Claudio Borio, Piti Disyatat, 25 June 2014

Real interest rates have fallen to historic lows, and some economists are concerned that an era of secular stagnation has begun. This column highlights the role of policy frameworks and financial factors – particularly debt – in linking low real interest rates and sluggish economic growth. Policies that do not lean against booms but ease aggressively and persistently in busts induce a downward bias in interest rates over time and an upward bias in debt levels – something akin to a debt trap. Low real interest rates may thus be self-reinforcing and not always ‘natural’.

Vincent Brousseau, Alexandre Chailloux, Alain Durré, 09 December 2013

In the aftermath of the LIBOR scandal, it is important to re-establish a credible reference rate for the pricing of financial instruments and of wholesale and retail loans. The new candidate must meet the five criteria suggested by the Bank for International Settlements – reliability, robustness, frequency, availability, and representativeness – in all circumstances. This column argues that strengthening governance and/or adopting a trade-weighted reference rate is probably the fastest approach, but not necessarily sufficient for a resilient reference rate in the long run.

Nicolas Magud, Evridiki Tsounta, 16 January 2013

The ‘neutral’ rate is the real interest that is consistent with stable inflation and narrow output gaps. This column discusses the various estimation techniques and presents estimates for a range of Latin American nations. No methodology is fully correct: central banks must still make a subjective judgement, but econometrics can significantly help to inform it.

Sylvester Eijffinger, Rob Nijskens, 23 November 2012

The Eurozone is moving towards a banking union with the ECB at its centre. This column argues that there are problems with the European Commission’s proposal. The ECB can never supervise all 6000 banks in the Eurozone, supervision should be separated from monetary policy to avoid conflicts of interest, and joint deposit insurance and resolution funds must be created. Furthermore, the ECB should exert constructive ambiguity in its supervision.

Steven Ongena, José-Luis Peydró, 25 October 2011

Do low interest rates encourage excessive risk-taking by banks? This column summarises two studies analysing the impact of short-term interest rates on the risk composition of the supply of credit. They find that lower rates spur greater risk-taking by lower-capitalised banks and greater liquidity risk exposure.

Stefan Gerlach, Laura Moretti, 26 August 2011

Many observers argue that excessively expansionary monetary policy led to the recent global financial crisis. On the day of Ben Bernanke’s speech in Jackson Hole, this column agrees with the Fed chair that monetary policy was not the main cause. It argues that non-monetary forces drove down real interest rates and lowering nominal rates was the correct response. But central bankers and other regulators vastly underestimated the risks accompanying low short-term interest rates.

Olivier Coibion, 08 June 2011

What effect do interest-rate changes have on economic growth? Most studies suggest that the answer is “not much”. This column points out that a lot of these studies use US data from the early 1980s when monetary policy was under the “Volcker experiment”. When this episode is excluded, this column finds that the implied contribution of policy shocks to historical US business cycle fluctuations is much larger than found in much of the literature.

Filipa Sá, Pascal Towbin, Tomasz Wieladek, 10 March 2011

In much of the Western world, the decade prior to the global crisis witnessed soaring house prices. While the debate on its causes continues, this column finds that the property booms owed a significant part of their ferocity to large capital inflows and low interest rates.

David Miles, 25 February 2011

David Miles of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee talks to Viv Davies about ‘Monetary Policy in Extraordinary Times’, a speech he delivered in London on 23 February 2011. Two very large shocks have hit the UK economy – the near collapse of the banking system and, more recently, a sharp increase in commodity, energy and food prices. The first shock is deflationary, the second inflationary. Miles discusses how best to set monetary policy in the wake of these shocks and analyses how regulation and monetary policy can most effectively reduce the likelihood of future financial instability. [Also read the transcript]

Andrew Levin, 26 November 2010

Andrew Levin of the Federal Reserve talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on optimal monetary policy at the zero lower bound. They discuss the effectiveness of forward guidance, the use of non-standard measures and the interactions between monetary and fiscal policy. The interview, which was recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Glasgow in August 2010, represents Andrew Levin’s personal views. [Also read the transcript]

Venkatachalam Shunmugam, 08 August 2010

If the base rate rises, all things being equal, the exchange rate is expected to rise and bond prices to fall. This column argues that, during a financial crisis, such relationships between asset classes go haywire. When this happens, it says governments (including central banks) must provide strong signals to the market and make sure that they pick up the right signals from the market themselves.

Francesco Giavazzi, Alberto Giovannini, 19 July 2010

Should the crisis spur central banks to change how they conduct monetary policy? This column argues that strict inflation targeting, which ignores financial fragility, can produce interest rates that push the economy into a “low-interest-rate trap” and increase the likelihood of a financial crisis.

Nathan Porter, TengTeng Xu, 23 December 2009

China’s financial liberalisation remains incomplete. The behaviour of short-term market-determined interest rates is influenced by regulated rates. This column says that China should further liberalise its retail interest rates to allow all interest rates to better reflect liquidity conditions and the scarcity of capital.

Scott Sumner, 10 September 2009

Do most macroeconomists hold views of this crisis that are entirely at variance with modern monetary economics? This column says that tight monetary policy caused the crisis. Economists seem not to believe what they teach about the fallacy of identifying tight money with high interest rates and easy money with low interest rates.

Arvind Subramanian, 10 November 2008

The Indian variant of the credit crunch is different. This column outlines potential means of expanding India’s credit supply. Simply cutting interest rates will not suffice.

Charles Goodhart, 24 June 2008

Central banks cannot achieve price and financial stability with one instrument (interest rates). A counter-cyclical regulatory system is needed to dampen asset booms and to smooth busting bubbles. To use such macro-prudential instruments effectively, regulators need courage, quantitative triggers, and independence; they will be criticised by lenders, borrowers and politicians in both booms and busts.

Guillermo Calvo, 20 June 2008

Here, one of the world’s leading macroeconomists argues that the explosion of commodity prices is the result of a very real global financial storm associated with excess liquidity in several non-G7 countries and nourished by the low interest rates set by G7 central banks. The commodity price explosion is a harbinger of future inflation.

Momtchil Pojarliev, Richard Levich, 16 February 2008

Professional currency trading managers earn large fees. This column summarises research evaluating their performance and identifies a select group of traders whose achievements may warrant their wages.

Michael Woodford, 17 January 2008

Central banks have experimented with ‘forward guidance’ – sending signals about the future path of interest rate policy more than just one decision ahead – as a way of stabilizing medium-to-longer run expectations. Here is a discussion of the phenomenon and some ideas on how the Fed could improve its signalling.

Tommaso Monacelli, 14 December 2007

The ECB’s decision to leave interest rates unchanged lacks transparency and appears inconsistent with the specific policy framework that the ECB itself has decided to embrace. In the current period of great uncertainty, transparency would pay large dividends.

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