Bank of Japan holds assets worth 100% of its GDP!

Chris Nealy of St Louis Fed in this piece:

The 2007-09 Financial Crisis and its aftermath reduced inflation to undesirably low levels and raised unemployment to very high levels in many countries. With short-term interest rates at or near zero, conventional monetary policy was limited, and so central banks searched for new ways to stimulate their economies. One such measure was large central bank purchases of long-term bonds to lower long-term yields. Increases in central bank assets are a rough measure of these long-bond purchases. To compare such measures across countries, it makes sense to divide central bank asset holdings by gross domestic product (GDP). This essay compares international asset holdings as a percentage of GDP by major central banks and explains the reasons for the particularly large holdings of the Bank of Japan. 

Figure 1 shows asset holdings since 2008 of the four major central banks: the Federal Reserve System (Fed), the Bank of England (BOE), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the Bank of Japan (BOJ). Relative to the size of its economy, the BOJ is currently the biggest asset holder among these central banks, holding assets worth about 101 percent of Japanese GDP.1 The ECB and the BOE currently hold assets valued at 40 percent and 27 percent of the annual output of their respective currency areas. The peak value of the Fed’s assets as a percentage of GDP is only 25 percent, which is the smallest such statistic among the four major central banks, and the Fed’s balance sheet as a percentage of GDP has been declining since 2014.

The highest central bank holding? Swiss National Bank at 118% of GDP..


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