The monetary policy of ‘leaning against the wind’ involves a higher policy interest rate. It is usually justified as reducing the probability and severity of a future crisis. This column argues that the costs of the policy exceed the benefits by a substantial margin, especially when taking into account that the cost of a crisis is higher if the economy is initially weaker due to the leaning itself. Furthermore, contrary to the common argument that the policy may be justified when macroprudential policy is less effective or even non-existent, less effective macroprudential policy actually makes the case against leaning against the wind policy stronger, not weaker.
Lars Svensson, 12 January 2016
Christian Daude, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, 01 September 2014
Central banks’ exchange rate interventions are typically attributed to precautionary, prudential, or mercantilist motives. This column documents the prevalence of an alternative motive – that of stabilising the exchange rate – in emerging markets, where, despite heavy intervention, the Global Crisis saw important deviations of the real exchange rate from its equilibrium value. Exchange rate intervention is shown to be effective, but more so at containing appreciations than depreciations.
Lars Svensson, 05 July 2014
Sweden has pursued a tighter monetary policy than is necessary to achieve the inflation target in order to reduce risks associated with household indebtedness. The net benefit to ‘leaning against the wind’ has been hotly debated; this column argues strongly against it. By reducing inflation, the Riksbank has in fact increased household debt, and contractionary pressure has worsened the employment situation. The author estimates that the benefits to leaning are worth only 0.4% of the costs.
Alberto Martin, Jaume Ventura, 05 July 2014
There is a widespread view among macroeconomists that fluctuations in collateral are an important driver of credit booms and busts. This column distinguishes between ‘fundamental’ collateral – backed by expectations of future profits – and ‘bubbly’ collateral – backed by expectations of future credit. Markets are generically unable to provide the optimal amount of bubbly collateral, which creates a natural role for stabilisation policies. A lender of last resort with the ability to tax and subsidise credit can design a ‘leaning against the wind’ policy that replicates the ‘optimal’ bubble allocation.
Lars Svensson, 10 October 2013
Leaning-against-the-wind monetary policy may lead to a Fisherian debt deflation, since it may lower prices below the anticipated level and therefore raise real debt above what was anticipated. This is what the Riksbank has done by keeping average inflation significantly below the inflation target for a long period. This has caused household real debt to be substantially higher than it would have been if inflation had been on target.
Itai Agur, Maria Demertzis, 13 January 2011
What institutions should be responsible for financial stability? Do governments need distinct regulators for distinct objectives or should central banks pursue both price stability and financial stability? This column argues that monetary policy inevitably will involve considerations of financial stability due to its effects on banks' risk taking and says that central banks should embrace this dual role.