Angela Merkel’s Smart Move

According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, Jens Weidmann, the current president of the German Bundesbank, will not be Merkel’s candidate at the head of the ECB in October 2019. Mario Draghi will leave the ECB presidency at this date.
This can be surprising but it is not. It’s the most rational decision for Germany.
The ECB strategy is often looked through the lens of the Bundesbank. We are all attentive to the German point of view. The German central bank is perceived as ultra orthodox on monetary policy and Germany is the largest and the most powerful country of the Eurozone. These two reasons suggest that there is no need of a German president. The Bundesbank president and the accumulated credibility of the Bundesbank are sufficient to condition the ECB’ s behavior. A German president would be redundant.
Germany can therefore choose a German candidate for another job at the top of an other European Institution and extend its influence.
Well done Angela

A Former Central Banker Tells Other Central Bankers: “Stay Away From Davos” –

An interesting point of view on the role and the place of central bankers in the political spectrum.

In an interview with ProMarket, former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Paul Tucker explains why the “unelected power” of central bankers threatens our system of government.

Sir Paul Tucker
The European Central Bank found itself under renewed scrutiny this month, after Italy accused it of buying too few Italian sovereign bonds, allegedly in an effort to pressure the country’s new populist government to adopt more conventional economic policies.

The accusation was yet another example of the curious position the ECB has repeatedly found itself in ever since the central bank’s president Mario Draghi promised to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the euro in 2012. But it was also part of a larger, global wave of populist attacks against central banks. In Turkey, President Erdogan has repeatedly attacked the country’s central bank for raising interest rates, even going so far as to threaten the bank’s independence. In Britain, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has assailed the Bank of England and other central banks for their loose monetary policies, arguing that these policies benefited a small minority of “crony capitalists” who had “rigged the system” in their favor.

This political backlash came as no surprise to Sir Paul Tucker, the former deputy governor at the Bank of England and a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Central bankers, Tucker writes in his timely new book Unelected Power: The Quest for Legitimacy in Central Banking and the Regulatory State, have emerged from the financial crisis with enormous new powers, entrusted by governments with the ultimate responsibility of making the economic recovery work. This change, he writes, relied on the “false hope” that central banks can create long-term prosperity. It is also fundamentally different than the response to the Great Depression, which was led by elected officials, not central bankers. Their expanded responsibilities, argues Tucker, have also turned central bankers into the “poster boys and girls” of unelected power, a process which ultimately erodes the legitimacy not only of central banks, but also our system of government as a whole.

Tucker, the chair of the Systemic Risk Council, a non-partisan think tank composed of former government officials and financial and legal experts, is a lifelong central banker. His book, an ambitious tome that stretches over 656 dense pages, is both a philosophical treatise on the limits of the administrative state and a passionate call for fellow technocrats to heed the lessons of recent political upheavals, pull back their power, and engage the public in a wider debate.

We recently sat with Tucker, who visited the Stigler Center in May for a series of interrelated lunch seminars, for an interview on politics, regulatory capture, and central banking’s crisis of legitimacy.

Read the interview promarket.org/former-central-banker-tells-central-bankers-stay-away-davos/

ECB: status quo

Wait and see attitude of the #ECB in the management of its monetary policy. This is a sequel of the cyclical inflection observed since the beginning of the year. Is it permanent or temporary? The answer to this question is essential but it is still discussed by economists.

The ECB does not show a strong will to quickly change its strategy. That’s why we should not be surprised if asset purchases continue beyond the date of September 2018. The central bank is supposed to stop buying assets if the inflation trajectory is consistent with the monetary authorities’ expectations. This will probably not be the case. Moreover, by not creating the idea of ​​a rapid break, the ECB should allow the euro to depreciate against the greenback. This would have a stabilizing effect on the eurozone economic outlook. This is all the more likely as the Fed will be much more active in countering the destabilizing effects of Donald Trump’s fiscal policy.

Wage trends and employment – My Monday column

The minutes of the ECB’s March meeting reflect the central bank’s confidence in economic activity conditions in the euro area. The most noteworthy point reflecting this perception is the removal of APP easing bias i.e. the reference to increasing the asset purchase program if necessary. The bank no longer thinks that economic momentum will require emergency intervention. However, uncertainty remains on inflation trends and the ECB continues to insist that the ongoing reduction of economic slack would allow inflation to converge towards the central bank’s aim. March 2018 projections are still far from the 2% target even in 2020, when headline inflation is only expected to come to 1.7%.
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Continue reading

ECB, Inflation, the Fed, and Employment in France – My Monday column

Inflation figures at 1.1% in February do not trigger expectations of a fast and sharp change in the ECB’s monetary policy, and Mario Draghi and Peter Praet did not indicate that they were in any hurry to implement swift or sudden change in their comments at the end of last week.
The ECB’s monetary strategy is dependent on reaching inflation in line with its medium-term objectives: the 1.1% figure does not point in this direction.
ea-2018-february-inlation
The chart below shows the contribution from each of the three main sectors to the rise in inflation, and we can see that none of them display a marked uptrend. Continue reading

Growth, Inflationary Risk, and Euro Area Reforms – My Monday column

World growth has stopped accelerating and hit a plateau, inflationary risk is now more visible in investors’ behavior, and the ECB is advocating urgent reforms to the euro area’s institutional framework in order to make it more resilient.

After an acceleration in the last quarter of 2017, is world growth hitting a plateau? This is what manufacturing sector Markit surveys seem to suggest. The swift growth seen right throughout 2017 has ground to a halt, and while indices all stand at admittedly impressive levels reflecting swift growth in economic activity, they are no longer rising.

The global index was flat in January at 54.4 vs. 54.5 in December. This figure is very useful as it acts as a leading indicator of world trade trends. The relationship between the two metrics is important and world growth was so extensive and uniform precisely because this correlation worked well again in 2017. In this respect, monetary policy accommodation across the globe was a prerequisite for a recovery in growth, and in 2017 provided sufficient impetus to truly spark it off. Continue reading

The ECB and the Quest for Full Employment

“To reduce the European unemployment rate, the ECB must copy the Fed’s behavior”

Growth in the euro area picked up considerably in 2017 coming out at 2.5% vs. 1.8% in 2016, and hitting its highest point since 2007. The ECB played a lead role in this economic improvement: its policy of keeping interest rates very low by maintaining the main refinancing operations rate at 0% and via its asset purchase program on longer maturity securities was very effective.

These moves helped encourage Europeans to spend now by reducing the incentives to hang onto their wealth and spend it later, and in this respect, ECB President Mario Draghi skilfully steered the situation. The growth we are currently witnessing is driven by private domestic demand i.e. household spending and investment.

Unemployment trends
Yet unemployment remains high in the euro area, standing 1.4 points above end-2007 figures, when it came to 7.3%. This means that growth has not yet fully completed its upward adjustment. Continue reading