Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election BBC Exit Polls Forecast Accuracy - Nadeem_Walayat
2.UK General Election 2017 Seats Final Forecast, Labour, Conservative Lib-Dem, SNP - Nadeem_Walayat
3.UK General Election 2017 Forecast: Conservative 358, Labour 212 Seats - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Theresa May to Resign, Fatal Error Was to Believe Worthless Opinion Polls! - Nadeem_Walayat
5.UK House Prices Forecast General Election 2017 Conservative Seats Result - Nadeem_Walayat
6.The Stock Market Crash of 2017 That Never Was But Could it Still Come to Pass? - Sol_Palha
7.[TRADE ALERT] Write This Gold Stock Ticker Down Now - WallStreetNation
8.UK General Election Results Map 2017 vs 2015 vs Opinion Polls - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Orphaned Poisoned Waters,Severe Chronic Water Shortage Imminent - Richard_Mills
10.How The Smart Money Is Playing The Lithium Boom - OilPrice_Com
Last 7 days
Nether Edge By Election Result: Labour Win Sheffield City Council Seat by 132 Votes - 23rd Jun 17
Grenfell Fire: 600 of 4000 Tower Blocks Ticking Time Bomb Death Traps! - 22nd Jun 17
Car Sales About To Go Over The Cliff - 22nd Jun 17
LOG 0.786 support in CRUDE OIL and COCOA - 22nd Jun 17
More Stock Market Fluctuations Along New Record Highs - 22nd Jun 17
Understanding true money, Pound Sterling must make another historic low, Euro and Gold outlook! - 22nd Jun 17
Green Party Could Control Sheffield City Council Balance of Power Local Election 2018 - 22nd Jun 17
Ratio Combo Charts : Hidden Clues to the Gold Market Puzzle - 22nd Jun 17
Steem Hard Forks & Now People Are Making Even More Money On Blockchain Steemit - 22nd Jun 17
4 Steps for Comparing Binary Options Providers - 22nd Jun 17
Nether Edge & Sharrow By-Election, Will Labour Lose Safe Council Seat, Sheffield? - 21st Jun 17
Stock Market SPX Making New Lows - 21st Jun 17
Your Future Wealth Depends on what You Decide to Keep and Invest in Now - 21st Jun 17
Either Bitcoin Will Fail OR Bitcoin Is A Government Invention Meant To Enslave... - 21st Jun 17
Strength in Gold and Silver Mining Stocks and Its Implications - 21st Jun 17
Inflation is No Longer in Stealth Mode - 21st Jun 17
CRUDE OIL UPDATE- “0.30 risk is cheap for changing implication!” - 20th Jun 17
Crude Oil Verifies Price Breakdown – Or Is It Something More? - 20th Jun 17
Trump Backs ISIS As He Pushes US Onto Brink of World War III With Russia - 20th Jun 17
Most Popular Auto Trading Tools for trading with Stock Markets - 20th Jun 17
GDXJ Gold Stocks Massacre: The Aftermath - 20th Jun 17
Why Walkers Crisps Pay Packet Promotion is RUBBISH! - 20th Jun 17
7 Signs You Should Add Gold To Your Portfolio Now - 19th Jun 17
US Bonds and Related Market Indicators - 19th Jun 17
Wireless Wars: The Billion Dollar Tech Boom No One Is Talking About - 19th Jun 17
Amey Playing Cat and Mouse Game with Sheffield Residents and Tree Campaigners - 19th Jun 17
Positive Stock Market Expectations, But Will Uptrend Continue? - 19th Jun 17
Gold Proprietary Cycle Indicator Remains Down - 19th Jun 17
Stock Market Higher Highs Still Likely - 18th Jun 17
The US Government Clamps Down on Ability of Americans To Purchase Bitcoin - 18th Jun 17
NDX/NAZ Continue downward pressure on the US Stock Market - 18th Jun 17
Return of the Gold Bear? - 18th Jun 17
Are Sheffield's High Rise Tower Blocks Safe? Grenfell Cladding Fire Disaster! - 18th Jun 17
Globalist Takeover Of The Internet Moves Into Overdrive - 17th Jun 17
Crazy Charging Stocks Bull Market Random Thoughts - 17th Jun 17
Reflation, Deflation and Gold - 17th Jun 17
Here’s The Case For An Upside Risk In The Global Economy - 17th Jun 17
Gold Bullish on Fed Interest Rate Hike - 16th Jun 17
Drones Upending Business Models and Reshaping Industry Landscapes - 16th Jun 17
Grenfell Tower Cladding Fire Disaster, 4,000 Ticking Time Bombs, Sheffield Council Flats Panic! - 16th Jun 17
Heating Oil Bottom Is In.(probably) - 16th Jun 17
Here’s the Investing Reason Active Funds Can’t Beat Passive Funds—and It Worries Me a Lot - 16th Jun 17
Is There Gold “Hype” and is Gold an Emotional Trade? - 16th Jun 17
The War On Cash Is Now Becoming The War On Cryptocurrency - 15th Jun 17
The US Dollar Bull Case - 15th Jun 17
The Pros and Cons of Bitcoin and Blockchain - 15th Jun 17
The Retail Sector Downfall We Saw Coming - 15th Jun 17
Charts That Explain Why The US Rule Oil Prices Not OPEC - 15th Jun 17
How to Find the Best Auto Loan - 15th Jun 17
Ultra-low Stock Market Volatility #ThisTimeIsDifferent - 14th Jun 17
DOLLAR has recently damaged GOLD and SILVER- viewed in MRI 3D charts - 14th Jun 17
US Dollar Acceleration Phase is Dead Ahead! - 14th Jun 17
Hit or Pass? An Overview of 2017’s Best Ranked Stocks - 14th Jun 17
Rise Gold to Recommence Work at Idaho Maryland Mine After 60 Years - 14th Jun 17
Stock Market Tech Shakeout! - 14th Jun 17
The #1 Gold Stock of 2017 - 14th Jun 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The MRI 3D Report

Bernanke's Credible Irresponsibility: The Logic Behind Cheap Money

Interest-Rates / US Interest Rates Jun 10, 2011 - 02:09 PM GMT

By: Ben_Traynor

Interest-Rates

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleDoes Ben Bernanke want us to trust him? Maybe not…

IN THE murky realm of economic policy, things are not always what they seem.


"When it becomes serious, you have to lie," Luxembourg's prime minister and chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker reminded us a few weeks back.

So when Ben Bernanke tells us the Federal Reserve must be "vigilant in preserving its hard-won credibility for maintaining price stability", as he did last Tuesday, should we believe him?

Or is it just a feint? Is the Fed in fact perfectly happy to see its credibility ebb away, to the point – if we haven't reached it already – that no one at all believes it is serious about keeping a lid on inflation?

The question is not as far-fetched as you might think. Indeed, there is a body of economic theory that actively encourages "irresponsible" monetary policy.

The year is 1998. The US economy is growing, consumers are spending, and Washington is far more concerned with blue dresses and "improper relationships" than it is with federal debt limits or unemployment. 

But over in Japan, things are very different. Japan's economy has stalled. Growth has been stagnant for almost a decade. The Bank of Japan, in an effort to get things moving, has slashed interest rates to near-zero. It hasn't worked.

In May of that year economist Paul Krugman – who would later find fame and adulation as the New York Times' Conscience of a Liberal – offers a diagnosis. Japan is in a liquidity trap.

The liquidity trap, in economic theory, is a situation in which monetary policy is incapable of further stimulating the economy. Even an interest rate of zero, where the cost of borrowing money is essentially free (and the reward for saving nil) fails to encourage more spending or investment.

In his paper, Krugman offered two explanations for why a liquidity trap might occur:

  • The Deflation Explanation If prices are falling, then while the nominal rate of interest may be zero, the real rate, adjusted for changes in prices, would still be positive. In other words, saving cash for no nominal return would still leave you more spending power in future, because prices will be lower.
  • The Falling Incomes Explanation If incomes are falling – for example because of recession – then people will save now in order to have something to spend later. Similarly, businesses are unlikely to invest in new stock or greater productive capacity if their potential customers are getting poorer.

Note that what's important isn't just what is happening to prices and incomes right now, but what people expect will happen in future. This is why central bankers talk so much about credibility. They (attempt to) control inflation by influencing inflation expectations. If no one believes they'll achieve their targets, this is much harder.

To get consumers spending and businesses investing, then, it is not enough to cut interest rates to zero. Expectations need to be changed too.

The solution Krugman offered for Japan in 1998 can be summed up in a single word: inflation.

"The way to make monetary policy effective," he wrote, "is for the central bank to credibly promise to be irresponsible – to make a persuasive case that it will permit inflation to occur, thereby producing the negative real interest rates the economy needs." [Italics Krugman's].

In other words, if people believe prices will keep rising, there is no incentive to hang on to cash. Consumers may as well spend, and businesses may as well invest, since their money will be worth less tomorrow.

Maybe this is how western central bankers justify to themselves the ultra-low interest rates we see today. In their minds, so successful have they been at portraying themselves as tough on inflation, extraordinary measures are required to undo the "hard won credibility" they believe they have.
   
Perhaps too this was part of the logic behind quantitative easing – to convince us all that prices were rising, so we may as well hit the shops pronto.

There's just one niggling problem with this policy prescription...

It didn't work in Japan. And it hasn't worked in the West either...

Nevertheless, that's no reason to think central banks will give up now. After all, Japan's official policy rate has stayed below 1% since 1995...and last year the Bank of Japan lowered it to less than 0.1%.

Various statements by Bernanke suggest the Fed too is in no hurry to reverse its cheap money policy, and will wait for the economy to make the first move:

  • A few months later, in February 2010, Bernanke told Congress that an exit from the Fed's "accommodative policy stance" would "depend on economic and financial developments".
  • And now we have Tuesday's speech, in which the Fed chairman shared the latest diagnosis that although the economy "is moving in the right direction", production remains well below potential so "accommodative monetary policies are still needed". 

Then we have this post on the New York Fed's blog, lamenting "The Mistake of 1937" – when inflation fears led to the Fed abandoning the loose monetary policy that had prevailed since 1933.

Sure, the Fed may hold back on a third round of QE, at least for a while. Bernanke may even do a Jean-Claude Trichet, and raise rates a mere quarter-percent – as the European Central Bank did in April – so he can trumpet his "vigilance" on inflation.

Here at BullionVault we see little likelihood the Fed will significantly changing course any time soon. Returns on cash – after inflation – will remain negative until...well, until everything's fine, basically.

A bet on real interest rates turning positive is, in effect, a bet that the US economy will right itself. That it will generate sustained growth even though its budget deficit is officially forecast to be nearly 10% of GDP this year...even though national debt about to breach its statutory limit...and even though the government will, sooner or later, have to make some drastic spending cuts.

Anyone taking that bet will find no shortage of encouragement, especially from policymakers, who will continue to insist things are "heading in the right direction", and who will talk a good game on price stability. 

To take inspiration from Jean-Claude Juncker, though, when it becomes really serious, you have to see through the lies.

By Ben Traynor
BullionVault.com

Gold price chart, no delay   |   Buy gold online at live prices

Editor of Gold News, the analysis and investment research site from world-leading gold ownership service BullionVault, Ben Traynor was formerly editor of the Fleet Street Letter, the UK's longest-running investment letter. A Cambridge economics graduate, he is a professional writer and editor with a specialist interest in monetary economics.

(c) BullionVault 2011

Please Note: This article is to inform your thinking, not lead it. Only you can decide the best place for your money, and any decision you make will put your money at risk. Information or data included here may have already been overtaken by events – and must be verified elsewhere – should you choose to act on it.


© 2005-2017 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Catching a Falling Financial Knife