The spillover effects of a fiscal stimulus in normal times are likely to be small, at best. This column argues, however, that when interest rates are stuck at the zero lower bound and monetary policy does not offset the expansion, public investment in surplus countries could have significant positive GDP spillovers to the rest of the Eurozone. Given current low borrowing costs, the increase in government debt for surplus countries would be modest, while debt ratios in the rest of the Eurozone could be improved.
Jan in 't Veld, 09 September 2016
Patrick O'Brien, Nuno Palma, 03 September 2016
Today's unconventional central bank policies have historical precedent. One example is the suspension of convertibility of banknotes into gold by the Bank of England between 1797 and 1821. This column argues that, although there were important differences between then and now, it demonstrates that bank reputation and interaction between bank and state are vital to the success of unconventional policies. Also, short-term unconventional policies may persist long after a crisis has passed.
Laurence Ball, Joseph Gagnon, Patrick Honohan, Signe Krogstrup, 02 September 2016
This column presents the latest Geneva Report on the World Economy, in which the authors argue that central banks can do more to stimulate economies and restore full employment when nominal interest rates are near zero. Quantitative easing and negative interest rates have had beneficial effects so far and can be used more aggressively, and the lower bound constraint can be mitigated by modestly raising inflation targets.
Marco Di Maggio, Marcin Kacperczyk, 19 July 2016
The zero lower bound policy for nominal interest rates was implemented to stimulate sluggish economic growth and boost employment. This column explores whether this policy had unintended effects on the money market fund industry. Traditionally enjoying relatively low and safe returns, money market funds could respond to the low interest rate environment by either exiting the market or changing product offerings and accepting higher portfolio risk. The results show evidence of both, and point to an important but neglected channel for monetary policy transmission.
Paul De Grauwe, Yuemei Ji, 07 July 2016
Low inflation targets can cause economies to hit the zero lower bound during deflationary periods caused by even mild shocks. In such circumstances, central banks lose their ability to stimulate the economy. This column assesses the risk of this happening using a model that endogenises self-perpetuating optimism and pessimism in the economy. Given agents’ intrinsic chronic pessimism during times of recession, central banks should raise their inflation targets to 3 or 4% to preserve their ability to stimulate the economy when needed.
Michiel van Leuvensteijn, Adrian van Rixtel, Bing Xu, 12 June 2016
The unprecedented accommodative monetary policy stance implemented across the world in recent years has pushed interest rates to the zero lower bound, and even into negative territory. Based on an analysis of regulated floors and ceilings in bank loan and deposit interest rates in China, this column argues that when lending rates are close to regulatory imposed floors and hence cannot fall much further, the measurement of bank competition using more traditional measures of competition is flawed. This is important because lower bank competition has detrimental effects on the pass–through of interest rate changes and reduces risk-taking by banks.
Mark Cliffe, 26 February 2016
As doubts grow about the effectiveness of quantitative easing, monetary policymakers are leaning towards cutting interest rates further into negative territory as their preferred mode of easing. But this begs crucial and untested questions of whether banks will be willing to pass on the cost to their retail depositors, and of how depositors might react if they did so. This column notes a recently published survey in which a large majority of respondents said that they would withdraw their savings, and yet few would spend more. Although it could be argued that savers might react less negatively when confronted with the reality of negative rates, their powerful aversion to the prospect raises troubling questions about the potential effectiveness of this policy tool.
Łukasz Rachel, Thomas Smith, 15 January 2016
Many candidate explanations for the low level of real interest rates have been put forward. Less progress has been made on bringing together the different hypotheses into a unifying framework, on quantifying their relative importance and on predicting the future path for real interest rates. This column attempts to fill that gap, and suggests that persistent shifts to global desired savings and investment are behind the bulk of the fall in real interest rates. Those trends are unlikely to unwind anytime soon, so that the global equilibrium rate is likely to remain low, perhaps settling at or below 1% in the medium to long-run.
Jörg Decressin, Prakash Loungani, 02 December 2015
Internal devaluations have been suggested as a possible policy option for countries in a currency union facing large external deficits. These policy actions seek to restore competitiveness by replicating the outcomes of an external devaluation. This column examines wage moderation as a potential means of internal devaluation for EZ countries. If pursued by several countries, wage moderation can work if monetary policy is not constrained by the zero lower bound, or if supported by quantitative easing. Without sufficient monetary accommodation, it will not deliver much of a boost to output, and may hurt overall EZ output.
John Williams, 26 November 2015
Interest rates have been extremely low since the Global Crisis. This column surveys the recent debate over whether they will remain low, or return to normal. While an unequivocal answer is not possible, the evidence suggests a significant decline in average real rates – perhaps to as low as 1%.
Ricardo Caballero, Emmanuel Farhi, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 05 November 2015
Interest rates are near zero – or moving towards it – in major economies worldwide. This column introduces a new theoretical framework that helps to organise thinking on how liquidity traps and slow growth spread across the world. It stresses the role of capital flows, exchange rates, and the shortage of safe assets. Once rates are at the ZLB, the imbalance between the supply and demand of safe assets is redressed by lower global output. Liquidity traps emerge naturally and countries drag each other into them.
Charles Bean, 23 October 2015
Interest rates are at historic lows in advanced nations around the world and markets expect them to stay low for years. This column introduces the 17th CEPR-ICMB Geneva Report on the World Economy, “Low for Long? Causes and Consequences of Persistently Low Interest Rates”. Written by four world-renowned macroeconomists, the report suggests that real interest rates will eventually return to more normal levels, but in the meantime deflationary traps are more likely, as are financial boom-bust cycles.
Stefano Neri, Stefano Siviero, 15 August 2015
EZ inflation has been falling steadily since early 2013, turning negative in late 2014. This column surveys a host of recent research from Banca d’Italia that examined the drivers of this fall, its macroeconomic effects, and ECB responses. Aggregate demand and oil prices played key roles in the drop, which has consistently ‘surprised’ market-based expectations. Towards the end of 2014 the risk of the ECB de-anchoring inflation expectations from the definition of price stability became material.
Angus Armstrong, Francesco Caselli, Jagjit Chadha, Wouter den Haan, 02 August 2015
Does monetary policy really face a zero lower bound or could policy rates be pushed materially below zero per cent? And would the benefits of reforms to achieve negative policy rates outweigh the costs? This column, which reports the views of the leading UK-based macroeconomists, suggests that there is no strong support for reforming the monetary system to allow policy rates to be set at negative levels.
Simon Wren-Lewis, 30 January 2015
The anaemic recovery from the Global Crisis and the downward trend in real interest rates since 1980 have revived interest in the idea of secular stagnation. This column argues that if the US, UK, and Eurozone had not pursued contractionary fiscal policies from 2010 onwards, the recovery would not have been so slow and nominal interest rates would no longer be at the zero lower bound. Expanding the stock of government debt would have ameliorated, not worsened, the shortage of safe assets.
Valerie Ramey, Sarah Zubairy, 23 January 2015
There is no consensus among economists about the size of the multiplier of government purchases. It is not clear either how multipliers vary with the state of the economy. This column presents new evidence on this issue using large historical data set from the US. The findings suggest that there is no evidence that fiscal multipliers differ by the amount of unemployment or the degree of monetary accommodation.
Dirk Niepelt, 21 January 2015
Recent experience with the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and the use of high-denomination notes by criminals and tax evaders, have led to revived proposals to phase out cash. This column argues that abolishing cash may be neither necessary nor sufficient to overcome the zero lower bound problem, and would severely undermine privacy. Allowing the public to hold reserves at central banks could reduce the need for deposit insurance, although the transition to the new regime and the effects on credit supply must be carefully considered.
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.
Eric Swanson, 08 November 2014
In December 2008, the Fed lowered the federal funds rate to essentially zero and has kept it there since then. This column argues that, contrary to traditional macroeconomic thinking, monetary policy has not been severely constrained by the zero bound until mid-2011. The results imply that the Fed could have done more to ease monetary policy between 2009 and 2011. These findings could also help explain why the fiscal stimulus package adopted in 2009 did not bring the expected success.
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.