As we saw in the blog post last month, Eurozone becalmed the doldrums, the eurozone economy is stagnant and there is a growing danger that it could sink into a deflationary spiral. Last month, several new measures were announced by the ECB, including a negative interest rate on money deposited in the ECB by banks in the eurozone. This month, the ECB has gone further including, for the first time, a form of quantitative easing.
So what has been announced, and will it help to kick-start the eurozone economy? The measures were summarised by Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, at a press conference as follows:
The Governing Council decided today to lower the interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem by 10 basis points to 0.05% and the rate on the marginal lending facility by 10 basis points to 0.30%. The rate on the deposit facility was lowered by 10 basis points to –0.20%. In addition, the Governing Council decided to start purchasing non-financial private sector assets.
The Eurosystem will purchase a broad portfolio of simple and transparent asset-backed securities (ABSs) with underlying assets consisting of claims against the euro area non-financial private sector under an ABS purchase programme (ABSPP). This reflects the role of the ABS market in facilitating new credit flows to the economy and follows the intensification of preparatory work on this matter, as decided by the Governing Council in June. In parallel, the Eurosystem will also purchase a broad portfolio of euro-denominated covered bonds issued by MFIs domiciled in the euro area under a new covered bond purchase programme (CBPP3). Interventions under these programmes will start in October 2014.
To summarise: the ECB has cut interest rates, with the main rate cut to virtually zero (i.e. 0.05%). This represents a floor to interest rates, as, according to Mario Draghi, there is now no scope for further cuts. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)
In addition, the ECB will begin the outright purchase of private-sector securities. This is a form of quantitative easing as it will involve the purchase of assets with newly created money. In the past, the ECB has simply offered loans to banks, with assets owned by banks used as collateral. This form of quantitative easing has been dubbed ‘QE light’, as it does not involve the purchase of government bonds, something the German government in particular has resisted. The ECB recognises that it would be a sensitive matter to buy government bonds of countries, such as Greece, Spain and Cyprus, which have been criticised for excessive borrowing.
Nevertheless, if it involves the creation of new money, purchasing private-sector assets is indeed a form of QE. As Mario Draghi said in response to a question on this matter:
QE is an outright purchase of assets. To give an example: rather than accepting these assets as collateral for lending, the ECB would outright purchase these assets. That’s QE. It would inject money into the system. Now, QE can be private-sector asset-based, or also sovereign-sector, public-sector asset-based, or both. The components of today’s measures are predominantly oriented to credit easing. However, it’s quite clear that we would buy outright ABS only if there is a guarantee.
So with appropriate guarantees in place about the soundness of these securitised assets, the ECB will purchase them outright.
But will these measures be enough? Time will tell, but there are now several measures in the pipeline, which could see a large stimulus to bank lending. The main question is whether banks will indeed take the opportunity to lend or merely hoard the extra reserves. And that depends in large part on the demand for credit from businesses and consumers. Boosting that is difficult when the economic climate is pessimistic.
Draghi’s ECB surprise puts off bigger quantitative easing for now Reuters, John O’Donnell (5/9/14)
ECB President Mario Draghi pulls stimulus lever at last, but still no quantitative easing for eurozone Independent, Ben Chu (5/9/14)
ECB cuts rates and launches stimulus programme BBC News (4/9/14)
Draghi Push for ECB Easing Intensifies Focus on ABS Plan Bloomberg, Stefan Riecher and Jeff Black (4/9/14)
Draghi Sees Almost $1 Trillion Stimulus as QE Fight Waits Bloomberg, Simon Kennedy (5/9/14)
Draghi’s Case For ECB Quantitative Easing Forbes, Jon Hartley (8/9/14)
ECB’s last roll of the dice BBC News, Robert Peston (4/9/14)
Draghi’s eurozone steroids BBC News, Robert Peston (2/10/14)
Draghinomics – Abenomics, European-style The Guardian, Nouriel Roubini (1/9/14)
ECB Press Release
Introductory statement to the press conference (with Q&A) European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, President of the ECB (4/9/14)
Webcast of the press conference 4 September 2014 European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, President of the ECB (4/9/14)
- Summarise the ECB’s monetary policy measures that will be coming into effect over the coming months.
- How does the QE announced by Mario Draghi differ from the QE that has been used by the Bank of England?
- Would it be a realistic option for the ECB to reduce its main rate below zero, just as it did with the deposit facility rate?
- What is meant by ‘securitisation’. Explain how asset-backed securities (ABSs) and covered bonds are forms of securitised assets.
- Why will the purchase of mortgage-backed securities not necessarily give a boost to the housing market?
- How does the effectiveness of any QE programme depend on what happens to the velocity of circulation of created money?
- What determines this velocity of circulation?
- Why are ‘animal spirits’ so important in determining the effectiveness of monetary policy?
- Are there any moral hazards in the ECB actions? If so what are they?
With many countries struggling to recover from the depression of the past few years, central banks are considering more and more doveish moves to kick-start lending. But with short-term interest rates in the USA, the UK and Japan close to zero, the scope for further cuts are limited. So what can central banks do?
The first thing that can be done is to adopt a higher inflation target or to accept inflation above target – at least for the time being. This could be accompanied by explicitly targeting GDP growth (real or nominal) or unemployment (see the blog from last December, Rethinking central bank targets).
The second option is to increase quantitative easing. Although in a minority at the last MPC meeting, Mervyn King, the current Bank of England Governor, argued for a further £25 billion of asset purchases (bringing the total to £400bn) (see MPC minutes paragraph 39). It is highly likely that the MPC will agree to further QE at its next meeting in March. In Japan, the new governor of the Bank of Japan is expected to include asset purchases as part of the policy of monetary easing.
The third option is for the central bank to provide finance at below-market rates of interest directly to the banking sector specifically for lending: e.g. to small businesses or for house purchase. The Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme is an example and the Bank is considering extending it to other financial institutions.
One other approach, mooted by the Bank of England’s Deputy Governor before the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, is for negative interest rates paid on Banks’ reserves in the Bank of England. This would, in effect, be a fee levied on banks for keeping money on deposit. The idea would be to encourage banks to lend the money and not to keep excessive liquidity. As you can see from the chart, three rounds of quantitative easing have led to a huge increase in bank’s reserves at the Bank of England. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.)
The following articles consider these various proposals and whether they will work to stimulate lending and thereby aggregate demand and economic recovery.
Central banks: Brave new words The Economist (23/2/13)
Phoney currency wars The Economist (16/2/13)
Analysis: Global central banks will keep taking it easy Reuters, Alan Wheatley (22/2/13)
Quantitative easing: the markets are struggling with a serious drug habi The Guardian, Larry Elliott (24/2/13)
Negative interest rates idea floated by Bank’s Paul Tucker BBC News (26/2/13)
Bank of England mulls negative interest rates Independent, Ben Chu (26/2/13)
BoE floats extending Funding for Lending to non-banks Mortgage Solutions, Adam Williams (26/2/13)
Funding for Lending Scheme failing to get banks lending Left Foot Forward, James Bloodworth (26/2/13)
Mortgage market boosted by lending schemes, says Redrow BBC News (26/2/13)
Widespread quantitative easing risks ‘QE wars’ and stagnation The Guardian, Nouriel Roubini (28/2/13)
- Consider each of the methods outlined above and their chances of success in stimulating aggregate demand.
- Go through each of the methods and consider the problems they are likely to create/have created.
- How important is it that monetary policy measures affect people’s expectations?
- What effects do the measures have on the distribution of income between borrowers and savers?
- What are annuities? How are these affected by policies of monetary easing?
- How has actual and anticipated Japanese monetary policy affected the exchange rate of the Japanese yen? How is this likely to affect the Japanese economy?
- Explain the sub-heading of the final article above, “When several major central banks pursue QE at the same time, it becomes a zero-sum game”. Do you agree?
In the wake of the credit crunch, the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) reduced interest rates to virtually zero in December 2008 and embarked on a huge round of quantitative easing over the following 15 months, ending in March 2010. This involved the purchase of some $1.7 trillion of assets, mainly government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. There was also a large planned fiscal stimulus, with President Obama announcing a package of government expenditure increases and tax cuts worth $787 billion in January 2009.
By late 2009, the US economy was recovering and real GDP growth in the final quarter of 2009 was 5.0% (at an annual rate). However, the fiscal stimulus turned out not to be as much as was planned (see and also) and the increased money supply from quantitative easing was not having sufficient effect on aggregate demand. By the second quarter of 2010 annual growth had slowed to 1.7% and there were growing fears of a double-dip recession. What was to be done?
The solution adopted by the Fed was to embark on a second round of quantitative easing – or “QE2”, as it has been dubbed. This will involve purchasing an additional $600 billion of US government bonds by the end of quarter 2 2011, at a rate of around $75 billion per month.
But will it work to stimulate the US economy? What will be the knock-on effects on exchange rates and on other countries? And what will be the effects on prices: commodity prices, stock market prices and prices generally? The following articles look at the issues. They also look at reactions around the world. So far it looks as if other countries will not follow with their own quantitative easing. For example, the Bank of England announced on 4 November that it would not engage in any further quantitative easing. It seems, then, that the USA is the only one on board the QE2.
QE2 – What is the Fed Doing? Will it Work? Kansas City Star, William B. Greiner (5/11/10)
The ‘Wall Of Money’: A guide to QE2 BBC News blogs: Idle Scrawl, Paul Mason (2/11/10)
Federal Reserve to pump $600bn into US economy BBC News (4/11/10)
Beggar my neighbour – or merely browbeat him? BBC News blogs: Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (4/11/10)
Too much cash, bubbles and hot potatoes Financial Times (5/11/10)
Bernanke Invokes Friedman’s Inflation-Fighting Legacy to Defend Stimulus Bloomberg, Scott Lanman and Steve Matthews (7/11/10)
The QE backlash The Economist (5/11/10)
Former Fed Chairman Volcker says bond buying plan won’t do much to boost US economy Chicago Tribune, Kelly Olsen (5/11/10)
Ben Bernanke’s QE2 is misguided Guardian, Chris Payne (6/11/10)
Effects on commodity prices and stock markets
Gold hits record high, oil rallies on Fed stimulus Taipei Times (7/11/10)
Analysis: Fed’s QE2 raises alarm of commodity bubble Reuters, Barbara Lewis and Nick Trevethan (5/11/10)
Fed’s Bernanke defends new economic recovery plan BBC News (7/11/10)
Sit back and enjoy the ride that QE2 has set in motion Financial Times, Neil Hume (5/11/10)
US accused of forcing up world food prices Guardian, Phillip Inman (5/11/10)
Effects on other countries
The rest of the world goes West when America prints more money Telegraph, Liam Halligan (6/11/10)
Backlash against Fed’s $600bn easing Financial Times, Alan Beattie, Kevin Brown and Jennifer Hughes (4/11/10)
China, Germany and South Africa criticise US stimulus BBC News (5/11/10)
G20 beset with fresh crisis over currency International Business Times, Nagesh Narayana (5/11/10)
European Central Bank Keeps Rates at Record Lows New York Times, Julia Werdigier and Jack Ewing (4/11/10)
Official statements by central banks
FOMC press release Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (3/11/10)
News release: Bank of England Maintains Bank Rate at 0.5% and the Size of the Asset Purchase Programme at £200 Billion Bank of England (4/11/10)
ECB Press Conference ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB, Vítor Constâncio, Vice-President of the ECB (4/11/10)
- How has the Fed justified the additional $600 billion of quantitative easing?
- What will determine the size of the effect of this quantitative easing on US aggregate demand?
- How will QE2 influence the exchange rate of the dollar?
- Why have other countries been critical of the effects of the US policy?
- What will be the effect of the policy on commodity prices?