Archive for the ‘Economics – macro, micro etc’ Category

US Presidents and the Federal Reserve Chairs

December 11, 2019

Nice piece by Peter Earle,

Throughout Fed’s history, it has been attacked by US Presidents. Trump’s attacks are hardly new and just that the medium of attacks has changed. The article discusses some of the episodes of US President and Fed.

In the end:

The entire exercise of introducing evidence that the Fed isn’t politically independent is moot from the start, though. For despite what numerous media outlets have taken the President to task for, the Q&A section of the Richmond Fed website asserts that, in fact, “the Federal Reserve can be more accurately described
as ‘independent within the government’ rather than ‘independent of government.’”

The Fed is independent within the government, in part, because it is self-financed and does not depend on Congressional appropriations or Presidential recommendations for its funding. By the same token, neither the President or Congress can bully the Fed by cutting its budget. That’s not the case with most other federal regulatory agencies, or even the IRS.

Consider what incontestable political independence would actually require: at the very least, every one of the Fed’s political ties—appointments, testimony, the
ability to expand or reduce their mandate, etc.—would have to be severed. To inoculate them from indirect political pressure, the identity of Fed officials would have to be essentially secret.

As currently structured, and considering both the raft of directives that it labors under and the unique attributes of monetary policy, it is cogent to expect elected officials to attempt to sway Fed actions. It was going on for decades before the current President took office and, barring changes, will continue to do so. That any institution exercising as tremendous a mandate as managing the money supply of the world’s largest economy (and the world’s reserve currency, to boot) would go unheeded in the corridors of political power is unrealistic at best.

In that sense, the Federal Reserve is something of an embodiment of the Hayekian adage: a reminder that, at times, economics is a constant lesson in letting people know what they cannot design.

Useful quote from Hayek..

If Wealth Is Justified, so Is a Wealth Tax

December 11, 2019

Katharina Pistor of Columbia Law School in this Proj Synd piece:

Not surprisingly, American billionaires have dismissed recent wealth-tax proposals as an affront to the entrepreneurial spirit to which they attribute their massive wealth. But the ultra-rich never would have their great wealth without legal subsidies from the state and reliable enforcement by the courts.


The private empires over which today’s billionaires preside are organized as legally chartered corporations, which makes them creatures of the law, not of nature. The corporate form shields the personal wealth of the founders and other shareholders from the corporation’s creditors. It also facilitates the diversification of risk within a company, by allowing discrete pools of assets to be created, each with its own set of creditors who are barred from making claims on another asset pool, even though the parent company’s management controls all of them.

Further, the company’s own shares can be used as currency when acquiring other companies. When Facebook bought WhatsApp, it covered $12 billion of the $16 billion purchase price with its own shares, paying only $4 billion in cash. And, as with Facebook, corporate law can be used to cement control by founders and their affiliates through dual-class share structures that grant them more votes than everyone else. As such, they need not fear elections or takeovers of any kind.

Finally, companies whose assets take the form of intellectual property (IP) and other intangibles tend to rely even more on the helping hand of the law. As of 2018, 84% of the market capitalization of the S&P 500 was held in such intangible assets. It takes a legal intervention to turn ideas, skills, and knowhow – which are free to be shared by anybody – into exclusive property rights that are enforced by the full power of the state. And in recent years, Microsoft and other US tech companies have boosted their earning power significantly by promoting US-style IP rules around the world through the World Trade Organization’s body for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

To be sure, there are good reasons for states to adopt laws that empower private agents to reap the rewards of organizing businesses and developing new products and services. But let’s call a spade a spade and a (legal) subsidy a subsidy. While Bezos, Bloomberg, Gates, and Zuckerberg may well be savvy entrepreneurs, they also have benefited on a massive scale from the helping hand of legislatures and courts around the world. This hand is more contingent than the invisible one immortalized by Adam Smith, because its vitality depends on a widely shared belief in the rule of law. The erosion of that belief, not a tax, poses the greatest threat to billionaires’ wealth.

Humanity is all about double standards…

Fiscal stabilisation in monetary unions

December 11, 2019

Plamen Nikolov and Paolo Pasimeni in this piece:

In the EMU fiscal transfers are constrained by the lack of a political union, but we find that fiscal stabilisation through a common budget is relevant in a monetary union. There is a case for addressing both common and asymmetric shocks, but the instruments we choose will have different capacities to address these stabilisation needs. 

The design of the budget, in particular the balance of revenue and expenditure, can maximise its stabilisation effect. The key is to bridge the gap between higher mobility of capital and lower mobility of labour, by collecting revenues based on the income of the most mobile factor (corporate income tax) and providing support to the income of the least mobile factor (social security).

A discretionary program of extended unemployment benefits, mainly funded by the federal level and supported by the borrowing capacity of the federal government, proves a powerful example of a timely and effective stabilisation instrument when we require a specific, contingent stabilisation function.

Hmm..But how to have a common budget?

From GDP 1.0 to GDP 2.0: Distribution to be as important as production

December 9, 2019

Kemal Dervis in this piece:

Building on work by the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, the Center for Equitable Growth has proposed “GDP 2.0,” a metric that would complement existing aggregate GDP reports by disaggregating the income growth of different cross sections of the population (such as income quintiles). Providing this kind of distributional picture regularly would require increased coordination among government departments, as well as some conventions on, for example, how to use tax data to complement the usual national accounts. But conventions are also needed for existing national income accounting.

Provided that distributional data are routinely available, one could compute a growth rate based on the weighted average across each decile of the income distribution, with equal weighting for population, as in the example above. Individuals would still be weighed by their incomes within each group (which is why it would be preferable to use deciles rather than quintiles), but the final product would be much closer than current methods to the “democratic” ideal.

One of the main advantages of GDP growth is that it is expressed with a single number, whereas other performance indicators either are presented within dashboards comprising multiple metrics or aggregated in essentially arbitrary ways. The implicit use of income shares as aggregation weights is perfectly appropriate for macroeconomic analysis and is not arbitrary. The problem arises when GDP becomes a proxy for progress. What we can measure easily and communicate elegantly inevitably determines what we will focus on as a matter of policy. As the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi report put it, “What we measure affects what we do.”

Publishing a democratic metric like the growth rate of GDP 2.0 is no pipedream. A GDP growth rate using equal weights for each decile of the population would also produce a single number to complement the usual growth rate. True, it still would not capture the substantial differences within the top decile in many countries where the top 1% have been gaining disproportionately compared to everyone else. And we still would need other metrics to measure performance in dimensions other than income. But as a single figure published alongside GDP growth, it could go a long way toward changing the dominant conversation about economic performance.

Using history to understand hidden wealth in the UK

December 9, 2019

Neil Cummins of LSE in this piece:

How ECB is one of the lone central bank against war on cash: Greece and Sweden cases

December 9, 2019

ECB despite wanting to move into e-Euro is also one of those few central banks which understands importance of cash.

In two statements, it welcomes Swedish government’s decision to continue to provide cash services and in another one, it asks Greece Government to remove limits on cash transactions.


The ECB understands that electronic payment instruments are increasingly used as the preferred
method of payment in Sweden, while the use of cash is declining. Nevertheless, cash is a well
established means of payment providing for immediate settlement of debts and direct control over
the payer’s spending. Furthermore, the ability to pay in cash remains particularly important for
certain groups in society that, for various legitimate reasons, prefer to use cash rather than other
means of payment, or who are unable to use digital technology. Additionally, cash payments
facilitate the inclusion of the entire population in the economy by allowing it to settle any kind of
financial transaction in this way12. Further, the number of SEK banknotes in circulation in Sweden
has increased since 2017 and while the rate of identity theft and card fraud continues to rise, it is
still among the lowest in Europe13. The ECB notes that cash could play an important role in the
event of a disturbance in the payment systems, even though cash machines and other service
points may also be affected as these are dependent on interaction with the account holding


the ECB considers that the existing limit on cash payments of EUR 500
for consumer-to-business transactions, and the new tax incentives discouraging companies from
spending cash in excess of EUR 300, are disproportionate in light of the potentially adverse impact
on the cash payment system. In case the legislator wishes to preserve cash payment limitations,
higher thresholds should be chosen and a degree of flexibility should be introduced in the draft
amendments. Cash transactions above the defined thresholds should be permitted as long as the
parties are able to ensure that the payment is traceable by identifying the amount, the reason for
the transaction and the parties involved. In addition, competent authorities are invited to assess
whether the remaining restrictions on cash payments are proportionate and compatible with the
legal tender status of euro banknotes35, in order to ensure that the effects of these measures do
not go beyond what is necessary for achieving the objective of combating tax evasion.


The Problem With “Green” Monetary Policy

December 6, 2019

Otmar Issing in this Proj Synd piece says there is no thing as Green monetary policy:

Although there is increasing support for the idea that central banks should actively contribute to the fight against climate change, monetary policymakers have no mandate to do so, and for good reason. Tackling climate change is – and must remain – the responsibility of elected governments and parliaments.


the growing public demand that central banks contribute more actively to the fight against climate change leads to a different dimension. In theory, central banks could introduce preferential interest rates for “green” activities – thus driving up the prices of “green bonds” – while adopting a more negative attitude toward noxious assets, such as those tied to fossil fuels. And yet, assessing whether and to what extent an asset is environmentally harmful or helpful would be extremely difficult.

Putting aside these more technical issues, the broader question remains: Should central banks assume responsibility for implementing policies to combat climate change? A number of prominent central bankers have already argued that they should. And current proposals for extending central banks’ mandate have come on top of growing concerns about income distribution and other issues tangentially related to monetary policy.

One is reminded of an ironic comment by the great Chicago School economist Jacob Viner. “If you were to ask me what are the professed goals of most central bankers,” Viner wrote in 1964, “I would say on the basis of what I have heard them say that if they were appearing before a commission … they would either include a wide range of goals, including virtue and motherhood and also everything they could think of which is nice and good, or insist on the lack of power of central banks to serve effectively any specific important goal.”

After having played a decisive role in preventing the world from falling into another 1930s-style depression, central banks after the 2008 financial crisis have been held up as saviors of the world. The title of “maestro,” once accorded just to former US Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan, has now been extended to the entire field. With central bankers at the height of their reputation, it is not surprising that many would now want them to make a substantive contribution to the fight against climate change.

But central bankers should never forget what they are appointed for: namely, to preserve price stability and, in some cases, to support high levels of employment. Central bankers are not omnipotent, and they should not be made to feel as if they were. Confronting climate change is above all the responsibility of governments and legislatures that are exposed to the risk of losing elections. Climate policies that will affect social and economic arrangements across all of society belong in the hands of those who are directly answerable to voters.

Time for e-Euro?

December 6, 2019

I have just recently written for Moneycontrol on how European central bankers particularly French are really keen on introducing a central bank digital currency.

Christine Lagarde (who is French!), recently appointed at helm of ECB in her first hearing at the European Parliament interestingly spoke on CBDC:

The other topic you have asked me to discuss today is the future of money. Indeed, as central banks navigate a complex and changing landscape, we should not only aim to anticipate future trends, but also seek to shape them. In doing so, we should be particularly attentive to risks and perform a thorough analysis of their costs and benefits.


A central bank digital currency would allow citizens to use central bank money directly in their daily transactions. However, depending on its design, a central bank digital currency could pose risks. For instance, they could alter the way in which monetary policy is conducted and transmitted to the real economy. They could also carry implications for the functioning of the global financial system and its stability. The question of central bank digital currencies and their optimal design therefore warrants further analysis.

Our ultimate goal is to foster safer, innovative and integrated payments in euro. This will in turn benefit everyone in the euro area and strengthen the euro internationally.

François Veilleroy De Galhau of Banque De France in a recent speech (4 Dec 2019), gave a more detailed speech on CBDC:

I shall turn now to a topic that is a major challenge for the future of the international monetary and financial system: the possible creation of a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The creation of a new form of currency by central banks goes beyond the challenges I have just mentioned: it is neither a precondition for nor a guarantee of more efficient payments. However, we as central banks must and want to take up this call for innovation at a time when private initiatives – especially payments between financial players – and technologies are accelerating, and public and political demand is increasing. Other countries have paved the way; it is now up to us to play our part, both ambitiously and methodically.

To this end, the Banque de France is to be reorganised. The current Direction de la surveillance des paiements et des infrastructures de marché (DSPM – Payments and Market Infrastructures Oversight Directorate) will become the Direction des infrastructures, de l’innovation et des paiements (DIIP – Infrastructure, Innovation and Payments Directorate), and its scope will be extended to cover all payment innovations, infrastructures and central bank digital currency. Additional skills will be recruited to strengthen its expertise, and, with the help of our Lab, the DIIP will work with industry innovators from the private sector: we want to start running experiments rapidly and will launch a call for projects before the end of the first quarter of 2020. We are particularly keen to take part in experiments to integrate a “wholesale” CBDC into innovative procedures for exchanging and settling tokenised financial assets. Nathalie Aufauvre, Director General of Financial Stability and Operations, will coordinate the Banque de France’s acceleration process. Our actions will naturally contribute to the work of the Eurosystem, which should make looking into the possibility of an “e-euro” one of its next focuses: Christine Lagarde referred to it on Monday in front of the European Parliament. Beyond this, we intend to take part in the work of the “innovation hub” recently created by the BIS.

On a substantive level, I would like to share with you some first thoughts – which are still open to discussion, of course – on three aspects: the objectives, externalities and possible modalities of a central bank digital currency.

1/ At this stage, I can see three different – but not mutually exclusive – objectives for digitalising central bank currency. The first relates to the desire, in countries such as Sweden where cash use is declining rapidly, to guarantee all citizens access to central bank money. A CBDC would help to preserve the trust in the financial system that stems in part from being able to exchange assets for legal tender. The second argument relates to the efficiency gains, reduced intermediation costs and resilience that would potentially result from the “tokenisation” of a central bank currency, especially in settlement and post-trade activities (which is also one of the objectives of JP Morgan’s JPM Coin project). The third and final reason – and the most important one for political authorities, including in France and Europe – is that creating a CBDC would give us a powerful lever with which to assert our sovereignty in the face of private-sector initiatives such as Libra. This is also one of the concerns highlighted by the People’s Bank of China with its Digital Currency Electronic Payment (DCEP) project.

In this context, what form should our CBDC take? Public expectations on this differ significantly from those of financial institutions. As a result, in the long term, two different uses of the CBDC could exist side by side: one for payments between financial sector players (a so-called “wholesale” currency) that uses blockchain technology and all its possibilities, notably smart contracts; and another for the general public (a so-called “retail” currency) that is simpler and better suited to retail transactions. In this respect, financial institutions are much more digitally mature than private individuals as they already access central bank currency digitally via the bank accounts they hold with the central bank. In addition, following on from the questions raised by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, on the idea of creating an international digital currency in response to the dominance of the US dollar, I think there would be some advantage in moving rapidly to issue at least a wholesale CBDC, as we would be the first such issuer in the world and would thus reap the benefits of having a benchmark CBDC.

2/ The issuance of a CBDC can generate significant positive externalities by increasing the productivity of the financial sector and by extension the economy, and by shoring up confidence in the currency and in the financial system. But, in parallel, it is vital that we examine the potentially negative externalities that a CBDC could generate for liquidity, profitability and bank intermediation. In particular, we need to look very closely at the risks linked to large-scale and/or sudden conversions of bank deposits into central bank money.

3/ The third aspect is the modalities that could be used to circulate the CBDC, especially the “retail” version, about which we need to be particularly vigilant. I’m thinking about the issue of its legal tender status – which is not indispensable but probable; the conditions under which it can be held – in the form of accounts rather than tokens; and last, whether non-residents will have access to it, which would certainly help to raise its international status. Moreover, thanks to their proven expertise in payment instruments, know-your customer requirements and transaction monitoring, financial intermediaries will be able to play a front-line surveillance role in the distribution of the CBDC. In parallel, we will also need to launch a reflection to define the conditions under which the CBDC could circulate anonymously “from person to person”. Limits could be set for the size of anonymous transactions, such as those already applicable in France for e-money and cash payments.


Inflation trends in Asia: implications for central banks

December 6, 2019

Juan Angel Garcia and Aubrey Poon in this paper:

Trend inflation estimates for 12 of the largest Asian economies over 1995-2018 o§er important insights on inflation dynamics and inflation expectations. The disinflationary shocks that hit the region since 2014 were partly transitory, but their effects have been different depending on the behaviour of trend inflation in each country. Countries with relatively high inflation (India, Philippines, Indonesia) benefited, and some were impacted very mildly (China, Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia). Among countries with inflation below target, in those with trend inflation low but constant (Australia, New Zealand) low inflation maybe lasting, but temporary, while those in which trend ináation has declined (South Korea, Thailand) risk low inflation to become entrenched and a de-anchoring of expectations. This diverse international evidence could offer important lessons for monetary policy worldwide.


Contemplations of an interest-rate dove and inflation hawk

December 6, 2019

Interesting title of an interesting speech by Per Jansson, DG of Riksbank.

He says he is a combination of inflation hawk and interest rate dove!


NSE’s RH Patil Memorial Lecture 2019: Prof Robert Engle

December 5, 2019

NSE organised the RH Patil Memorial lecture for 2019. This time Prof Engle delivers the lecture.

Last year it was Robert Merton..

Which country will be the king of digital currency: A currency war of a different kind..

December 4, 2019

My new piece in moneycontrol.

From a hands-off approach to a gradual embrace, central banks are fighting a pitched battle to assert their digital monetary supremacy

Why Russian Empire’s banking system was always doomed to failure?

December 4, 2019

Interesting piece on history of banking in a region which I know least about.

The first money lender in Russia was the Orthodox Church. It was followed by the state, which set up banks. However, the banks also existed to credit the state itself. The Russian Empire’s banking system was doomed to failure. Here is why it collapsed.
Most empires barring may be British got banking wrong and working only for themselves and the elites..


Risks and benefits of modern financial technology: Lessons from a 17th century stablecoin

December 3, 2019

Nice speech by Klaas Knot of Netherlands central bank.

He points how Bank of Amsterdam was doing similar things as today’s proposals for stablecoin:


Economics as a profession: from science to practice

December 3, 2019

Benoît Cœuré of ECB in this speech:

It is a true pleasure to be back here at the Paris School of Economics (PSE).

You are now on the home stretch. I well remember how I felt during my own final year: excited, anxious and curious all at once.

Over the next few months, you will need to take serious, life-changing decisions. The data suggest there is about a two-in-three chance that you will pursue further studies.

For many, a master’s degree is a natural step towards a PhD. And a PhD is essentially a promise of employment. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate for PhD economists is about 0.8%, the lowest among all sciences.[1] Not a bad place to start from.

But a PhD is not about financial optimisation. Estimates for the United Kingdom suggest that British men with a master’s degree earn 23% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to.[2] The earnings premium for a PhD, which often takes three to five times as long, is just 26%. For some subjects, the premium for a PhD even vanishes entirely.

So first piece of advice: your PhD should be fuelled by your passion and your love for research rather than by hopes of earning more money.

Money was clearly not the reason for me to join the labour market in 1992 when I graduated from PSE with a Master in Analysis and Policy in Economics.

My first appointment took me to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, or INSEE, before I moved on to the French Treasury and then, in 2012, to the European Central Bank (ECB).

The path that I chose to explore is just one of many that are open to you. The good news is that the solid training you receive here at PSE makes it your choice.

The world of economics is incredibly broad. I will leave it to the participants of the two roundtables this evening to make a convincing case for their respective institutions, although I would not be surprised if many of you take the lead from the English author G.K. Chesterton who said, “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite”.

But I wouldn’t be here tonight if I hadn’t planned to use this opportunity to make at least some publicity for the public sector.


Three papers discussing the stormy birth of “Europe”:

December 2, 2019

Joseph Halevi of INET has written three interesting papers on Europe.

He explains these papers in this post:

hese three INET Working Papers analyze the gradual emergence of the European Union and its monetary systems through early years of the introduction of the Euro. Their point of departure is the crucial role oligopoly plays in the evolution of modern capitalist economies and the dominating influence of the principle of effective demand in the dynamics of these systems.

These factors, though, cannot be understood apart from specific institutional and political conditions not simply in relation to fiscal and monetary policies but, and especially, in relation to the context of the international relations ruling in any given period. Arrangements that would have been conceptually and politically all but unthinkable prior to 1945 became the main pillars of Western Europe’s recovery undertaken under the aegis of the United Sates: The Marshall Plan, the creation of the European Payments Union, and the London Conference of 1953 leading to the drastic reduction of the German debt. In each of these the external factor, i.e., the balance of payments positions of the countries concerned took center stage. The balance of payments issue encapsulated the question of effective demand since for virtually all the Western European countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany, overcoming the external constraint by getting a slice of external demand, became the necessary condition for the expansion of investment in the domestic economy.


How executive greed led to ruin of De La Rue, world’s top banknote printer…

November 29, 2019

De La Rue which prints/provides technology for banknotes is in financial trouble. One would think this would be due to rise in digital transactions. But this is not the case. It is due to executive compensation!

Guardian reports:

De La Rue’s shareholder meeting in June, 48% of votes were cast against the banknote printer’s remuneration report, presumably in protest at the £197,000 bonus awarded to its then chief executive, Martin Sutherland, in his final undistinguished year at the helm. Perhaps the 52% of compliant voters were half asleep. Five months later, the horrible state of De La Rue should be plain even to dozy fund managers.

Debt has soared, borrowing covenants are tight and there is “material uncertainty” over the 200-year-old company’s future if known risks materialise. De La Rue has fallen into a half-year loss of £12.1m. The dividend is being cut from 25p a share to zero, which clearly should have happened before now. The share price, down by almost a quarter on Tuesday, stands at a 21-year low.

The farewell bonus for Sutherland, who finally departed last month, now looks a wretched joke about a licence to print money.

The new chief executive, Clive Vacher, was too polite to aim a direct kick at his predecessors but it wasn’t hard to detect his diagnosis of drift in the boardroom. “The business has experienced an unprecedented level of change with the chairman, CEO, senior independent director and most of the executive team leaving or resigning in the period,” he wrote in the half-year report. “This has led to inconsistency in both quality and speed of execution.”


No lessons learnt..

25 years of independence of Central banks of Mexico and Spain

November 29, 2019

Central Bank Independence seems to be a great deal in Latin American countries. There is a reason why Central bank of Mexico organised a seminar to reflect on the 25 years of its independence.

Pablo Hernández de Cos, Governor of Central Bank of Spain gives a speech at the seminar:

The Banco de España was granted institutional independence in July 1994. So this year, as is also the case for the Banco de México, marks the 25th anniversary of our Law of Autonomy. The independence of the Banco de España came about as part of the European economic integration process. Following the requirements laid down in the Maastricht Treaty, central banks in the European Union were meant to pursue the primary objective of price stability and be vested with a large degree of independence, both political and operational. Participation in the monetary union also entailed a change in the relationship
between Treasury and central bank so as to incorporate the prohibition of monetary financing of government deficits.

Central bank independence was granted with a large degree of legal protection and, as a matter of fact, no country in the European Union can change it at its own discretion. Of course, the independence of the central bank does not mean arbitrariness, as it is well counterbalanced by high transparency and accountability requirements and practices. 

Granting independence to the Banco de España some years before the introduction of the euro as a common currency reflected Spain’s strong ambition to become a founding member of the European Economic and Monetary Union. It was also the result of a firm political conviction as to the benefits of price stability and the advisability of delegating the pursuit of this goal to an independent central bank. Price stability requires a medium-term orientation and the independence of the monetary authority creates credibility by helping to keep inflation expectations anchored while avoiding time inconsistency problems.1 These reasons were particularly compelling for the Spanish economy in light of the previous experience of relatively high inflation.



Central bankers as explorers/navigators such as Vasco Da Gama, Columbus…

November 29, 2019

Klaas Knot of Dutch Central Bank in this speech:

We are drawing closer to the end of the year in which the ECB has been celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Typically, this type of event leads one to look back and reflect on the lessons learnt over time. And to evaluate how the lessons learnt can be taken on board in future endeavors. Indeed, the year has seen many conferences and papers dedicated to the tale of the ECB’s first two decades. For European central bankers, the second of these two decades has been particularly challenging.

In the last decade, the ECB has been navigating uncharted waters with unconventional monetary policy, just like Magellan, Sir Francis Drake and Columbus. We were not without compass, nor without a clearly set course. But nevertheless, the waters we navigated were new to us. No maps were available. And, again like those famous explorers, we were vigilant, alert and prudent. Now that we seem to have reached a harbor of some sort, and a new captain is aboard, we should consider charting the unchartered. We should draw maps of the coasts we discovered. We should mark where the sea monsters live. We should be the cartographers of unconventional monetary policy.


Not sure many would agree to this comparison!

What drives interest rates? Central bank policy rates or something else?

November 29, 2019

Òscar Jordà and Alan M. Taylor in this short paper look at evidence from Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

People generally attribute a great deal of discretion to a central bank’s ability to set interest rates. This might be an overstatement. Our analysis suggests that most of the variation in interest rates can be explained by conditions beyond the central bank’s control: the aging of the population, declining rates of productivity growth, and other slow-moving factors known to affect the neutral rate of interest globally and domestically. From this perspective, fears that policy stances are increasingly diverging across advanced economies and that this divergence may have adverse consequences for the international financial system may be overblown.


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