Data isn’t as objective as the Fed might have you believe

April 28, 2015

SFFedTshirt.jpgFed officials say they will be “data-dependent” when it comes to making monetary policy. San Francisco Fed President John Williams feels so strongly about it, he’s even printed up a T-shirt to get that message across. But truth be told, data-dependency is not as objective as it sounds. Data doesn’t dictate policy; it’s the interpretation of data that’s key. What is rate-hike-worthy data to one policymaker is keep-the-pedal-to-the-metal data for another. Take, for instance, U.S. GDP growth. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker says he expects GDP growth to average 2 percent to 2.5 percent this year, a pace that would justify a Fed rate hike in June. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans expects 3 percent growth this year, and does not believe even that would justify a rate hike until the first half of 2016. So what does it tell you about monetary policy if you see GDP growth of 2.5 percent? Not a whole lot, judging from these two. And the statements of other Fed officials are hardly more helpful. Indeed, as Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said recently, “I don’t think it is advisable to approach such a decision with rigid quantitative triggers in mind.” Watch the data, sure. But don’t assume the data will tell you much about the exact timing of the rate hike. Monetary policy – it’s subjective. Maybe some policymaker will print that on a T-shirt.

BOC to hold this year? Probably not say nearly half the primary dealers

April 15, 2015

Bank of Canada Governor Poloz speaks during a Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce event in central LondonThe Bank of Canada will almost certainly hold policy steady on Wednesday but nearly half of the banks who do business directly with it predict at least one more rate cut this year.

Surprise monetary policy moves may become new norm in India

April 14, 2015

File photo of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan during a news conference in Mumbai

For all the measures India’s central bank has taken to increase transparency in policy making, predicting rate moves by Governor Raghuram Rajan is still difficult.

Prescient Yellen saw limits of zero Fed interest rates back in 2009

March 4, 2015

yellen.jpgDespite the Federal Reserve’s trillions of dollars in newly printed money, workers’ wages and overall U.S. inflation have failed to take off since the recession. Longer-term borrowing costs, from 10-year Treasury yields to 30-year home mortgages, have also compressed without any real signs of reversing. While this has perplexed many economists, transcripts of the U.S. central bank’s crisis-fighting meetings in 2009 show that Janet Yellen, then the head of the San Francisco Fed, was prescient in warning colleagues of these very problems.

The more things change: Fed wrestled with same policy “exit” issues in 2009

March 4, 2015

bernanke2009.jpgThe Federal Reserve faces two big challenges in the months and years ahead: how to finally “liftoff” after more than six years of rock bottom interest rates, and how to begin drawing down its $4.5-trillion balance sheet after three massive rounds of bond purchases. But, it turns out, those questions were being raised at the U.S. central bank as far back as 2009.

Brazil’s shock therapy against inflation

March 3, 2015

Brazil's Central Bank President Alexandre Tombini reacts during the first ministerial meeting in Brasilia

Brazil’s central bank’s two-day policy meeting kicks off later on Tuesday with all bets placed on a fourth straight interest rate increase, despite growing consensus that the country is headed for its worst economic recession in 25 years.

Major central banks set to go their own way, with some risk

January 9, 2015
Real interest rates of world's major central banks

Real interest rates of world’s major central banks

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.

Bank of England Minutes give rate debate another twist

June 19, 2014

 

carney.jpgSpeculation about when the Bank of England hikes interest rates took a new twist on Wednesday after minutes from the June policy meeting struck a less hawkish tone than the Governor did in a speech late last week.