Category Archives: ECB monetary policy

15/4/17: Unconventional monetary policies: a warning

Just as the Fed (and now with some grumbling on the horizon, possibly soon, ECB) tightens the rates, the legacy of the monetary adventurism that swept across both advanced and developing economies since 2007-2008 remains a towering rock, hard to climb, impossible to shift.

Back in July last year, Claudio Borio, of the BIS, with a co-author Anna Zabai authored a paper titled “Unconventional monetary policies: a re-appraisal” that attempts to gauge at least one slope of the monetarist mountain.

In it, the authors “explore the effectiveness and balance of benefits and costs of so-called “unconventional” monetary policy measures extensively implemented in the wake of the financial crisis: balance sheet policies (commonly termed “quantitative easing”), forward guidance and negative policy rates”.

The authors reach three main conclusions:

  1. “there is ample evidence that, to varying degrees, these measures have succeeded in influencing financial conditions even though their ultimate impact on output and inflation is harder to pin down”. Which is sort of like telling a patient that instead of a cataract surgery he got a lobotomy, but now that he is awake and out of the coma, everything is fine. Why? Because the monetary policy was not supposed to trigger financial conditions improvements. It was supposed to deploy such improvements in order to secure real economic gains.
  2. “the balance of the benefits and costs is likely to deteriorate over time”. Which means that the full cost of the monetary adventurism will be greater that the currently visible distortions suggest. And it will be long run.
  3. “the measures are generally best regarded as exceptional, for use in very specific circumstances. Whether this will turn out to be the case, however, is doubtful at best and depends on more fundamental features of monetary policy frameworks”. Wait, what? Ah, here it is explained somewhat better: “They were supposed to be exceptional and temporary – hence the term “unconventional”. They risk becoming standard and permanent, as the boundaries of the unconventional are stretched day after day.”

You can see the permanence emerging in the trends (either continuously expanding or flat) when it comes to simply looking at the Central Banks’ balance sheets:

And the trend in terms of instrumentation:

The above two charts and the rest of Borio-Zabai analysis simply paints a picture of a sugar addicted kid who locked himself in a candy store. Good luck depriving him of that ‘just the last one, honest, ma!’ candy…

11/4/17: Euro Area Growth Conditions Remain Robust in 1Q 17

Eurocoin, Banca d'Italia and CEPR's leading indicator of economic growth in the euro area has slipped in March to 0.72 from 0.75 in February, with indicator remaining at its second highest reading since 2Q 2010.

Combined 1Q 2017 growth indictor is now signalling approximately 0.7% quarterly GDP growth rates, carrying the breakout momentum from previous quarters (see chart above). This brings most recent growth forecast over the 2001-2007 average.

From growth dynamics perspective, the pressure is now on ECB to start tightening monetary policy:

Inflationary pressures are still relatively moderate, but rising:

18/2/16: Europe’s Problem is Not Germany…

CES-Ifo just released their survey results for the regular poll of some 220 German economists. And if you think that professionals are at any odds with Schäuble on monetary policy of the ECB, think again.

Which, of course, is absolutely correct. For German economy, ECB's policy is too loose. For French economy, about right. For Italy and Spain - probably somewhat too restrictive, although who on Earth can tell with any degree of confidence what 'about right' policy for these two can even look like...

Still, the key point remains: Euro is still a malfunctioning currency that cannot reconcile differences between various economies. In other words, Europe's problem is not Germany. It is not France, nor Spain, nor Italy. Europe's problem is not even Euro. Instead, Europe's problem is Europe.

17/7/15: ECB Rate Decision & Monetary Conditions in the Euro Area

Yesterday, ECB left unchanged their key policy rates. Updating my central banks' policy charts,

First, current policy rates for major advanced economies:

Next: duration and magnitude of rates overshooting (target range set outside mean (pre-crisis period, Euro coverage) +/-1/2 STDEV)

We are now into 80th consecutive month of interest rates statistically outside the mean range, with magnitude of deviation of some 3.05% down on the mean. This implies mean-reversion (increase in the rates) of between 2.70-3.4%.

Meanwhile, 12 mo Euribor margin over policy rates is up to 0.119% in Jul (to-date) compared to 0.113% in June. Corporate rates for new loans (>1mln Euro and 1-5 years duration) margin over ECB rate was up at 2.28% in May compared to 2.03% in April. May was the month when direction of Euribor margin diverged from direction of corporate loans margin, implying increase in banks margins.

Overall, the above shows that pressure on rates reversion to the mean is building up, while banks margins were improving (though we only have data through May on this). Nonetheless, banks margins are down on 2012-2014 averages, implying that more of the costs of any mean reversion in policy rates under current conditions will have to be absorbed by the borrowers.

Good thing, ECB is in no rush to get ahead on rates increases, yet…