Tag Archives: monetary policy

(Revised) Can QE* Be an Effective Long Term Policy? Yes, and Here’s How.

The Fed’s decision to implement quantitative easing and other unconventional monetary policy in December 2008 sparked a blaze of heated discussion amongst economists that has been burning to this day. The questions of if and how these new measures affect economic growth have become the focus of countless blog posts and editorials, and have become an integral part of many university Econ courses. The beginning of QE tapering in December 2013 added even more fuel to the fire, but it also gave many traditional economists a sense of relief. It finally looked like there was an end in sight to these unfamiliar and controversial policies. To the dismay of these traditionalists, however, recent research by the Brookings Institution (paper #1 and paper #2) suggests that there are significant benefits of pursuing unconventional monetary policy in the long term. A recent Economist article, “Staying Unconventional,” emphasizes some of the most important results of this research and raises a provocative question: Can QE and forward guidance, or some alternate forms of these policies, be combined to create an effective long term policy?

Based on my reading of the research papers that the article cites, I am inclined to say yes. It may not be the QE policy currently being rolled back, but I can see an alternate form of such a policy (hence the * in the title) being effective in the long term. Not only does unconventional monetary policy not cause riskier financial behavior, but it also provides a substantial boost to economic growth. In this blog post, my goal is to defend the bolded argument by highlighting some of the key findings of the research papers I mentioned earlier.

1.    Unconventional Monetary Policy Does NOT Cause Financial Instability

The argument commonly used to refute long-term implementation of QE is that it encourages individuals and financial institutions to pursue riskier investments, thereby reducing financial stability. The prediction is that long periods of low interest rates incentivize investors to ‘reach for yield’ and take on more credit risk, duration risk, and/or leverage. The research by Gabriel Chodorow-Reich of Harvard University confirms this prediction but emphasizes that the story is not so cut and dry. Although the Fed’s low interest rate policy has caused financial institutions to take on some riskier investments, it has also boosted the value of these institutions’ portfolios, making them less risky and strengthening the stability of the U.S. economy. Most importantly, Chodorow-Reich’s analysis shows that the stabilizing effect of QE has been stronger than the destabilizing effect caused by ‘reaching for yield.’

Chodrow-Reich determined the magnitude of each effect by evaluating the effect of the Fed’s policies on four categories of financial institutions: life insurers, commercial banks, money market funds, and defined benefit pension funds. Together, these institutions manage $24 trillion in assets. The effects are nicely summarized in the graphic provided in the abstract of the paper:

unconventional MP_1

As Chodrow-Reich states, “In the present environment, there does not seem to be a trade-off between expansionary [monetary] policy and the health or stability of the financial institutions studied.”

If the biggest argument against long-term use of QE (investors reaching for yield) is nullified, perhaps the Fed should think twice about continuing to taper. There is, however, the problem of surprising the market with such a change in policy. A possible solution to this is to continue the taper, but then start buying a constant level of bonds again after the taper is complete. If the Fed warns the public of such a long term policy change in advance, it could dampen the volatility the move would create in the markets.

2. Unconventional Monetary Policy Boosts Immediate Economic Growth and May Have Substantial Long-Term Growth Benefits As Well

The research conducted by Joshua K. Hausman (University of Michigan) and Johannes F. Wieland (University of California, San Diego) examines the success Abenomics has had in boosting Japanese GDP and gives insight into how such unconventional monetary policy can sustain amplified GDP growth in the long term.

Named after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, ‘Abenomics’ is the name used to refer to Japan’s current three-pronged economic stimulus policy, which consists of a combination of monetary policy expansion, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform. It is the only real and current example of long-term unconventional monetary policy, and is thus viewed by economists as an important test of its validity.

So far, Abenomics has stood up to the challenge. The Japanese stock market has risen, the exchange rate has depreciated, and Japan’s GDP has jumped by up to 1.7%. Hausman and Weiland claim that one percent of this GDP growth has been directly caused by the monetary policy shift. Furthermore, Abenomics’ effect on the Japanese money supply has been much more effective than that of previous QE policies. The below graphic from the Economist article provides a nice summary of the effects of Abenomics:

unconventional MP_2

Hausman and Weiland attribute the superior effectiveness of Abenomics to the change in inflation expectations it has caused. Japan has set a new 2 percent inflation target and because Abenomics was announced to the public as a permanent change in policy rather than a temporary measure to boost GDP, inflation expectations increased for both the short and long terms. Both short and long-term borrowing appeared cheaper as a result. This, in turn, caused borrowing to increase across the board, stimulating increased consumer spending.

One should not go all-in on Abenomics quite yet, though. Both the article and research paper emphasize that Abenomics is still in its initial stages and has yet to prove itself as an effective catalyst for long term growth. When discussing the long-run outlook of Abenomics, Haussman and Weiland assert:

The research shows that the Bank of Japan is achieving its intermediate objective of higher expected inflation, but that the inflation target itself ‘remains imperfectly credible,’ with long-run inflation expectations below 1.5 percent.  Thus the modest estimates of Abenomics’ effects reflect in part that the Bank of Japan has not yet fully convinced the public that inflation will be two percent.

If the Bank of Japan could somehow more strongly convince the public of a future two percent inflation rate (perhaps through a public announcement reinforcing its intention to pursue the policies of Abenomics), the effects could be substantial. Hausman and Weiland estimate that “the output effects of Abenomics could as much double if inflation expectations rose to the 2 percent level.

In summary, based on the results presented by Gabriel Chodorow-Reich about the positive effects of QE on financial stability, and Hausman and Weiland’s estimates of past and future Japanese output growth as a result of Abenomics, I am convinced that unconventional monetary policy can be used effectively in the long term. If the Fed can convince the public that inflation will be steady at two percent and interest rates will remain low, whilst continuing to purchase assets and pursuing fiscal stimulus, it can achieve both strong economic growth and increased financial stability.

(Revised) Japan’s increase in sales tax – right decision?

In my previous blog post Japanese economic growth – now time to stimulate export, I wrote about how Abenomics has not been successfully increasing the Japanese export. Furthermore, I was concerned about Japanese economic recovery, as Japan’s recovery is mainly driven from increase in domestic consumption. In April 1st 2014, Japan’s domestic sales tax rose from 5% to 8%, as announced at the beginning of Abenomics plan. Japan’s Prime minister Abe Shinzo’s aggressive monetary policy did help Japan to escape from its continuing deflation, yet I am worried if this rise in sales tax will go against Abe’s monetary policy.

According to the Wall Street Journal article Japan’s Sales-Tax Boost Will Test Abenomics, Japanese government’s decision to increase sales tax worries many economists. As it can be seen from the graph below, Japan have once increased its sales tax in 1997 from 3% to 5%. The result was disappointing, as Japan suffered from a decrease in consumption and continuing deflation and recession for more than 18 months. Bank of Japan forecasts that Japan’s Consumer Price Index will be at its steady rise of 1.3% for remainder of 2014 and then reach its target rate of 2.0% by 2015, while private economists forecast that Japan might go back to its long-time deflation, with rate lower than 1%.

EI-CG569_OUTLOO_G_20140330160004

The article from Reuters Abe bets he can break Japan sales tax jinx with April 1 rise points out that the main reason for this increase in sales tax is to curb Japan’s massive public debt. From the FRED graph below, it is obvious that Japan’s public debt is increasing drastically. Jesper Kroll, head of equities research at JP Morgan insists that “2014 is not 1997”, saying the probability of success (in rising sales tax) is better than ever. He cited a tight labor market, increased household and small-business burrowing and a $53.44 billion extra budget enacted in last December will cushion the impact of the sales tax rise.

japandebt

However, I am still concerned about this tax rise. As I have already mentioned in my previous blog post Japanese economic growth – now time to stimulate export, Japan’s economic recovery in 2013 was driven from domestic consumption (not international trade) despite aggressive Abenomics. While Yen is still strong, Japan’s export is unlikely to boost in a huge amount in 2014 as well. Therefore, if Japan’s domestic consumption is reduced due to an increase in sales tax, then it is probable that Japan will be unable to maintain the fast rate of economic recovery from 2013. Therefore, I think it is extremely important for Japanese government to keep an eye on Japanese economy (especially its domestic consumption and CPI index) and execute necessary monetary and fiscal policies if increase in sales tax goes to an opposite direction to where Abenomics is heading.

The Dangers of Low Volatility

On Monday, I discussed March retail sales and that its strength might be a positive sign economic growth. Today, there is more good news for the U.S. economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. industrial production rose in March, moving beyond a lackluster winter and showing potential to gain strength in coming months”. Industrial production gauges the output of U.S. mines, manufacturers, electric and gas utilities. The manufacturing sector is only a fraction of domestic economic activity since the U.S. has transitioned to a service oriented economy. Nonetheless, many economists consider it to be an indicator of future demand.

In fact, economic activity across the United States is picking up steam. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Overall, the latest beige book, which describes economic conditions across the central bank’s 12 districts, pointed to an economy that was getting back on track after growth slowed earlier in the year”. This report, which is two weeks before the Fed’s April policy meeting, will likely have an impact on monetary policy. As the Fed continues to reduce asset purchases, the prospect of rising interest rates becomes more of a reality.

However, the Fed must watch the level of inflation when making its decision about interest rates. Even though economic activity is picking up, inflation is remaining stubbornly low and is a source of concern for the Fed. According to the Wall Street Journal,

Price gains could provide some comfort to Fed policy makers as they debate whether to keep pulling back on their easy-money policies meant to spur growth. Consumer inflation has run below the Fed’s 2% annual target for nearly two years, but price gains have accelerated a bit recently. Some central-bank officials have been concerned that low inflation—which discourages businesses and consumers from spending—could persist and weigh on growth.

Low levels of inflation are being experienced around the world. For example, the Bank of Japan is conducting asset purchases with the sole purpose of creating inflation. For this reason, the Fed can continue tapering at a slow pace as this should help push up inflation.

The problem with low inflation is it might be a symptom of something larger. We are starting to see the United States as well as other countries enter a stable path of growth. In addition, volatility is at very low levels. The last time we had a similar situation was during the Great Moderation. Starting in the mid-1980s, major economic variables such as gross domestic product (GDP) growth began to decline in volatility. In economics, the  “Great Moderation” refers to how stable the business cycle was at that time. We are again seeing that stable path of growth and global inflation, which is coinciding with an approaching of all-time lows again on volatility. However, this situation is easily disturbed. The first time around it masked a bubble in the housing market and that ended in a financial crisis. I am not sure what it is masking this time.

(Revised) Fed Officials Expect Overshooting in 2016

Following the Fed’s March 18-19 meeting, the policy making committee provided a collection of charts showing the projections of macro economic main variables in the coming years. Before discussing the projections, I should note here a little bit of confusion I have. In the projection file, it states that these projections are “based on FOMC participants’ individual assessments of appropriate monetary policy.” Therefore, these number’s aren’t actually projections as done by someone outside of the Fed, but these are the expected values of these economic variables that could be seen according to Fed officials’ own appropriate policies. 

In other words, when looking at these projections, we should take into consideration that these projections are influenced by each committee member’s policy recommendation.

The recent post on the WSJ touches on how this projection could be misleading the market into expecting that interest rate rise will come sooner than expected. According to the article, some Fed’s policy committee members raised their expectation of interest rates in 2015 and 2016. This could signal market that the Fed policy makers are looking at possible rate increase which is sooner than expected prior to March meeting.

ProjectionFed_March

From the above chart we could see what rate Fed officials are expecting fed funds rate target to be in 2014, 2015, 2016 and long-run. In 2014, according to the chart, we see that the policymakers almost unanimously expect the fed funds rate target be at the current level of 0 to 0.25 percent target. In 2015 and 2016, the averages of the Fed officials’ expected fed funds rate are around 1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. The policy makers expect the rate to be around 4 percent in the long-run. This rate is slightly lower than the historical average of the fed funds rate target since 1990, which is 4.2 percent. In general, the committee members expect to have similar fed funds rate target that it has had since 1990.

Note that, the expected fed funds rate target is still lower than long-run expected rate of 4 percent at around 2.5 percent in 2016. Hence, it is plausible that somewhat easy monetary policy will be taking place until 2016. But we should always remember that low interest rate doesn’t always mean expansionary monetary policy as Milton Friedman put it, “After the U.S. experience during the Great Depression, and after inflation and rising interest rates in the 1970s and disinflation and falling interest rates in the 1980s, I thought the fallacy of identifying tight money with high interest rates and easy money with low interest rates was dead. Apparently, old fallacies never die.”

The surprise of the projection comes when we look at another chart which was included in the same projection report. The following chart shows how the committee members expect the unemployment rate to be under appropriate policy in coming years and in the long-run.

ProjectionFed_MarchUn

 The central tendency among the policy makers regarding the expected unemployment rate in 2016 is along with the long-run projection: at 5.2-5.6 percent.

So, what can we conclude about the Fed’s future policy from these two charts?

The Fed policy makers are believing (or seems to be) that under appropriate policy, the Fed will be pursuing expansionary policy even after the unemployment rate reaches the long-waited long-run average. In other words, the Fed policy makers think overshooting the unemployment rate is a viable option for the Fed policy in coming years. This is along the line with the worry about low inflation in coming years. Another chart in the projection shows how the policy makers expect inflation to be in coming years.FedINflation

 As we see from the chart that central tendency among the officials regarding the expected inflation in 2016 is below the Fed’s target of 2 percent inflation. It is kinda counter-intuitive; they target 2 percent, but expect it to be below it. Or are they really targeting 2 percent?

Then, given the the below target inflation rate, the Fed officials shouldn’t be worried about their fed funds rate target expectation below the long-run expectation.

From the Fed officials’ projection, we can conclude that the Fed will be still operating somewhat stimulus policy in 2016 relative to their long-run policy. if we assume these projections are made with rational expectation

(Revised) Malaysia Central Bank’s Decision (2)

In ECON 411 –Monetary and Financial Theory class, we learned from Professor Kimball how effective negative real interest could be in order to stimulate the economy from the recession. By targeting long term inflation rate around 2 percent and setting nominal interest rate near zero, negative real interest rate can be achieved as shown by the Fisher Equation. US, Japan and many other countries used this monetary policy in order to stimulate the economy when financial crisis occurred in past years.

Wall Street Journal article (Rising Inflation in Malaysia Turns Up the Heat on Central Bank) points out Malaysia’s recent monetary policy and its outcome. Data which came out on Wednesday, February 19th showed that consumer price rose 3.4% in January from a year earlier. It is Malaysia’s fifth straight months of gains and fasted pace in two and half years. Malaysia’s economy did grow at a strong rate past few years, and now Malaysia’s central bank is planning to raise the interest rate from 3.00% to 3.25 % as a measure of bringing the price level down. According to Wall Street Journal article (Malaysia’s Central Bank Stands Pat Again), Malaysia have been keeping its nominal interest rate at 3.00% for last three years. Due to its relative low interest rate compared to its inflation, Malaysia could achieve a fast economic growth, maintaining GDP growth rate of 4.7% in 2013 when many other countries suffered from the turmoil.

Two graphs below show us Malaysia’s economy in a more detail. Malaysia’s unemployment rate has been decreasing steadily to 3.2% from 4.1% in 2009 while its GDP per capita increased from $5984 to $6764 in last four years. From those two graphs, we can tell that Malaysia experienced a fast recovery from its economic turmoil in 2009.

malaysiaunemploymentmalaysiagdp

The main reason for its fast recovery is Malaysia’s relatively low interest rate for last four years. In order to take a closer look at Malaysia’s monetary policy for past years, I plotted inflation rate, nominal interest rate and real interest rate in one graph. Inflation rate and nominal interest rate data are from World Bank, while real interest rate was calculated using the Fisher equation. It can be seen that negative real interest rate was achieved in year 2007-2009 and 2011, helping the Malaysia economy to recover in a fast pace with lowering unemployment rate and increasing GDP per capita. The real interest rate went down as low as negative 5% in September 2008, being a strong stimulus for recovery.

malaysia rate

Malaysian government started to slow down its government spending, which could decrease domestic demand. Central bank’s decision of increasing interest rate could also reduce domestic demand, as people will save more money instead of spending it in domestic market due to higher interest rate. However, economists forecast that Malaysia can still achieve strong GDP growth of 5.0% to 5.5% this year, thanks to its strong export.

Nonetheless, Malaysia’s stock market has been showing a strong positive upward trend since its low 850 index points in 2009 shown in graph below. Thanks to Malaysia’s monetary policy over past years Malaysia’s stock market has reached its highest of 1875.52 index points in 2014. This may worry some people with monetary policy with low interest rates- asset bubbles. Although its increasing rate is gradually slowing down, additional measure (such as increasing nominal interest rate) can help control the economy from over stimulating.

malaysia stock market

Malaysian central bank’s decision of increasing interest rate is a smart decision to hold inflation rate and curb dangers of overspending and control debt as well. When I read the articles and thought of Malaysia’s decision, I related this to US’s tapering of quantitative easing. US, although its unemployment rate is not meeting government’s goal fully, started to taper as US did achieve some economic recovery in recent years. “Tapering” is as important as “quantitative easing,” as economy could be over-stimulated and over-inflated and it could be very dangerous. Malaysia showed how effective “negative real interest rate” is, from its high GDP growth last year. If Malaysia can also show how they are able to control inflation and prevent “over-stimulating” the economy while keeping its economic growth strong just like economists have forecasted, it will be a good example of how negative real interest rate is a good, non-harmful stimulus for economic growth.

Fed Officials Expect Overshooting Unemployment Rate

Following the Fed’s March 18-19 meeting, the policy making committee provided a collection of charts showing the projections of macro economic main variables in the coming years. Before discussing the projections, I should note here a little bit of confusion I have. In the projection file, it states that these projections are “based on FOMC participants’ individual assessments of appropriate monetary policy.” Therefore, these number’s aren’t actually projections as done by someone outside of the Fed, but these are the expected values of these economic variables that could be seen according to Fed officials’ own appropriate policy. 

In other words, when looking at these projections, we should take into consideration that these projections are influenced by each committee member’s policy recommendation.

The recent post on the WSJ touches on how this projection could be misleading the market into expecting that interest rate rise will come sooner than expected. According to the article, some Fed’s policy committee members raised their expectation of interest rates in 2015 and 2016. This could signal market that the Fed policy makers are looking at possible rate increase which is sooner than expected prior to March meeting.

ProjectionFed_March

 

From the above chart we could see what rate Fed officials are expecting fed funds rate target to be in 2014, 2015, 2016 and long-run. In 2014, according to the chart, we see that the policymakers almost unanimously expect the fed funds rate target be at the current level of 0 to 0.25 percent target. In 2015 and 2016, the averages of the Fed officials’ expected fed funds rate are around 1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. The policy makers expect the rate to be around 4 percent in the long-run. This rate is slightly lower than the historical average of the fed funds rate target since 1990, which is 4.2 percent. In general, the committee members expect to have similar fed funds rate target that it has had since 1990.

Note that, the expected fed funds rate target is still lower than long-run expected rate of 4 percent at around 2.5 percent in 2016. Hence, it is plausible that somewhat easy monetary policy will be taking place until 2016. But we should always remember that low interest rate doesn’t always mean expansionary monetary policy as Milton Friedman put it, “After the U.S. experience during the Great Depression, and after inflation and rising interest rates in the 1970s and disinflation and falling interest rates in the 1980s, I thought the fallacy of identifying tight money with high interest rates and easy money with low interest rates was dead. Apparently, old fallacies never die.”

The surprise of the projection comes when we look at another chart which was included in the same projection report. The following chart shows how the committee members expect the unemployment rate to be under appropriate policy in coming years and in the long-run.

ProjectionFed_MarchUn

 

The central tendency among the policy makers regarding the expected unemployment rate in 2016 is along with the long-run projection: at 5.2-5.6 percent.

So, what can we conclude about the Fed’s future policy from these two charts?

The Fed policy makers are believing (or seems to be) that under appropriate policy, the Fed will be pursuing expansionary policy even after the unemployment rate reaches the long-waited long-run average. In other words, the Fed policy makers think overshooting the unemployment rate is a viable option for the Fed policy in coming years. This is along the line with the worry about low inflation in coming years. Another chart in the projection shows how the policy makers expect inflation to be in coming years.FedINflation

 

As we see from the chart that central tendency among the officials regarding the expected inflation in 2016 is below the Fed’s target of 2 percent inflation. It is kinda counter-intuitive; they target 2 percent, but expect it to be below it. Or are they really targeting 2 percent?

Then, given the the below target inflation rate, the Fed officials shouldn’t be worried about their fed funds rate target expectation below the long-run expectation.

From the Fed officials’ projection, we can conclude that the Fed will be still operating somewhat stimulus policy in 2016 relative to their long-run policy.– if we assume these projections are made with rational expectation

Brazil’s Dilemma- High Inflation, Low Growth.

When Brazil was selected to be a host country for World Cup 2014, many foreign investors invested in Brazil, expecting a high return. Brazil, one of emerging economies of BRICS, had a rapid economic growth of 6.1% in 2007, when Brazil was elected as host country for World Cup 2014. As World Cup 2014 is quickly approaching, many economists are forecasting Brazil’s economy. But, it is not as optimistic as Brazil’s soccer team winning the World Cup 2014 trophy.

According to the article from Bloomberg Businessweek Brazil Economists See Faster Inflation and Slower Growth in 2014, Brazilian economists forecasted that Brazil’s inflation rate will continue to rise while its economic growth is getting slower and slower. The economists forecasted that Brazil’s inflation rate will rise to 6.35% from 6.30% while growth rate will decrease from 1.69% to 1.63%. The main reason for inflation is Brazil’s drought which drove the food price up.

The two graphs below is obtained from Federal Reserve Economic Data website. After reading the article above, I thought it would be interesting to see how Brazil’s Consumer Price Index and GDP changed over the course of years. From the Consumer Price Index graph, it can be seen that price level has been rising constantly, with a higher rate beginning from July 2013.  The economic growth rate graph from FRED shows a similar trend that was mentioned in the article above. In 2007, Brazil’s growth rate was 6%, when it was selected to host World Cup 2014. From then, the economic growth rate decreased drastically, as low as -0.3% in 2009. In 2010, Brazil’s economic growth recorded a 7.5% high, due to larger spending from the middle class. However, from then Brazil’s economy has been suffering  since then, as growth rate has been in the 1~2% range.

brazil cpi BRAZIL Growth rate

 

Brazil’s central bank has been trying its best to control its high inflation rate. According to the Wall Street Journal article Brazil Central Bank Hints at End to Rate Increases, Brazil’s central bank raised its interest rate for ninth consecutive times, from 10.75% to 11%. This increase in interest rate is to deal with the inflation from supply shock of food crops due to draught.

However, I am worried that Brazilian Central Bank’s decision to increase its interest rate even more will deteriorate Brazil’s economic growth rate. Brazil’s interest rate of 11% sounds really high, and it cannot be a permanent solution for Brazil’s inflation as Brazil’s inflation is mainly based on the supply-shock of food crops. Brazil’s atmosphere is getting hotter and hotter for world’s expectation of its World Cup, yet Brazil’s economy will need more time to recover.

Fed fund rate: not as simple as it seems. (4th post)

In my last post, I talked about the fact that effective fed fund rate move even without OMO actually taking place, bringing the fed fund rate towards its new targets. This might have gave you an illusion that the market is moving without the intervention of fed. However, it is the very commitment that trading desk will use OMO to keep effective rate around targets that leads to the market forming expectation, and ultimately actualize the expectation. That is to say, the fed stir up market sentiments to cooperatively bring effective fed fund rate towards target rate.

From the graph below we can see that, in the long run, fed trading desk has done a great job in keeping the effr around the target (click on the graph to view the original image). fredgraph

The average deviation of effr from target is about only 0.1 basis point. And there is evidence that the gap in between is shrinking overtime, meaning fed had become more and more apt at smoothing macro economic shocks. It could also mean that the market have been getting better and better at predicting the move of trading desk,out of the expectation that it will always follow the reaction function.

So there is obviously a gain for the forecaster who want to forecast effective fed fund rate in the longer horizon. It is difficult for forecaster to use the traditional approach where supply and demand of fed funds are estimated and then the equilibrium fed fund rate is calculated. It is especially a tenuous task for forecaster to estimate the demand for federal funds. As I discussed in my second post, demand for fed balance is now largely driven by loaning opportunities in hundreds of other markets, rather than driven by the need to fulfill legal reserve requirement.  There is an interesting research paper about topology of  fed fund market, where it shows that larger banks usually play a role as fund buyers and smaller banks fund suppliers. Larger banks tend to have more credits and more lending opportunities. Those small banks fund larger banks by selling their extra reserves. Thus it became harder and harder to trace out exactly how much each bank need the fed balance by simply looking at how much they need to hold at the Fed.

Fortunately, the Federal reserve bank economists had done the job for us. Fed had already estimated the total liquidity and corresponding amount of fed balance needed by banking system, and they set the target rate to make sure sufficient but not overwhelming credits are available for the economy. To make sure of this, the effr must not go astray the target rate. The fed trading desk make sure of this by performing OMO everyday in the market. The fact that effr does not deviate fed target rate for too long and by too much is convenient, since now we can just forecast the fed fund target rate. As we all know,  fed fund target rate is determined by fed official who keep track of bunch of macroeconomic indicators.  If we can approximate the indicators used by Fed in making decision of next period fed fund target rate, we can also forecast the movement of fed fund target rate. Forecasting effective fed fund rate would, therefore,  be roughly the same as forecasting fed fund target rate.

Can QE* Be an Effective Long Term Policy? Yes, and Here’s How (Part 2)

The research conducted by Joshua K. Hausman (University of Michigan) and Johannes F. Wieland (University of California, San Diego) examines the success Abenomics has had in boosting Japanese GDP and gives insight into how such unconventional monetary policy can sustain amplified GDP growth in the long term.

Named after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, ‘Abenomics’ is the name used to refer to Japan’s current three-pronged economic stimulus policy, which consists of a combination of monetary policy expansion, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform. It is the only real and current example of long-term unconventional monetary policy, and is thus viewed by economists as an important test of the policy’s validity.

So far, Abenomics has stood up to the challenge. The Japanese stock market has risen, the exchange rate has depreciated, and Japan’s GDP has jumped by up to 1.7%. Hausman and Weiland claim that one percent of this GDP growth has been directly caused by the monetary policy shift. Furthermore, Abenomics’ effect on the Japanese money supply has been much more effective than that of previous QE policies. The below graphic from the Economist article provides a nice summary of the effects of Abenomics:

unconventional MP_2

Hausman and Weiland attribute the superior effectiveness of Abenomics to the change in inflation expectations it has caused. Japan has set a new 2 percent inflation target and because Abenomics was announced to the public as a permanent change in policy rather than a temporary measure to boost GDP, inflation expectations increased for both the short and long terms. Both short and long-term borrowing appeared cheaper as a result. This, in turn, caused borrowing to increase across the board, stimulating increased consumer spending.

One should not go all-in on Abenomics quite yet, though. Both the article and research paper emphasize that Abenomics is still in its initial stages and has yet to prove itself as an effective catalyst for long term growth. When discussing the long-run outlook of Abenomics, Haussman and Weiland assert:

The research shows that the Bank of Japan is achieving its intermediate objective of higher expected inflation, but that the inflation target itself ‘remains imperfectly credible,’ with long-run inflation expectations below 1.5 percent.  Thus the modest estimates of Abenomics’ effects reflect in part that the Bank of Japan has not yet fully convinced the public that inflation will be two percent.

If the Bank of Japan could somehow more strongly convince the public of a future two percent inflation rate (perhaps through a public announcement reinforcing its intention to pursue the policies of Abenomics), the effects could be substantial. Hausman and Weiland estimate that “the output effects of Abenomics could as much double if inflation expectations rose to the 2 percent level.

In summary, based on the results presented by Gabriel Chodorow-Reich about the positive effects of QE on financial stability, and Hausman and Weiland’s estimates of past and future Japanese output growth as a result of Abenomics, I am convinced that unconventional monetary policy can be used effectively in the long term. If the Fed can convince the public that inflation will be steady at two percent and interest rates will remain low, whilst continuing to purchase assets and pursuing fiscal stimulus, it can achieve both strong economic growth and increased financial stability.

Can QE* Be an Effective Long Term Policy? Yes, and Here’s How (Part 1)

The Fed’s decision to implement quantitative easing and other unconventional monetary policy in December 2008 sparked a blaze of heated discussion amongst economists that has been burning to this day. The questions of if and how these new measures affect economic growth have become the focus of countless blog posts and editorials, and have become an integral part of many university Econ courses. The beginning of QE tapering in December 2013 added even more fuel to the fire, but it also gave many traditional economists a sense of relief. It finally looked like there was an end in sight to these unfamiliar and controversial policies. To the dismay of these traditionalists, however, recent research by the Brookings Institution (paper #1 and paper #2) suggests that there are significant benefits of pursuing unconventional monetary policy in the long term. A recent Economist article, “Staying Unconventional,” emphasizes some of the most important results of this research and raises a provocative question: Can QE, or some alternate form of it, be an effective long term policy?

Based on my reading of the research papers that the article cites, I am inclined to say yes. It may not be the QE policy currently being rolled back, but I can see an alternate form of such a policy being effective in the long term (hence the * in the title). Not only does unconventional monetary policy not cause riskier financial behavior, but it also provides a substantial boost to economic growth. In this blog post and the next one, my goal is to defend the bolded argument by highlighting some of the key findings of the research papers I mentioned earlier. The remainder of this post will be dedicated to discussing the first claim:

1.    Unconventional Monetary Policy Does NOT Cause Financial Instability

The argument commonly used to refute long-term implementation of QE is that it encourages individuals and financial institutions to pursue riskier investments, thereby reducing financial stability. The prediction is that long periods of low interest rates incentivize investors to ‘reach for yield’ and take on more credit risk, duration risk, or leverage. The research by Gabriel Chodorow-Reich of Harvard University confirms this prediction but emphasizes that the story is not so cut and dry. Although the Fed’s low interest rate policy has caused financial institutions to take on some riskier investments, it has also boosted the value of these institutions’ portfolios, making them less risky and strengthening the stability of the U.S. economy. Most importantly, Chodorow-Reich’s analysis shows that the stabilizing effect of QE has been stronger than the destabilizing effect caused by ‘reaching for yield.’

Chodrow-Reich determined the magnitude of each effect by evaluating the effect of the Fed’s policies on four categories of financial institutions: life insurers, commercial banks, money market funds, and defined benefit pension funds. Together, these institutions manage $24 trillion in assets. The effects are nicely summarized in the graphic provided in the abstract of the paper:

unconventional MP_1

As Chodrow-Reich states, “In the present environment, there does not seem to be a trade-off between expansionary [monetary] policy and the health or stability of the financial institutions studied.”