Retail sales in the eurozone have been falling for several months as the recession deepens. The latest figures show a drop in sales of 4.2% between March 2008 and 2009. But what are the implications for fiscal and monetary policy?
With many eurozone countries worried about growing budget deficits the pressure is on the ECB to cut interest rates. Would this help to halt the decline in sales, or do policy-makers need to go further? The linked articles look at the facts and some of the solutions.
Volume of retail trade down by 0.6% in euro area Eurostat news release (6/5/09)
Brussels doubles EU recession forecasts for 2009 Independent (5/5/09)
Euro zone retail sales in record fall IrishTimes.com (24/4/09)
Record decline in eurozone sales BBC News (6/5/09)
EU businesses say worst of crisis over, urge action Guardian (6/5/09)
ECB Is Expected to Cut Rate to 1%, Enlist Other Tools The Wall Street Journal (6/5/09)
ECB set to cut interest rates to record low of 1% Times Online (5/5/09)
Economic Forecast, Spring 2009 European Economy (European Commission)
- What determines the level of retail sales?
- What would halt the decline in retail sales?
- Discuss various measures that the ECB could take to stimulate the eurozone economy. Why might it be reluctant to take some of the measures?
The G20 countries meet each year. Normally their meetings are full of fine words resulting in little action. But at a summit in London on 2 April 2009, the fear of a deepening global recession focused minds and a package of measures worth over $1 trillion was agreed to stimulate trade and growth. This included $750 billion for the IMF to help economies in severe difficulties, $250 billion for financing world trade and $100 to multilateral development banks (such as the Asian Development Bank) to provide extra aid to the poorest countries.
The extra money for the IMF would include $500 billion of loans from member countries and £250 billion in new money – a form of international quantitative easing. This new money would be in the form of ‘special drawing rights’. These are denominated in dollars and are created by the IMF to be drawn on by countries in difficulties.
There was also agreement to tighten financial regulation and to resist protectionism. A ‘Financial Stability Board’ would be set up and work with the IMF to design a strengthened regulatory system for banks and other financial institutions and for financial markets and instruments.
The following articles look at the agreement and its likely effects.
‘This is the day the world came together to fight back’ Independent (2/4/09)
G20 communiqué: Point by point analysis Telegraph (2/4/09)
G20 summit – leaders’ statement. Full text of the communiqué Guardian (2/4/09)
G20: Economic summit snapshot BBC News Online (2/4/09)
G20 leaders seal $1tn global deal BBC News Online (2/4/09)
G-force The Economist (2/4/09)
World leaders declare war on risk Sydney Morning Herald (3/4/09)
Postscript (Sept 2009)
G20: What progress has been made? BBC News (23/9/09)
G20: Pledge by pledge BBC News (25/9/09)
- What will determine the success or failure of the G20 agreement to revive the world economy?
- Identify any multiplier effects from the agreed measures.
- Why did the French and German governments object to any further fiscal stimulus packages?
While deflation was quite common right up to World War II, it has not been seen in the UK since 1947. The podcast considers whether it might return and looks at the impact of deflation on economic activity. There is a short case study on the deflationary years suffered by Japan between 1997 and 2006 and a consideration of policies that might be appropriate to overcome defaltionary pressures.
Economists never like to use simple words when there are more complex ones available! So, the new term for printing money is ‘quantitative easing’. This refers to deliberate increases in the money supply aimed at preventing deflation. The real concern is whether quantitative easing will stoke up inflationary pressures for the future – the balance between inflation and deflation is a fine line to tread. Quantitative easing becomes necessary when there is danger of deflation and interest rates have already been cut as far as is possible.
Another problem, in the short term, is that an increase in the monetary base may have little effect on broader money (M4 in the UK) if people do not want to borrow and thus credit creation is limited.
The articles below all look at various different aspects of quantitative easing.
Europeans Disagree Drastically On Fed Rate Cut Deutsche Welle (17/12/08)
Financial crisis: Free money coming your way! Telegraph (17/12/08)
Wondering what on earth Nils was on about? He’s written this for you BBC News Online (PM programme) (18/12/08)
Japan forecasts no growth in 2009 BBC News Online (19/12/08)
New economic policy: If you haven’t got enough of this stuff, just print some more Scotsman (18/12/08)
Ground Zero The Economist (18/12/08)
Fed throws out the rulebook Times Online (18/12/08)
Quantitative easing: the modern way to print money or a therapy of last resort? Telegraph (8/1/09)
Forget hard choices. We need pampering Times Online (18/12/08)
Jeremy Warner: Darling wants say on ‘quantitative easing’ Independent (8/1/09)
- Define the term ‘quantitative easing’.
- Explain the mechanism by which the monetary authorities can implement a policy of quantitative easing.
- Discuss the relative effectiveness of cuts in interest rates and quantitative easing to boost aggregate demand in a recession.
- Analyse the impact on an economy of a prolonged period of deflation.
A key determinant of the credit crunch was a shortage of liquidity and a breakdown of the interbank lending market. In an attempt to ease the credit situation and restart the interbank lending market, the Bank of England auctioned over £40bn of credit at the end of September. The aim of this was to boost the liquidity position of the banks.
Central banks pump billions into system Guardian (27/9/08)
Bank of England pumps £55bn into credit markets Times Online (26/9/08)
Where has all the money gone? BBC Magazine (15/10/08)
||Explain why the Bank of England needed to boost liquidity in the money markets.
||Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact of this increase in credit on the money markets. What constraints does the Bank of England face in ensuring that it achieves the desired outcome?
||Discuss whether the approach of raising liquidity is likely to be more or less effective than a change in the regulatory framework.