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
In the last few months, the world has gone crazy for “Abenomics” – Japan’s hopeful escape route out of its two “lost decades.” It’s the aggressive monetary easing from the Bank of Japan that has produced the most significant reaction so far. The central bank has adopted a new inflation target of 2% to be achieved within two years, and to hit this target, the BoJ will double the size of the monetary base by the end of 2014, mainly through increased purchases of Japanese government bonds (JGB).
To put the BOJ’s quantitative easing in context: the policy measures will produce a massive expansion of the balance sheet to 60% of GDP by 2014. By contrast, the Fed’s balance sheet is unlikely to grow to more than 30% of GDP. Read more
If you’re looking for a gauge on U.S. inflation, you’ve got two primary options. There’s CPI – the consumer price index. And there’s PCE – personal consumption expenditures. Both CPI and PCE serve as broad measures of inflation (i.e. how much prices are going up on consumer goods and services). That’s useful information if you’re trying to predict economic activity, because rapid and unexpected inflation can be bad for economic growth. So, what would you say if I told you that while CPI and PCE generally track in the same direction, there is a difference between the two estimates? And what if I told you that in March 2013, that difference hit its highest level since the start of the 2008-2009 recession? In March, core CPI showed 1.9% year-over-year growth, while core PCE showed a 1.1% increase over the same period. Sure, it’s only a difference of 0.8%, but 0.8% could mean the difference between extending quantitative easing and wrapping it up. 0.8% could mean the difference between projected growth and a return to recession. 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
This week, in my capacity as a part of the strategy team for Principal Global Investors, I have the opportunity of attending the Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles. The conference is a program that includes 140 sessions involving a total of 620 speakers and panelists. This year’s record attendance of over 3,000 brings together participants from 40 countries. By any measure, it’s an incredible range of experiences and disciplines. For the next couple days, I’ll be sharing a few insights from some of the presenters and panels, starting with this post about some of Monday’s sessions.
First, a general observation. Experiencing this conference brings home the fact that, at its core, investing is about people and ideas. In a forum like Milken, you really see the power of bringing senior business leaders and investment professionals together with clients and guests for three days packed with thought-provoking discussions. Read more
During a recent visit to the United States, the message of Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe to President Obama was “Japan is back!” This is Abe’s economic battle cry in his fight to end two decades of deflation, meager growth, and economic malaise. And much like Japan’s feudal lords of a bygone era, Shinzo Abe has a trusted advisor ready to lead his country into battle – a samurai, if you will. Shinzo’s samurai, to coin a phrase, is his appointee for the governor or the Bank of Japan, Haruhiko Kuroda.
Governor Kuroda’s first foray will be during this week’s policy meetings of the Bank of Japan. This week’s meetings, Kuroda’s first, will be his initial test to see if he can achieve the results that eluded his predecessor, Masaaki Shirakawa. Kuroda has assumed his own battle cry of sorts, adopting language from the European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi. “Whatever it takes!” That’s what Kuroda says he’ll do to reach a 2% inflation target within two years – a goal imposed by Abe on the central bank. Read more
Today, the Federal Reserve announced that it will keep its foot on the easy-money pedal until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5% or inflation looks to go above 2.5%. The proposal has been getting some press as of late (you can see my recent post after Fed Vice Chair Yellen brought up the idea in November). This is almost exactly what Chicago Fed president Charles Evans proposed back in 2011. Well, Evans has evidently convinced everyone else at the Fed. Read more