to private businesses. And it’s been nearly half a year since the European Central Bank launched a new plan to turn that situation around.
After a stunning fall in German industrial orders for August – the 5.7 percent monthly drop was the largest since the global financial crisis raged in 2009 – industrial output for the same month has just plunged by 4.0 percent, also the biggest fall in five years.
A healthy dose of fear has re-entered financial markets in the final three months of the year. The Chicago Board Options Exchange VIX, a widely tracked measure of market volatility, rose to a two-month high on Wednesday.