In August 2012, the ECB president, Mario Draghi, said that the ECB would ‘do whatever it takes‘ to hold the single currency together and support the weaker economies, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain. At the same time, he announced the introduction of outright monetary purchases (OMTs), which would involve purchasing eurozone countries’ bonds in the secondary markets. There were no limits specified to such purchases, but they would be sterilised by the sale of other assets. In other words, they would not increase the eurozone money supply. But despite the fanfare when OMTs were announced, they have never been used.
Today, the eurozone economy is struggling to grow. The average annual growth rate across the eurozone is a mere 0.5%, albeit up from the negative rates up to 2013 Q3. GDP is still over 2% below the peak in 2008. Inflation is currently standing at 0.8%, well below the 2% target. The ECB’s interest rate (‘main refinancing operations rate’) is 0.25%.
The recovery is hindered by a strong euro. As the chart shows, the euro has been appreciating against the dollar. The euro exchange rate index has also been rising. This has made it harder for the eurozone countries to export.
So what can the ECB do to stimulate the eurozone economy? Other central banks, such as the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan have all had substantial programmes of quantitative easing. The ECB has not. Perhaps OMTs could be used without sterilisation. The problem here is that there are no eurozone bonds issued by the ECB and hence none that could be purchased, only the bonds of individual member countries. Buying bonds of weaker countries in the eurozone would be seen as favouring these countries and might create a moral hazard.
Reducing interest rates is hardly an option given that they are at virtually zero already. And expansionary fiscal policy in the weaker countries has been ruled out by having to stick to the bailout conditions for these countries, which require the pursuit of austerity policies.
One possibility would be to intervene in the foreign currency market by buying US and other countries’ bonds. This would drive down the euro and provide a stimulus to exports. This option is considered in the Jeffrey Frankel article.
Why the European Central Bank should buy American The Guardian, Jeffrey Frankel (13/3/14)
Draghi holds course in face of deflation threat Reuters, Paul Carrel and Leika Kihara (13/3/14)
ECB’s Draghi: Strong Euro Pulling Down Euro Zone Inflation Wall Street Journal, Christopher Lawton and Todd Buell (13/3/14)
Draghi Bolstering Guidance Seen as Convincing on Rates Bloomberg, Jeff Black and Andre Tartar (13/3/14)
ECB president Mario Draghi counters euro upswing Financial Times, Claire Jones (13/3/14)
Turning Japanese? Euro zone exporters must hope not Reuters, Neal Kimberley (14/3/14)
Prospect of ECB QE drives eurozone bond rally Financial Times, Laurence Mutkin (12/3/14)
Statistical Data Warehouse ECB
Winter forecast 2014 – EU economy: recovery gaining ground European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs DG
AMECO online European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs DG
- Why is the ECB generally opposed to quantitative easing of the type used by other central banks?
- What is meant by ‘sterilisation’? Why does sterilisation prevent OMTs being classed as a form of quantitative easing?
- Would it be possible for OMTs to be used without sterilisation in such as way as to avoid a moral hazard for the highly indebted eurozone countries?
- Is the eurozone in danger of experiencing deflation?
- What are the dangers of deflation?
- Why does the ECB not cut its main refinancing rate below zero?
- If the ECB buys US bonds, what effect would this have on the euro/dollar exchange rate?
- Would purchasing US bonds affect the eurozone money supply? Explain.
- What other means are there of the ECB stimulating the eurozone economy? How effective would they be likely to be?
China’s rate of inflation has hit an 11-year high, partly due to the cold winter weather destroying crops and pushing up food prices. However, inflationary pressure has been growing for some time with rapid economic growth and the resultant pressure on resources. This is despite six increases in interest rates in the past thirteen months.
Families feel pinch as inflation threatens economic miracle Guardian (25/2/08)
Chinese inflation soars to an 11-year high Times Online (20/2/08)
Chinese inflation hits 11 year high Times Online (19/2/08)
||Explain the principal factors that have led to the increase in inflation in China.
||“Policymakers in China will likely try to tighten monetary policy further, with more reserve requirement ratio hikes, faster Chinese yuan appreciation, and more heavy handed controls over bank lending.” Discuss the likely effectiveness of these policy measures.
||Assess the extent to which changes in food prices will affect the overall level of aggregate demand in the Chinese economy.
Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe is no longer news. Indeed the news below that inflation has risen to 2,200% may not even surprise us any more. However, inflation of this level should also mean similar changes in the exchange rate if purchasing power parity is to be maintained. The official exchange rate in Zimbabwe, however, hasn’t changed by anywhere near this amount and there are reports (See Scotsman article below) that the Governor of the Central Bank has even tried to portray a recent devaluation as not really a devaluation at all!
Our mutual friend The Economist (subscription) (12/4/07)
Zimbabwe inflation reaches 2,200% BBC News Online (26/4/07)
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate surges to 231,000,000% Guardian (9/10/08)
A month ago, the hospitals were overflowing. Now they lie empty Guardian (6/12/08)
Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe Wikipedia
How Zimbabwe lost control of inflation Newzimbabwe.com (11/12/09)
||Explain, using diagrams as appropriate, how hyperinflation will affect the exchange rate in Zimbabwe.
||Discuss the likely economic impact of not devaluing the official exchange rate in line with the level of inflation in Zimbabwe.
||Assess possible exchange rate policies that would help reduce the level of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.
It was over 25 years ago that £1 was worth more than $2 on the foreign exchange markets, but that important psychological barrier was broken again this month as the value of sterling crept above $2 on foreign exchange markets. The continuing weakness of the dollar is making life difficult for UK exporters and also for firms in the Eurozone as the weakness in the dollar also affects the Euro and other major currencies.
Pound reaches 26-year dollar high BBC News Online (18/4/07)
UK pound goes through $2 barrier BBC News Online (17/4/07)
Yen hits record low against euro BBC News Online (16/4/07)
Pound hits 25-year dollar high Guardian (18/4/07)
British pound breaks through $2 International Herald Tribune (17/4/07)
||Explain the impact of the weak value of the dollar on international markets on the price of UK imports and exports.
||Assess the likely impact of the high value of sterling on the major UK economic targets.
||Assess policies that the government could use to try to reduce the value of sterling against the dollar if they chose to.
Since the 1970s and 1980s we have moved away from an active exchange rate policy as part of an overall demand management strategy. Indeed, by the mid 2000s, even the role of fiscal policy in demand management had diminished. The article below looks at these changes and considers whether this new approach to demand management is proving effective.
It’s a fashionable club but can the MPC keep us out of the rough? Guardian (11/2/07)
||Explain how the approach to management of the economy has changed over the last three decades.
||Assess the problems that might arise from trying to manage the economy using just one policy instrument (i.e. interest rates)..
||Explain what is meant by an exchange rate policy. Discuss whether the reintroduction of an exchange rate policy would help with the management of the economy.