Mark Carney has really put his stamp of authority on the Bank of England (BoE). After just one month as the BoE’s new governor, he’s already shaking things up. At the latest meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), he introduced forward guidance that would have been almost unimaginable under the previous Governor, Mervyn King.
Here’s what Carney’s forward guidance looks like. The MPC intends not to raise their benchmark bank rate from its current level of 0.5% until the unemployment rate falls to a threshold level of 7%. This is subject to three caveats:
- inflation is no higher than 0.5% above the 2% inflation target at the 18-24 month horizon
- medium-term inflation expectations are contained
- and the Financial Policy Committee (FPC) believes that an accommodative monetary policy stance doesn’t pose a risk to financial stability. Read more
The Reserve Bank of Australia must be feeling pressure to provide financial markets with explicit forward guidance on the long-term direction of its interest rate strategy. These days, with central banks all over the world providing markets with forward guidance on rates in an effort to shape market expectations, the RBA is one of the few remaining major central banks to maintain a sense of anticipation at each meeting – rates could just as easily go up as they could go down. Even the European Central Bank has finally backed away from its sacred no “pre-commitment” policy. Check out my previous post on forward guidance here.
Increasingly these days, what was once considered to be “abnormal,” markets are beginning to construe as “normal.” A central bank that doesn’t provide forward guidance is increasingly seen as hawkish (“do they have something to hide?”) and markets tend to react by driving up its bond yields and their respective currency – effectively tightening financial conditions.
In a recent economic commentary (here’s the link), Bob Baur and I examined the pros and cons of the two top candidates to succeed Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve: Janet Yellen and Larry Summers. Today, I’d like to use this blog post to examine a few different avenues where Yellen and Summers might differ were each to get the Fed’s top job.
The first way I’d look at this would be from their respective statements on Fed policy. Almost everything we’ve heard from Yellen suggests that she’ll be Spider-Man 2 to Bernanke’s Spider-Man…more of the same, still pretty good, but not saddled with the task of having to explain how this all started. Summers is harder to read. Read more
I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
Alan Greenspan said it, but it certainly captures what current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, has to be thinking. In his efforts to be open and transparent, Bernanke has struggled over recent weeks to make himself understood. Markets reacted to talk of tapering the bond-buying QE program as if the Fed had announced that it would be hiking the fed funds rate to 5% by Labor Day. So since the last Fed meeting, Bernanke and several Fed governors have been in the public eye trying to clarify that “tapering” is not “tightening.”
With the release of the latest FOMC meeting’s minutes (available here), and echoed in his speech on July 10 (text here), we saw a bit more clarity that’s meant to ease markets back towards Bernanke’s intended message. Two key points that you can pull from the recent Fed communications: Read more
Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something
I think you’ll understand
When I say that something
I want to hold your hand
- “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles
Hand-holding is getting to be very popular with the world’s major central banks. Effectively constrained by zero or near-zero interest rates, central banks have been putting greater emphasis on the effectiveness of their communications. Central bank “speak” – if used wisely – holds the power to ease monetary conditions as much as, if not more than, policy rate changes. Read more
Monetary accommodation was on the rise in May. Of the twelve major bank meetings during the month, nine resulted in cuts, two central banks held policy steady, and only one actually increased rates to control inflation.
While the Federal Reserve didn’t change direction, it sent mixed messages regarding its quantitative easing (QE) program. The minutes from the April-May FOMC indicated willingness to “increase or reduce” the pace of QE, a change from previous meetings that were primarily focused on QE reduction aspects. Read more
Britain’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has graced the obverse (that’s coin-and-currency aficionado jargon for “front”) of the Canadian $20 banknote since 1954. Now, 59 years later, a Canadian is getting the opportunity to influence British money…well, monetary policy, at least.
On July 1, Mark Carney, a Canadian and the outgoing head of Canada’s central bank, will cross the pond to take over as the governor of the Bank of England. When he does so, Carney looks to be inheriting an economy that will likely be somewhat improved from the depths of its double-dip recession. The UK is, in fact, enjoying an upturn in activity. First-quarter GDP growth was a positive surprise, and the most recent purchasing manager index readings are suggesting that the recovery has stretched into the second quarter. Read more