It has been observed that since the start of the Global Crisis, central banks in most advanced economies have become more powerful and political, but they have not become more accountable. This column discusses why central bank independence matters, and looks at whether it has changed since the crisis.
Jakob de Haan, Sylvester Eijffinger, 27 January 2017
Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 17 May 2016
Quantitative easing is called ‘unconventional monetary policy’, but monetary policy could get much more ‘unconventional’. Things like ‘helicopter money’, abolishing currency and negative nominal interest rates have entered the public policy debate. This column reports the views of leading experts on the future role of unconventional monetary policy, and what might be called ‘unconventional unconventional monetary policies’. Opinions are divided. There is a healthy dose of scepticism on the effectiveness of current and future policies, but also many respondents express urgency that central banks should have more policy tools to affect inflation and real activity when the need arises. Ultimately, the experts’ hesitations match those of central banks.
Arvind Subramanian, 15 June 2015
There is a lot of discussion of the right course of monetary policy for India. In this column, India’s Chief Economic Adviser argues that the country’s real policy interest rates have diverged significantly for consumers and producers, and are unusually high for the latter. The real rate is 2.4% based on the consumer price index, but 7.5% based on the GDP deflator. There is a clear need for more consideration of the appropriate measure of restrictiveness in these unusual times.
Pierpaolo Benigno, Salvatore Nisticò, 15 June 2015
In the aftermath of the Global Crisis, many central banks have engaged in unconventional purchases of risky securities. Such operations can entail possible losses on their balance sheets. This column argues that neutrality of open-market operations holds only in specific policy regimes, such as when central banks’ losses are covered by taxes levied on the public sector. In absence of such support, losses should be resolved through a prolonged increase in inflation.
Martin Weale, Tomasz Wieladek, 15 March 2015
We examine the impact of large scale asset purchase announcements of government bonds on real GDP and the CPI in the United Kingdom and the United States with a Bayesian VAR, estimated on monthly data from 2009M3 to 2014M5. We identify an asset purchase announcement shock with four different identification schemes, always leaving the reactions of real GDP and CPI unrestricted, to test whether these variables react to asset purchases. We then explore the transmission channels of this policy. The results suggest that an asset purchase announcement of 1% of GDP leads to a statistically significant rise of .58% (.25%) and .62% (.32%) rise in real GDP and CPI for the US (UK). In the US, this policy is transmitted through the portfolio balance channel and a reduction in household uncertainty. In the UK, the policy seems to be mainly transmitted through the impact on investors’ risk appetite and household uncertainty.
Wouter den Haan, 23 December 2014
Macroecomics has changed in a number of ways since the global crisis. For example, there is now more emphasis on modeling the financial sector, self-fulfilling panics, herd behaviour and the new role of demand. This Vox Talk discusses these changes as well as those areas in macroeconomics that are currently perhaps not researched enough. Wouter den Haan explains the inadequacy of the conventional 'rational expectations' approach, quantitative easing, endogenous risk and deleveraging and refers to current CEPR research that reflects the changes. He concludes by reminding us that the 'baby boomers' issue could be the basis of the next crisis.
Jean-Pierre Landau, 02 December 2014
Eurozone inflation has been persistently declining for almost a year, and constantly undershooting forecasts. Building on existing research, this column explores the conjecture that low inflation in the Eurozone results from an excess demand for safe assets. If true, this conjecture would have definite policy implications. Getting out of such a ‘safety trap’ would necessitate fiscal or non-conventional monetary policies tailored to temporarily take risk away from private balance sheets.
Luis Garicano, Lucrezia Reichlin, 14 November 2014
The ECB seems to be edging towards QE, but faces a quandary on what to buy. This proposal suggests that the ECB buy ‘Safe Market Bonds’. These would be synthetic bonds formed by the senior tranches of EZ national bonds combined in GDP-weighted proportions. The ECB would merely announce the features of the synthetic bonds it will purchase. The market would create the bonds in response to this announcement, thus avoiding new EZ-level institutions or funds.
Jagjit Chadha, 02 November 2014
The impact of the stock and maturity of government debt on longer-term bond yields matters for monetary policy. This column assesses the magnitude and relative importance of overall bond supply and maturity effects on longer-term US Treasury interest rates using data from 1976 to 2008. Both factors have a significant impact on both forwards and term premia, but maturity of public debt appears to matter more. The results have implications for exit from unconventional policies, and also for the links between monetary and fiscal policy and debt management.
David Miles, 22 October 2014
Many central banks embrace forward guidance by announcing expected interest rate paths. But how likely it is that actual rates will be close to expected ones? This column argues that quantifying such uncertainty poses great difficulties. Precise probability statements in a world of uncertainty (not just risk) can be misleading. It might be better to rely on qualitative guidance such as: “Interest rate rises will probably be gradual and likely to be to a level below the old normal”.
Olivier Blanchard, 03 October 2014
Before the 2008 crisis, the mainstream worldview among US macroeconomists was that economic fluctuations were regular and essentially self-correcting. In this column, IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard explains how this benign view of fluctuations took hold in the profession, and what lessons have been learned since the crisis. He argues that macroeconomic policy should aim to keep the economy away from ‘dark corners’, where it can malfunction badly.
Charles Wyplosz, 12 September 2014
Last week, the ECB announced that it would begin purchasing securities backed by bank lending to households and firms. Whereas markets and the media have generally greeted this announcement with enthusiasm, this column identifies reasons for caution. Other central banks’ quantitative easing programmes have involved purchasing fixed amounts of securities according to a published schedule. In contrast, the ECB’s new policy is demand-driven, and will only be effective if it breaks the vicious circle of recession and negative credit growth.
Karl Walentin, 11 September 2014
Central banks have resorted to various unconventional monetary policy tools since the onset of the Global Crisis. This column focuses on the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of mortgage-backed securities – in particular, through reducing the ‘mortgage spread’ between interest rates on mortgages and government bonds at a given maturity. Although large-scale asset purchases are found to have substantial macroeconomic effects, they may not necessarily be the best policy tool at the zero lower bound.
Marcus Miller, Lei Zhang, 10 September 2014
During the Great Moderation, inflation targeting with some form of Taylor rule became the norm at central banks. This column argues that the Global Crisis called for a new approach, and that the divergence in macroeconomic performance since then between the US and the UK on the one hand, and the Eurozone on the other, is partly attributable to monetary policy differences. The ECB’s model of the economy worked well during the Great Moderation, but is ill suited to understanding the Great Recession.
Richard Barwell, Jagjit Chadha, 31 August 2014
In the wake of the crisis, forward guidance has become a prominent tool of monetary policy. This column argues that central banks should go a step further, communicating to the public the internal policy debate that goes into monetary policy formation – especially regarding uncertainty. Since policy is determined contingent on a range of possible outcomes, forward guidance would become more effective by explicitly communicating how policy would respond along this uncertain path.
Kaoru Hosono, Daisuke Miyakawa, 09 August 2014
In the wake of the Global Crisis, several central banks have adopted unconventional monetary policies. This column presents new evidence from Japan on the transmission of monetary policy through banks’ balance sheets. Overall, the evidence suggests that bank net worth affects loan supply, that the effect depends on monetary policy and economic growth, and that this bank balance sheet channel has a significant impact on firms’ financing and investment. Exiting from unconventional monetary policies when bank balance sheets are weak could thus have a severe adverse impact on investment.
Martin Weale, Tomasz Wieladek, 10 June 2014
After reducing their policy rates close to zero in response to the global financial crisis, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve began purchasing assets. This column assesses the effect of these asset purchases on output and inflation. In line with previous studies, the authors find that asset purchase announcements are associated with increases in both output and inflation in both countries. They also find that quantitative easing had a larger impact on UK inflation, which suggests that the UK Phillips curve is steeper.
Andrew Burns, Mizudo Kida, Jamus Lim, Sanket Mohapatra, Marc Stocker, 21 January 2014
The Federal Reserve has begun to ‘taper’ its programme of quantitative easing. The ‘taper tantrum’ that followed the announcement of tapering in May 2013 suggests that the normalisation of rich countries’ unconventional monetary policies may lead to capital outflows and currency depreciations in emerging markets. This column presents the results of recent World Bank research into these effects. In the baseline scenario, the unwinding of QE is predicted to reduce capital inflows by about 10%, or 0.6% of developing-country GDP by 2016. However, if markets react abruptly, capital flows could decline by as much as 80% for several months.
Olivier Blanchard, Jonathan Ostry, Atish Ghosh, 20 December 2013
The world has just been through a period of unprecedented macro policy activism. More is set to come as central banks exit unconventional policies, governments fix their fiscal positions, and financial regulations are reformed. These national policies have undeniable international spillovers. This column argues that the setting is ripe for more cooperation and suggests some ways forward, even if international macro policy coordination may continue to be heard about more often than it is seen.
Masazumi Hattori, Andreas Schrimpf, Vladyslav Sushko, 17 November 2013
This column argues that asset purchases and forward guidance by central banks can be effective in reducing financial market participants’ tail-risk perceptions. US data suggest that, since their inception in 2008, the unconventional policies adopted by the Federal Reserve have significantly compressed perceptions of tail risk. Despite increases in risk premia during the recent ‘tapering’ episode, estimates of tail-risk perceptions still remain significantly below the levels observed when the measures were introduced. Still, the effects of exit on tail-risk perceptions remain uncertain, and will require careful monitoring.