Helicopters are for real disasters

So, everybody and their grandmas are discussing something so absurdly wacko, that just a few years earlier, even mentioning it could very well cost you your professional reputation. But in times of QE and negative rates, the perception of “throwing money off a helicopter” is relatively less crazy. In absolute terms of course, it is still nuts. Continue reading Helicopters are for real disasters

Inflation is inflation is inflation. Or not?

New numbers of the consumer price index sparked again a debate about what monetary policy can do to fight off European deflation and thence the economic glum across the continent. In brief, in February the HICP fell by 0.2 percentage points an an annualised basis. Since the average HICP is the ECB’s preferred gauge for “inflation”, this would suggest further loosening of monetary policy – not to mention that monetary
policy is as loose as it never has been, and this for years. So you may have noticed that I have put the term inflation in quotes, since inflation is something else, but not (really) the change of the HICP. Continue reading Inflation is inflation is inflation. Or not?

A central bank cannot monetise away a liquidity trap

As was expected, today the ECB cut its penalty interest rates on banks’ deposits further into negative territory to 0.4 from 0.3 per cent. Additionally, the ECB also cut its main refinancing operations rate to zero from 0.05 per cent and increased the volume of its QE purchases to 80 billion Euro per month, from 60 billion. As always, the ECB cited sub-par inflation due to slow credit growth as the reason for this policy move.
To my mind, this policy move is merely cosmetic, to keep up the mirage of the ECB’s prowess, where there is actually nothing Frankfurt’s Ostend can do to end Europe’s slump. For years now, Europe is stuck in a liquidity trap. And as we all know, in a situation where the transmission mechanism is broken, more liquidity will not help, that’s why it is called a trap. It seems worth to repeat, that no central bank, no matter how powerful, can monetise away a liquidity trap. Not even the ECB, not even with the fancy, shiny new policy tools of negative rates or QE. Europe’s problem is not liquidity supply, given QE and ultra-low interest, ultra-long provisions, money is everything but scarce. But two features of Europe’s economies make all this supply virtually void.

Continue reading A central bank cannot monetise away a liquidity trap

Anfa is not as bad as thought but still bad

A bit more than two months ago in early December, there was much fuss about the ECB’s secret Anfa (Agreement on Net Financial Assets) and how the Central Banks of France and Italy allegedly misused it for additional monetary easing to the tune of roughly half a trillion euros, by buying sovereign debt. The public outrage over a secret agreement and using it to circumvent the prohibition of monetary financing, prompted the ECB to first release an explainer, that Anfa was quite the opposite of what was speculated in the media – but nobody believed it and politicians and economists (including myself) demanded the agreement to be made public. And on February 5th, the ECB did publish the text, along with the signatures of the NCB governors, the technical appendix and an extended explainer. Unfortunately, the agreement is a rather unreadable document, but nevertheless, I read through it and came to the conclusion that Anfa is actually bad, but not as bad as we may have thought. Anfa actually does what the ECB claims, namely to limit the amount of assets the NCBs may hold for non-monetary policy purposes. But there are several catches. Continue reading Anfa is not as bad as thought but still bad

Anfa must be revealed and ended

Last week’s „discovery“ of the secret Agreement on Net Financial Assets (Anfa) that seemingly even ECB President Mario Draghi was not quite aware of (or he was ad subsequently was embarrassed by being caught), showed that matters at the core of the Eurosystem are rotten.

Anfa shows three things: First, some people in the ECB Council must be explained that public trust and transparency are modern central banks only working instruments; second, the decision-making process in the ECB council is in effect worthless; and last, even technocratic expert gremium need either checks and balances or must be greatly curtailed in their freedoms.

Continue reading Anfa must be revealed and ended

Fiscal transfers without controls are a bad idea

Yesterday, France’s economy minister, Emmanuel Macron, suggested the Euro Area should have a permanent fiscal transfer mechanism that diverts funds from rich members to poor members. A fiscal transfer scheme between (semi-)sovereign nations without any controls is a really bad idea even for the members of a monetary union. Continue reading Fiscal transfers without controls are a bad idea

Europe needs enforcable rules, no fiscal centralisation

The Economist still advocates a form of debt mutualisation in Europe, that is Eurobonds of one sort or another. While I usually agree with the Economist on most topics, I am really baffled by how stubborn the Economist is in advocating these ideas, rubbish as they are. Continue reading Europe needs enforcable rules, no fiscal centralisation