Are the world’s top central bankers too paranoid about inflation? As the United States struggles to sustain a weak recovery while the euro zone and Japan face outright contractions in output, a number of economists have called for the monetary authorities to be less dogmatic about adhering tightly to low inflation targets.
Most prominently, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard has argued the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target is too low given the severity of the loss of employment and growth that followed the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Kenneth Rogoff, co-author of an oft-cited study of economic downturns following financial crises called “This Time is Different,” has also championed greater inflation tolerance.
The U.S. jobless rate, currently at 7.7 percent, remains elevated by historical standards. But it has fallen sharply from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009. However, that decline could soon grind to a halt, according to a recent paper from the San Francisco Federal Reserve.
Its authors argue that, because the slow but steady decline in the jobless rate has been in part due to slippage in the labor participation rate that is more a product of the business cycle than long-run demographic trends, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics presumes.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke to reporters for well over an hour at his quarterly press conference this week, but he was vague on the most important question of monetary policy today: what exactly would it take for the central bank to either ramp up or curtail the pace of monthly asset purchases? Since bond buys have effectively replaced interest rates as the dominant tool of Fed policy in recent years, the central bank’s new thresholds, which reference only rates, are not particularly useful.
After all, in the original threshold plan as crafted by its inventor, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, the Fed would offer a jobless rate trigger for quantitative easing itself.
Updates with Fed decision
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took the unprecedented step of tying its low rate policy directly to unemployment, saying it will keep rates near rock bottom until the jobless rate falls to 6.5 percent. That’s as long as inflation, the other key parameter of policy, does not exceed 2.5 percent.
Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, however, said in a research note published ahead of the decision that the shift may not be very effective.
It’s a curious pattern being repeated around the industrialized world. Governments are trying frantically to tighten their belts even as the monetary authorities loosen their purse strings. This week in the United States is a perfect example: the Fed looks set to extend its bond purchase program even as Washington fails to reach an agreement to avoid the dreaded “fiscal cliff.”
It’s the sort of dissonant policy that is unlikely to yield very constructive results at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling to achieve a meager 2 percent growth rate.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve is expected to announce a fresh round of bond buying on Wednesday as part of its efforts to support a fragile economic recovery threatened by political wrangling over the government’s budget.
The central bank looks certain both to extend its purchases of mortgage-backed debt and replace another expiring stimulus program with a new bout of money creation.
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 11 (Reuters) – Argentina’s soy crushers
are running low on beans, causing plants to suspend operations
and worry about losing clients, as a December-January drought
has slowed supply of raw soybeans to a trickle.
For Argentina, the world’s top soyoil and soymeal exporter,
the next bean harvest is at least three months away. The
processing plants that line the Parana River at the Rosario
grain hub are set to end 2012 working at 68 percent capacity,
down from 75 percent the year before.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The contrast could not be sharper: Economists are all but certain the U.S. Federal Reserve will expand its monetary stimulus this week, but they have no clue how the fiscal battle in Congress will shake out.
U.S. central bankers look set to extend their monetary stimulus, known as Quantitative Easing, into the new year at a meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday. Analysts expect the Fed to continue buying $85 billion worth of securities per month.
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – An Argentine civil court handed a victory to Clarin media group on Thursday by granting a request by the conglomerate to delay application of a law calling for it to dismantle part of its broadcasting empire.
The order came one day ahead of a deadline by which Clarin was ordered to submit a plan for selling off dozens of operating licenses or risk having them auctioned by the state instead.
Who hasn’t heard of Paul Krugman these days? The Nobel-winning Princeton economist and New York Times columnist has emerged as a key voice in American liberalism, and is berated by the right for his support of heavy fiscal stimulus, higher inflation and a strong social safety net.
Which makes the views espoused in a 1997 missive entitled “In Praise of Cheap Labor” rather surprising. In the article, the economist attacks opponents of globalization for their soft-hearted distaste for inhumane labor conditions in developing countries.