The Bank of England’s monetary policy is aimed at achieving an inflation rate of 2% CPI inflation ‘within a reasonable time period’, typically within 24 months. But speaking in Nottingham in one of the ‘Future Forum‘ events on 14 October, the Bank’s Governor, Mark Carney, said that the Bank would be willing to accept inflation above the target in order to protect growth in the economy.
“We’re willing to tolerate a bit of an overshoot in inflation over the course of the next few years in order to avoid rising unemployment, to cushion the blow and make sure the economy can adjust as well as possible.”
But why should the Bank be willing to relax its target – a target set by the government? In practice, a temporary rise above 2% can still be consistent with the target if inflation is predicted to return to 2% within ‘a reasonable time period’.
But if even if the forecast rate of inflation were above 2% in two years’ time, there would still be some logic in the Bank not tightening monetary policy – by raising Bank Rate or ending, or even reversing, quantitative easing. This would be the case when there was, or forecast to be, stagflation, whether actual or as a result of monetary policy.
The aim of an inflation target of 2% is to help create a growth in aggregate demand consistent with the economy operating with a zero output gap: i.e. with no excess or deficient demand. But when inflation is caused by rising costs, such as that caused by a depreciation in the exchange rate, inflation could still rise even though the output gap were negative.
A rise in interest rates in these circumstances could cause the negative output gap to widen. The economy could slip into stagflation: rising prices and falling output. Hopefully, if the exchange rate stopped falling, inflation would fall back once the effects of the lower exchange rate had fed through. But that might take longer than 24 months or a ‘reasonable period of time’.
So even if not raising interest rates in a situation of stagflation where the inflation rate is forecast to be above 2% in 24 months’ time is not in the ‘letter’ of the policy, it is within the ‘spirit’.
But what of exchange rates? Mark Carney also said that “Our job is not to target the exchange rate, our job is to target inflation. But that doesn’t mean we’re indifferent to the level of sterling. It does matter, ultimately, for inflation and over the course of two to three years out. So it matters to the conduct of monetary policy.”
But not tightening monetary policy if inflation is forecast to go above 2% could cause the exchange rate to fall further. It seems as if trying to arrest the fall in sterling and prevent a fall into recession are conflicting aims when the policy instrument for both is the rate of interest.
BoE’s Carney says not indifferent to sterling level, boosts pound Reuters, Andy Bruce and Peter Hobson (14/10/16)
Bank governor Mark Carney says inflation will rise BBC News, Kamal Ahmed (14/10/16)
Stagflation Risk May Mean Carney Has Little Love for Marmite Bloomberg, Simon Kennedy (14/10/16)
Bank can ‘let inflation go a bit’ to protect economy from Brexit, says Carney – but sterling will be a factor for interest rates This is Money, Adrian Lowery (14/10/16)
UK gilt yields soar on ‘hard Brexit’ and inflation fears Financial Times, Michael Mackenzie and Mehreen Khan (14/10/16)
Brexit latest: Life will ‘get difficult’ for the poor due to inflation says Mark Carney Independent, Ben Chu (14/10/16)
Prices to continue rising, warns Bank of England governor The Guardian, Katie Allen (14/10/16)
Bank of England
Monetary Policy Bank of England
Monetary Policy Framework Bank of England
How does monetary policy work? Bank of England
Future Forum 2016 Bank of England
- Explain the difference between cost-push and demand-pull inflation.
- If inflation rises as a result of rising costs, what can we say about the rate of increase in these costs? Is it likely that cost-push inflation would persist beyond the effects of a supply-side shock working through the economy?
- Can interest rates be used to control both inflation and the exchange rate? Explain why or why not.
- What is the possible role of fiscal policy in the current situation of a falling exchange rate and rising inflation?
- Why does the Bank of England target the rate of inflation in 24 months’ time and not the rate today? (After all, the Governor has to write a letter to the Chancellor explaining why inflation in any month is more than 1 percentage point above or below the target of 2%.)
- What is meant by a zero output gap? Is this the same as a situation of (a) full employment, (b) operating at full capacity? Explain.
- Why have UK gilt yields soared in the light of a possible ‘hard Brexit’, a falling exchange rate and rising inflation?
With the majority of developed countries now moving out of recession, many people will think the worst is over. But for some countries and some people, there may be worse to come. The single currency in the eurozone was introduced in 1999 and in December 2009, the eurozone saw its highest level of unemployment at 10%. There are now 23 million people unemployed across the 16 countries that make up the eurozone and many of those people reside in Spain, where unemployment has reached a 12-year high of 18.8% and is even expected to reach 20%.
Interest rates in the eurozone and in the UK have been maintained at 1% and 0.5% respectively, and inflation has seen a rise in both places. Whilst in the eurozone inflation remains well below the inflation target, in the UK there has been a rapid rise to 2.9% to December 2009 (see Too much of a push from costs but no pull from demand)
While Spain is suffering from mass unemployment, Greece is struggling with the burden of a huge budget deficit. The former European Central Bank Chief Economist, Otmar Issing, has said that any bailout of Greece would severely damage the Monetary Union and “The Greek disease will spread”. With concern that Greece will not be able to service its debt, there is speculation that the country will be forced out of the currency bloc. However, the chair of the single currency area’s finance ministers said that Greece will not leave the eurozone and does not believe that a state of bankruptcy exists.
So, what’s behind rising unemployment, rising inflation and rising budget deficits and how are they likely to affect the eurozone’s recovery?
Eurozone inflation rises to 0.9% BBC News (15/1/10)
Unemployment sector remains beat in Eurozone pressuring price levels FX Street (29/1/10)
greek bailout would hurt Eurozone – Germany’s Issing Reuters (29/1/10)
Eurozone unemployment rate hits 10% BBC News (29/1/10)
Greece will not go bust or leave Eurozone Reuters, Michele Sinner (27/1/10)
Eurozone unemployment hits 10% AFP (29/1/10)
New rise in German job loss total BBC News (28/1/10)
Spain unemployment nears 12 year high Interactive Investor (29/1/10)
- How do we define unemployment? What type of unemployment is being experienced in the eurozone?
- Why do you think unemployment levels have risen in the eurozone and in Spain in particular? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- What are the costs of unemployment for (a) the individual (b) governments and (c) society?
- What explanation can be given for rising levels of both unemployment and inflation?
- Inflation in the eurozone increased to 0.9%. What are the factors behind this? Illustrate the effects on a diagram.
- Greece’s forecast budget deficit for 2009 is 12.7% of GDP, but Greece has said it will reduce it to 8.7% of GDP. How does the Greek government intend to do this and what are the likely problems it will face?
- Why could bailing out Greece hurt the eurozone?
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, recently talked about the end of the ‘nice’ decade. He was not using this in its normal sense, but was taking about a ‘non-inflationary, consistently expansionary’ decade of economic growth. Economists and journalists have been busy suggesting other acronyms for the situation that we face now including VILE (‘volatile inflation, less expansionary’) and the less generous CRAP (close to recession, absent a policy’). So are we facing a new more inflationary and less stable period of economic development? Is the ‘nice’ period really over?
Recession alert as Brown fights back Guardian (15/5/08)
‘It’s things outside the Bank’s control that are going up’ Guardian (14/5/08) (Podcast)
Nasty truth behind those nice headlines Times Online (19/5/08)
Inflation prospects will make a master letter writer out of Mervyn King Times Online (13/5/08)
Which way from the edge of the abyss? Guardian (25/4/08)
||Explain the main factors that have led to the past decade being a ‘NICE’ one.
||Assess the extent to which we are moving into a ‘VILE’ period .
||Evaluate two policies that the government could adopt to try to avoid the UK economy moving into a VILE period.
Concerns have been growing that the UK faces a downturn in economic growth during 2008. The articles below consider this possibility. With a credit crunch taking place and manufacturing output falling, the concerns for a recession may well not prove unfounded.
Is this the big one? Guardian (3/1/08)
Your survival plan if a recession strikes Times Online (5/1/08)
Top of the flops – 10 pointers to a downturn in 2008 Guardian (6/1/08)
Recession fears as manufacturing drops Times Online (11/1/08)
Crash that ‘won’t happen here’ looms large Guardian (3/12/07)
||What are the key indicators of an impending recession?
||Assess the likelihood of a recession in the UK in 2008.
||What policies could the UK government adopt to avoid a recession during 2008. What would determine the success of such policies?