Cricket’s corridor of uncertainty and monetary policymaking…case of interesting similarities..

A fascinating speech by Andy Haldance of BoE.

He connects cricket with monetary policymaking. The predicament facing today’s policymakers is similar to the batsman in cricket who face balls in corridor of uncertainty:

It is wonderful to be back in Scarborough. I say back because many of my earliest and fondest childhood memories were of summer holidays spent here. Being a cricket fan, the Scarborough Festival – the cricketing jamboree held at the end of August each year since 1876 – has always held a place in my imagination. Alas I have never been, but am hoping one day to break my duck.

I want to discuss the economy and the role of monetary policy in supporting it. And with apologies to the non-cricketers in the audience, to do so I will borrow a cricketing metaphor – the “corridor of uncertainty”. The corridor of uncertainty is every bowler’s dream and every batter’s nightmare. It refers to a ball which pitches in such a position – the corridor – that the batter does not know whether to be playing off the back foot or the front foot.

This, I will argue, is similar to the dilemma facing monetary policymakers on the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) today. Should monetary policy hold back until key sources of uncertainty about the economy have been resolved? Or instead push forward to prevent leaving it too late?

He reviews the econ situation across globe and UK. For both an econ and cricket follower one can easily connect the two.

He says depending on how the batter/policymaker reacts, one dubs him/her a dove or hawk:

Faced with these uncertainties, what would be a prudent course for monetary policy in the period ahead? The first thing to say is that there is consensus across the MPC on three key elements of our monetary strategy: that any rate rise need not be immediate, that when rate rises come they are intended to be gradual and that interest rates in the medium-term are likely to be somewhat lower than their historical average.

This message appears to have largely been understood by financial markets. Despite the upwards revision to growth, financial markets’ best guess of how rapidly the first percentage point of tightening will take place is essentially unchanged over the past year – around 20 basis points per quarter. So too is their best guess of where interest rates may settle in the medium run – around 2-3%. Views may in time differ across the MPC on the preferred lift-off date for interest rates, as you would expect at a difficult-to-predict turning point in the cycle. These will reflect individual members’ different reading of the runes, not their individual preferences. That is a real benefit of the MPC’s committee-based structure, with individual member accountability.

It is not difficult to see why this choice over timing is a difficult one. The policymaker in this situation faces the self-same dilemma as the batsmen facing a ball pitching in the corridor of uncertainty. In that situation, the coaching manual no longer offers a clear guide. Two strategies are equally justifiable.

The first is to stay on the back foot and play late. This has the advantage of giving the batsmen more time to get a read on the trajectory of the ball as it swings and darts around. It avoids the risk of lurching forward and then needing hurriedly to reverse course if the first movement is misjudged. This is the way, Joe Root, the Yorkshire and England batsmen, plays his cricket. If he were on the MPC, he’d be called a dove.

But this strategy is not riskless. Playing late relies on having an uncannily good eye and strong nerve. It runs the risk of having to react fast and furiously to avoid missing the ball entirely. An earlier front foot movement would avoid that risk, allowing a more gradual movement forward. This is the way Ian Bell, the Warwickshire and England batsman, plays his cricket. If he were on the MPC, he’d be called a hawk.

What about owls? Night watchmen?

Which is better? Hawk or Dove?

So which is the better strategy? Benjamin Disraeli told us there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Here my analogy between cricket and the economy breaks down. Economic statistics, as we know, do sometimes lie. Cricket statistics, typically, do not. They tell us that Joe Root averages 43 in test matches to Ian Bell’s 45. In other words, it is a close run thing with the odds at present slightly favouring the front foot. But a good run of scores from either player could easily tilt the balance. That, in a nutshell, is where the MPC finds itself today

A superb analogy.

Though, Haldane misses the other side of the cricket pitch – the bowlers. In this case the bowlers are financial markets/players. They keep putting the batters into difficulty with their persistent attack on the batters. In the swinging UK conditions, they pose even more difficulty to the batters.

And then all this happens cyclically. During tough times, the central bankers become the batters and are made to face tough batting conditions. And when the times turn good, the markets become the batters and thrash the bowlers all around…

 

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